Mastermind Behind the Gown – with Dean Renwick

Photography by Jared Schlechte
Photography by Jared Schlechte

On a brisk Saturday afternoon, snow is falling as gently as a hares footsteps. There is a cozy studio on Scarth Street downtown Regina.

It’s that classic scene of a young child in a candy store smitten with the smorgasbord of goodies in front of him. I find myself this young child entering Dean Renwicks Design Studio, as I am mused by the splendor and plethora of fabrics, colours, design and legacy.

Dean Renwick is much a household name in the industry for over 20 years, and 11 years in Saskatchewan alone his gowns have adorned the eager graduate, and have gone on to embellish the blushing bride year’s later. 

You were born in Regina, studied fashion in California – what is special for you about being able to build and grow the fashion industry here a pose to creating in an already established and well known industry such as NY, LA, UK etc.?

“We don’t have anything quite like what I do here, so to be able to offer these services here alone is just an amazing thing to be able to do for the people of Saskatchewan.”

You have mentored a number of young Saskatchewan designers, is there something different you feel Saskatchewan designers are bringing to the general fashion industry?

“I think we are down to earth, and have a genuine sense of reality here.”

What facet of the fashion industry has aided you the most in developing your business?

“Custom Work.”

What is your prefered facet to work?

“Doing the fashion shows. I really get to show what I do, like couture in Paris it’s all about everything, and anything you can put on a gown; then when the clients come in you pair it back for them and redesign it specifically for them. It’s fun to be able to do everything and make it really wild.

What inspires your collections? Do you always have a direction in mind, or do you just wake up with one?

“It comes to be all of a sudden! You panic and panic and then all of a sudden, idea! Then you start working from that one little idea. The hardest part after years of designing is coming up with something new.”

Writers get writers block, and as for designers? Yup. Same thing! Dean say’s as an established designer it affects him as well. Fashion magazines and media are often good outlets to spark creativity.

“The garments are fun to look at, but it’s not necessarily wearable or sellable.” (In the fashion magazines)

I believe many of us have looked at a fashion magazine, at the latest and greatest things to walk the runway by the highest regarded names and thought, “Where the hell am I ever going to wear that…” Part of what makes Dean’s garments so favorable is his intimate and realistic understanding of this train of thought. His garments are made to be wearable, complementary, and unique, all tailored for the specific individual’s needs.

 

Captured by Jared  Schlechte
Captured by Jared Schlechte

There is a lot of output from media and society as far as “trends” in fashion go; how do you stay true to your vision…

“I just do what I do best, I’m good at what I do and I like what I do. There will always be people that are better and worse than you, I stay true to myself.  The hardest thing for me was when I started my ready-to-wear line last year, I had to actually sit down and think about what I wanted to say, because for the last 10 years I was doing things for everyone else. If you come in wanting an outfit for something, I design it for you. As for the ready to wear line it was all about what I want to put out there.”

If fashion and art were sitting on a bench together could you tell them apart? Are they indistinguishable from each other or very different?

“There is an art form into sewing, tailoring and finishing of clothes. The way we do our handwork and construction is very much so an art. There is also avangard pieces that you could consider art and hang them on a wall, so yes they are distinguishable but on the other hand they are not because there is different aspects between art and reality on these clothes, and varying levels”

What stays as a tried and true for design – styles and fabrics get re used but- what stays the same to define fashion?

“Shapes. Classic shapes stay the same. Fabrication and proportions get adjusted and that’s what makes it more updated. That is tried and true, classic pieces, I like to do classic with a twist!”

In the future, how would you like to see Saskatchewan Designers represented on the world stage?

“That we are fully capable to make great clothes, that we have the talent here. It would nice to be able to have access to more manufacturing in Saskatchewan.”

Dean is involved in Power of Pink event on April 16th, and will be walking his garments down the 2015 SFW runway on Friday May, 8th.

 

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

-Alice

Painting the Canvas of the Saskatchewan Makeup Industry – with Sara Lindsay

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When did you know a career in beauty was for you?

“It happened around 2000 when I accidentally fell into it. I was working sales at an Aveda spa in Calgary. Manager at the time was also the makeup artist and she was very busy with clients. She asked if she could train me in basic makeup to handle some of the overflow. I did that for about a year, and fell more and more in love with it. About a year later my husband and I moved to the UK. We had planned to go for a year and ended up staying for eight.”

Sara’s creative desire to turn her new found passion into a career led her to attend four different UK fashion makeup academies. Shortly after, she because a career in Northern England and Scotland with Mac Cosmetics and also managed a freelance career. Sara worked London Fashion Week, London Clothes Show, and photo shoots in both the fashion and beauty industry.

 Sara opened her makeup studio in Regina two years ago.

What has the response been in the community to the opening of Sara Lindsay Makeup Studio?

“Amazing. So amazing. This community has shown me incredible support”

You had lived in one of the ‘mega centres’ of beauty (England). What prompted you to open your makeup studio in Regina, Saskatchewan?

“I was in one of my favourite cities in the world, but I had no family there. Family is the most important thing, and I can always go back to the UK. The talent in the SK community is building this from the ground up, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”

Sara points out that a great example of our community uniting in a unique way is through the Aveda Catwalk for Water event. The Aveda community in Saskatchewan comes together to put on a hair and makeup runway charity event – an event that is usually put on individually not collaboratively.

“We come together for a great cause.”

How would you describe your signature look and what is it about your style that sets you apart from falling into the “norms” of the beauty industry?

“If I have a signature look it would be – really luminous skin, classic bronze smoky eye, with warm contoured skin and a nude lip. However,  I try to not fall into anything typical; there is another side of me that loves to experiment with the artistic side of makeup. A great example of that is our fashion week campaign for 2015.”

Sara did the makeup for the 2015 SFW campaign and explained to me a bit of the motive behind the direction it was took.

“SFW founder and the art director for the shoot, Chris Pritchard, had a clear vision that he wanted to push it to be as artistic as we could. The team was on board with it right away. We wanted to ruffle feathers a little bit, and show that there is more to beauty then just traditional eye shadow, blush and lipstick – there are ways you can make a face look beautiful but evoke different emotions, even if it’s a little uncomfortable.”

What is the most important beauty advice that you can give to women?

“To appreciate your beauty without any makeup on at all. Be confident to leave the house with nothing on your face! Don’t let makeup rule you…but definitely have fun with it!

It’s not about changing who you are and how you look; it’s about enhancing it. So, how about those messages media sends out via celebrities and film – planting seeds of what the “ideal” woman should look like.

 

“The only way I can break through that, is to send a good message. I try to do that with the young models I work with to anyone who sits in my chair.” I am very careful how I portray my work and industry to my daughter as well. I want her to have a strong self image and appreciate the fashion industry without having unrealistic ideas of how a woman should look in everyday life.”

Sara leads by example. Her barely-there makeup routine accentuates her outer beauty and draws you into her inner beauty.

You have traveled abroad extensively for business. How does the Saskatchewan Makeup Industry differ from the others you have worked in?

“Saskatchewan is incredibly collaborative and supportive. Major centres are very cut throat sometimes and breaking through is really tough but it’s also thrilling to be a part of both.

Model Jade of Edge Agency.  Photographed by Kiriako Iatridis.
Model Jade of Edge Agency.
Photographed by Kiriako Iatridis.

What are some common misconceptions about the beauty industry in Saskatchewan? 

“That we don’t have one. I suspect people don’t realize how many talented artists there are. Also, that we are a clique. The creative industry here in Saskatchewan is made up of some of the most supportive, welcoming and collaborative people I’ve ever met. Fashion week was built on the vision to find these people in our province and bring them all together.”

Being a young adult, I mentioned that people that fall into my age group may have a little more enthusiasm to search into the fashion industry for specific makeup artists / designers – where as people in an age group such as my parents (sorry, mum and dad!) may feel there is no place for them.

“Yes, I think there are many women my age and my mother’s age who would love to seek advice but are maybe intimidated to do so. My hope is that they will reach out and tap into the services and talent we all have to offer. It’s fun and should never be intimidating.

“Another misconception is that we are “second fiddle” to anyone…we have designers, makeup artists, hairstylists and photographers as well as many other creatives who are world class. Some people may think we are doing it here because we can’t do it elsewhere – we are doing it here so people understand what we have here and because we LOVE it here.”

Running a business in the arts can be demanding, and as much as they can be rewarding, they can be challenging. Is there someone who inspires you to keep persevering through the tough times?

“My husband for sure. He is so incredibly supportive, along with the rest of my family. He sacrifices a lot, and so does my daughter. My entire family including my parents and siblings/inlaws are my hugest support system. It’s hard to balance it all – and that is my goal, to find balance.”

Sara’s husband Brad is a business owner as well – owning and operating Smith and Best located at 2062 Cornwall, in Regina, SK – a true team of local business owners who understand their community, and want to bring innovated services to the forefront.

 

What is your advice for aspiring makeup artists in Saskatchewan in particular?

“It can be good to start at a makeup counter. That way you learn different skin tones, how to communicate with people and the public. This way you get exposure to a variety of different brands, textures and colors. Work your butt off to build your portfolio. Build a network with hairstylists, photographers and other creative. Forget everything you learned about makeup ‘rules’. That will only restrict your imagination.

 

It’s important to understand your environment and clients but Sara puts a big emphasis on not just industry exposure but to give back to the community through fundraisers and through the art community.

“Don’t do it alone. There is a great community out there to support you – my door is always open.”

Kiriako Iatridis for Serena Ryder. Makeup by Sara Lindsay
Kiriako Iatridis for Serena Ryder.
Makeup by Sara Lindsay

How would you like to see the Saskatchewan makeup industry evolve in the next few years?

“I think just growing the way we are, at a sustainable rate. I would like see the senior people in the industry continue to mentor and support the beginners so there is an organic growth. A quality growth – rather than just an exponential growth. More exposure nationally and internationally would be ideal. To be taken seriously, so there is room for more people to enter our industry.”

“If that means some of our people are recognized and go elsewhere to experience other opportunities that’s great too! It’s a cycle.”

At the end of the day, we have a community here who is growing, successful and talented.

 

It’s not inevitable anymore to have to leave the great prairies to venture into the concrete jungles that are Toronto or Vancouver or New York or London. It’s exciting to be a part of growth… but to be a part of sustainable and unique growth is legendary.

 

I have been a big fan of Sara’s work since early 2012 when I moved to Regina, SK and took up an interest in the Fashion Industry.  Her passion for unceasing growth in her community and industry is inspiring.

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

Alice

15 Years Strong Saskatchewan Design

Photo by Jared Schlechte
Photo by Jared Schlechte

Rea Harbus of Amaranth Designs took a few minutes to chat with me at local 13th Ave Café in Regina!

Raised in Gravelbourg, SK. Rea went on to attend Yvonne Yuen School of Design in Saskatoon, followed by a diploma at The Blanche MacDonald Institute in Vancouver and later established Amaranth Designs in Regina around 2000.

What words would you use to describe Amaranth Designs?

“Sophisticated, Elegant, Quality.”

Rea’s targeted demographic is the professional woman, normally aged 35 and up.

What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when you are working with a client to create a garment for them?

“What their needs are, the occasion – their body type. I take a lot of consideration into their skin tone, and what they are comfortable wearing. I want to make sure what I design is what they will wear more than once.”

Amaranth Designs is carried at Havak and Studio S in Regina, as well as Mint Fashion Co. in Saskatoon.

Amaranth has been established for approximately 15 years; how would you describe the growth you have seen in the Saskatchewan Fashion Industry?

“Over the last 5 years it has grown substantially.  I think with the change in the economy more people are wanting to support local business and keep the money here in Saskatchewan to grow our own province.”

There definitely has been huge growth in the industry within the last few years.  Through the introduction of SFW in Regina, Saskatoon Design Festival and various other artists’ events Saskatchewan talent has been brought to the forefront.

Below is some of Amaranth’s designs at the 2014 Saskatchewan Fashion Week.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from running a design label?

“It’s a lot of hard work. It’s very rewarding with clients; they get the results as exactly what they envisioned for themselves.”

Who is a ‘Saskatchewan Fashion Icon’?

“It would have to be the publisher of Sky magazine, Lynn Armstrong. She has a keen fashion sense and is a huge supporter of local business”.

Rea’s work has been published in Sky magazine a variety of times. Lynn’s daughter has also attended Blanche McDonald.

What advice would you give to designers who are just starting out?

“Work hard to get the results that you want.”

Starting out Rea worked a few internships with some big name designers within Vancouver. She emphasised the benefits of various sewing jobs that amplified her skill set. She would like to expand into other provincial markets within the next 2-5 years.

You can interact with Rea and shop Amaranth Designs at the upcoming Trunk Show and Fabric Sale, Sunday March 8th at the South Leisure Centre in Regina. For more information and a list of the designers attending – see below.

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 Big thanks to amazing photographer Jared Schlechte for capturing and allowing me to share the images posted above! 

Check out more of his work below.

Click HERE to visit his site.

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

-Alice