This month I would like to introduce Renaissance Austin, CEO of Raghouse International. Renaissance is an extremely talented woman who has taken her love of crocheting and fashion to another level. Her designs are fashionable, comfortable and above all unique. Get very familiar with Renaissance and Raghouse International because I get the feeling she will be around for a very long time.
Q. How did you get started with Raghouse International?
A. It all started for me when I was attending community college in 2000 and I began to see these cute little head ties.. They were like bonnets shaped in a triangle. I mean they were the hottest item that summer. Some were crocheted or made out of lace or polk-a-dot material and knowing me, any time I would see something crocheted I would say “I can make that!” So seeing the crocheted head ties gave me the passion to pick up my crochet hooks again and learn how to make them.. I started with that one product, set up vending in different places, and began my journey arriving to where I am now. Yet, I am still journeying and with many ups and downs and a couple of business name changes I have finally created a brand and environment that is continuing to change and evolve, but still stay true to its essence.
Q. What sets Raghouse International apart from other fashion lines?
A. We are a lifestyle. As we continue to develop new products I know that our brand will be around for lifetimes to come. Longevity! Even when it comes to fiber arts, I don’t read patterns, I really choose not to unless it is a design that I really love and I am able to put my own spin on it, change it a little. I like to keep original designs pure, straight from my brain onto the mannequin. I don’t even sketch, hardly anymore. I just visualize it and follow my mind as I am making it. Sometimes it is a surprise to me to see how an item actually comes out. I just let the design “be”. Another interesting thing is I really love fashion all around the board from men’s to women’s, but I don’t consume myself with looking through lots of magazines and watching the fashion show slides on Style.com, I mean every now and then, when I really have time to look. This way I am not influenced too much my other designers or designs. Raghouse International is really Raghouse International because the inspiration comes from within and my very close teammates. So when you look online and see Raghouse International you’re like “wow, this is really unique, so different.” That is because most of our influence comes from within and not from the outside.
Q. How long have you been crocheting?
A. I’ve been crocheting since the age of 8. My grandmother always tells the story of how us grandchildren were running around acting wild and she sat us all down, including my twin brother who can only still do the chain, and taught us how to crochet. I mean, I just took it and ran with it. I’ve been doing it ever since and never, I mean never imagined that I would be doing it the way that I am not now. Life can be such a surprise!
Q. What about fashion made you want to pursue it as a career?
A. Wow. I really believe that fashion is something that was secretly put into my spirit probably from the time that I was born! It was so natural. My grandmother is a seamstress and she would always tell the story of how I was a toddler and I would try to sew on the sewing machine but my legs weren’t long enough, so I would just make the sewing machine sound and move my little fingers to try and make the fabric go. It seemed so inevitable! My uncle who is also a designer really inspired me when I was eleven years old and I began sketching at that time. My uncle and grandmother are such the duo and I was right there with them, learning and being inspired very young. Like, I never had to make a decision about pursuing fashion or any other thing that I do. I was modeled by so many people and as I learned, there was no question that I was supposed to do this, my calling, my way to live. I never gave a second thought not to do it, but was just born right into it!
Q. What are your goals as a fashion designer?
A. I am developing a much more couture section of Raghouse International. I look to go to Paris with it. I am also developing more Body Knits and Body Knit Dresses for comfortable living. We have set goals for a very earthy baby line and I am paying even more attention to the men this year. I am looking to do something so unique for them. I am looking to even get out of the box more with color combinations and design concepts and I can’t wait to see what the results will be.
Q. What are some of your favorite designs?
A. I am inspired most by Chico’s and Anthropologie! They are my favorite shops! I love the way of life they portray, the earthiness of their clothes, the maturity, the sexiness, youthfulness, jewelry and the things Anthropologie has for home. So great! One top designer I love is Prada because she is so unique and puts so much effort into her designs. I just love the fact that she defies the basic principles of where a seam should go or how a hem should be. It’s just amazing.. Love Prada shoes.
Q. Other than crocheting, what other talents do you have?
A. Well I first discovered that I had a gift to sing very young. As I got older, I developed into a designer, photographer, songwriter, poet, and writer. I started hairstyling when I was eleven and did it for over 15 years. I finally retired after a while, but with the economy I do it every now and then. I’ve worked as a makeup artist as well and an actress commercials and theatre. It wasn’t always easy being artistic growing up or being different for that matter, but one day I realized that I was really that artsy French painter that you would see in movies, the one with the French Beret, with an aisle and color palette. Once I accepted that, I was able to walk in it, live it, breathe it, and be who I was 100 percent of the time. All things visual and performing, I do and I love.
Q. Is your personal style reflected in your designs?
A. I would say that it is half and half. If I were to make products that I would personally wear all the time, I don’t think I would do very well. I learned being online that even with handmade you have to have a simple black hat although I might like my hats olive with buttons and feathers or lace, or something. I design with embellishments as well as keeping some designs simple but still true to Raghouse. I find my style so unique sometimes that I have to make sure that I am targeting others like me and who have similar style as mine. This way I know they will love it. Then I look at Betsy Johnson who dresses how she designs. There are a slew of people that dress like that and love her clothes. I love going way out on some designs, and when I say way out that means totally me, totally what Renaissance will wear. So I test it out by wearing it and seeing what the reaction will be. I find certain groups of people love the way out and certain groups love the simple. I wear something Raghouse everyday just to be a walking advertisement.
Q. Are there any tips you can give someone new to crocheting?
A. Yes, indeed. It starts with patience. Especially when learning a new craft, period. Crochet can be tricky. There are things you have to know that need to be shown to you that are not in pattern books. Also you can make anything without a pattern once you know the basics, a few fun stitches, increase, decrease, and shapes. It’s not as scientific as sewing and there are less restrictions, so anything you make will for to the body nicely because yarn is pliable!
To purchase from Raghouse International you can visit www.raghouseinternational.etsy.com.