Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Emerging Entrepreneurs | Third generation designer dreams bigger to honour family

Published:Monday | February 13, 2017 | 2:00 AMSyranno Baines
Renee Stewart at work.
One of Renee's designs.
Printed jumper leather-studded waistband.
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Today, The Gleaner continues its series on individuals, aged 20-29 years, who have successfully started business ventures and are experiencing steady growth. If you know someone who should be featured, email syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com.

Exclusivity of customised female clothing made to empower each wearer is the modus operandi of this 27-year-old, third-generation fashion designer.

Mt Alvernia High School graduate Renee Stewart founded Haute Apparel Limited in October 2014 and currently serves as its chief executive officer (CEO) and creative director.

Nurtured by Christian principles, an almost automatic sense of humility is detected when conversing with the soft-spoken young lady.

"I grew up seeing my mother and grandmother sewing, but they never pushed beyond their households to make it a career. In their honour, I had to be audacious enough to have a much bigger dream and pursue it relentlessly," she told The Gleaner.

She added: "After working for years in corporate Jamaica, (doing) hairstyling and make-up artistry, I eventually found myself back to my first love, fashion. I use fashion as a medium of creative expression and a force for good."

 

TWO LINES

 

Haute Apparel Limited focuses on custom-made women's clothing and caters to two markets.

One line serves women wanting to stand out with chic, tasteful and unique designs with the financial freedom to invest in custom-made clothing.

The other line caters to the needs of the woman who loves the appeal of unique details and fresh designs, but requires a more accessible price point. This diffusion line is currently in the planning stage and will be released on February 21 in partnership with an online retailer in Guyana - 592 Dresses - which will use the design services, paying the company a commission on each item sold after production.

In keeping with exclusivity, all custom-made pieces are on a one-time-only production cycle, and so the client has that reassurance that she is truly wearing an exclusive and unique piece. The production process entails multiple fitting sessions to ensure that pieces are made to suit and flatter the client's body.

 

... Return to fashion was like therapy, says designer

Haute Apparel Ltd founder Renee Stewart says it was a sum of $150,000 that gave life to her brainchild and she has since invested tenfold in the venture.

"I was still working, so I was able to fund everything I needed," Stewart told The Gleaner.

"I used the money to purchase a small sewing machine, two dress forms, fabric, sewing notions and, just like that, I was officially in business. Since then, I have left that job and committed to running my business full-time. I currently operate from home and my most loyal customers come through my connections made at my previous job. I am committed to taking my brand global."

Heavily inspired by European couture, Stewart withholds no praises for the field of designing, expressing constant fulfilment whenever she's in her element.

"I went back to fashion at a time when I was at my lowest and I needed the therapy that only creativity can bring. There is something remarkably uplifting about being able to create something beautiful, especially when you don't feel so beautiful yourself. I feel fulfilment and a deep sense of peace that I am doing what it is that I am supposed to do on this Earth, when I am able to share beauty with other women and gift them with my creativity," she said.

An ardent supporter of creativity and disciplined business-minded persons, Stewart readily admits that entrepreneurship is no easy feat, insisting that persons must possess grit.

"The first few years of your business will be hard, and you will fall many times, but if you stick to it and see it through, you are going to surprise even yourself at what you are able to achieve."

Facebook: Renee Stewart

Instagram: @hauteapparelltd

Twitter: @iamreneestewart

Email: haute.apparel@yahoo.com

 

Achievements

 

- Representing my company and country in President Obama's Youth Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) in October-November last year.

- Being selected to work with the US Embassy and Meridian International to work on a project in our YLAI Reverse Exchange.

 

Things to do 

for young

entrepreneurs

 

- Find a cause within your business that has nothing to do with putting money into your pockets. Find a social cause and do something simply because it is helping people... If you can monetise that, then sure, but do some good.

 

Things not to

do for young

entrepreneurs

 

- Do not become an entrepreneur simply because you do not want to work for other people and do not like the confines of a 9-5 schedule. It has to be more than that.

- Never fall in love with your solution for whatever problem your business seeks to solve. Instead, fall in love with what the problem was in the first place, so as it evolves, your solution and business will evolve with it also.