Christine Gionet started Renegade, London’s only independent choice for plus-sized fashions, for a couple of reasons.
For one, she was having to travel outside of the city to find her own clothes, which made her think there was probably a market for a more local option for women searching for 12-plus sizes.
But almost more importantly, Gionet wanted to offer women — regardless of size, age or any other perceived restriction — the opportunity to have fun with their fashion choices.
“My goal is to make people feel comfortable to try different things. It’s great to encourage someone to try on a bold pattern they wouldn’t have tried before,” she said. “It’s important to be able to express yourself and not care about what your shape or size is. You’re beautiful and you’re allowed to have fun with your clothing and wearing bright colours or big patterns. Let’s face it, rules in fashion are meant to be broken.”
Prior to opening the doors at Renegade on Dundas Street on Aug. 1, 2014, Gionet started raising her profile with a trio of trunk shows at Hacker Studios.
The idea being that before opening up a traditional bricks and mortar shop, she wanted to start building excitement for what she would be bringing to the city’s fashion scene. That plan led to what she calls, “an amazing first weekend” and an overall “really good” position along Dundas two years later.
Something that hasn’t changed enough speaks to Gionet’s assertion plus-sized woman aren’t supported in being the best person they can be.
The focus, she adds, isn’t on the person’s mental health, the understanding that if someone isn’t able to be happy in their own skin, then how can they move forward or grow as an individual.
“There are women who are a size two who are unhealthy too,” Gionet said. “Seeing someone at face value doesn’t tell you what their story is.”
In her first year in business, Gionet helped tell those stories by inviting a group of her customers into the shop for a photo-shoot.
The idea being she would rather decorate her walls with pictures of the people she’d met that first year than buy prints from a store.
The day went “extremely well,” generating a lot of positive feedback.
And so, she’s doing it again, with a little twist — the first 10 people who register will get a spot in this year’s photo-shoot
“Most of the women who are registering are going completely out of their comfort zones and trying something new, which is really exciting,” she said. “It can be such a positive, encouraging, empowering day. It’s so important for the soul.”
To register — and five spots were already taken last week — people can come visit the store or connect through the Eventbrite link she’s set up.
The photo-shoot will be done with photographer Caitlyn Peesker, with assistance from makeup artist Kim Gilmour (from Makeup Addiction) and independent hairstylist Kirby Kennedy.
Participants can make use of Renegade clothing or bring their own to wear while also accessorising for any look they want.
Gionet said she wants the women to express their personality without someone dictating how they had to look. The hope is to once again create a positive experience where the women are encouraged and given the confidence to have fun in front of the camera.
If they can, Gionet said she will be thrilled all over again.
“Not only am I building this community, but we are having people find friendships they might not otherwise have found,” she said. “For me, it’s soaking in how wonderful these women are and seeing them be the best they can be, it’s just a great feeling fro me. It gives me all the happiness.”