SZ: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
JR: I was always into artistic ventures, whether it was coloring my parents’ coffee table or learning to paint with my great grandmother. She was this crazy rebel lady. Her husband died very young, so she went off to Mexico on sabbatical to go paint with influential artists there. I remember my mother talking about her being the only one who could sew in our family, so I would pull out the old sewing machine from a closet and make a mess of thread from time to time. When I was a freshman in high school I became bored with the regular assignments so I started making costumes for plays and doing large scale plaster sculptures, a lot of which were clothing or draped fabric that stood up on its own. I had this awesome art teacher who kind of encouraged my insanity. I remember seeing this famous designer’s dress from the fall 2004 collection, this giant sculptural monstrosity that covered the wearer’s face up to just under the eyes; I knew what I wanted to do after seeing that. Fashion seemed so powerful.
SZ: Who pushed you to follow your passions? Any mentors?
JR: As I said I had an amazing teacher in high school. He didn’t quite understand fashion but he understood art. He pushed for me to go forward into a territory he may have not been comfortable giving advice on. But I guess it worked! At college I had several mentors, though I have to say my now good friend and former professor Rose Baron really taught me almost everything I know about the craft. And these two other professors Laura and Karin used to take time off their weekends to teach me how to tailor or knit. I had an amazing support system in school. I owe them a lot.
SZ: How do you describe your overall design aesthetic?
JR: I think my aesthetic will be developing for a few more years. When I first started I had a very historical influence. Now while I use a lot of old techniques, I tend to have a very tailored/chaos/futuristic aesthetic. I like things like sleek and bold materials next to soft washed materials, but never a raw edge (watch, as soon as I say that I’m going to use raw edges). I love fighting against the body and then letting it all relax within the same garment. All my work tends to be what most people refer to as moody and dark. I enjoy finding inspiration in dark places. I find it romantic.
SZ: What is your most recent project and what are you working on now?
JR: Well, if you’ve seen Peaches on tour this past year you saw some of my stuff. I costumed her band and did some of the costumes for the “I Feel Cream” video and the leotard she wears in the “Mommy Complex” video. She’s one of the best people I’ve ever met, and when she wanted stuff I was really happy to get to work with her.
As for what I’m planning next, well, I need to keep that a secret. Actually, “keeping it a secret” is a fancy designer way of saying “I have no idea”.
SZ: What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue their dream of becoming a fashion designer?
JR: Be open-minded. Work hard. Take jobs you think are below you. Most of all, make money. You can’t do anything without funding. If you look at everything as a learning experience and don’t get caught up in being a bitch, then you will succeed.
For more of John’s fabulous designs, head to JohnRenaud.com