Set the scene… You’re getting ready for a glamorous, invitation-only event you’ve been looking forward to all year. Your make-up is perfect, you’ve slayed the hair and the accessories are matched to perfection. The dress, the star of the show, is stunning and most importantly, completely unique. You’ll know as you walk in, knowing one else will have this dress.
That’s the vision behind Renae Cotton London, the luxury, Black-owned fashion brand. Specializing in sumptuous, bespoke wedding dresses and evening wear, the brand exudes elegance, class and style. Renae Cotton, the talented designer and mastermind behind the brand started out in her bedroom, working on what she thought was simply a passion project. The brand has now evolved into something truly special, with a clear mission to make women look and feel their best.
“Every client of mine should expect beautiful craftsmanship. I really take pride in creating garments [that] are well made and can be passed down through generations. All of my clients should expect to feel beautiful and comfortable in my dresses.”
Renae shares the story behind her brand, talks us through her process for creating each garment and gives us girlies all the tips on how to select the perfect dress shape for our body types.
Why did you establish Renae Cotton London?
Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to build a fashion label of my own. I’ve always designed and made dresses. I started by making dresses from toilet paper for my dolls when I was around seven years old and this desire just grew as I went through my childhood. It was really the idea of dressing women in my designs to help them look beautiful for different occasions that made me want to create my own brand.
What makes your garments unique?
My skill set makes my garments unique, the tailoring and couture dressmaking techniques that have become my special touch or my signature, on every dress I make. The dresses are made to fit to perfection, which makes every woman I dress feel so beautiful. To this day every garment is hand made by me, in my London studio.
What does the process of creating a bespoke dress look like?
The process of creating a bespoke dress is really tailored around the needs of each customer. It all begins with a consultation, where we discuss the event they’ll be wearing the dress to, any design ideas they have; we look at fabrics and plan the project. Then I’ll source the chosen fabrics, create their patterns (I make all of my patterns from scratch) and create her dress. Shortly after, the client will come in for a fitting, then I will make any amendments and the dress is complete, ready to be collected or posted if the customer is overseas.
Talk us through your training? And can you explain what Savile Row trained Atelier means?
My training began in my secondary school Textiles class. I then went on to study Art and Fashion Design at college. Following on from this, I studied a very intensive Fashion Atelier course which taught me so much and really fine-tuned my skills. I believe there are always more skills to learn along the way and I have learnt so much through every fashion-based job I’ve worked since graduating in 2017. I still learn new techniques and disciplines through research now.
Saville Row Atelier refers to my training and skill set. I was trained by an amazing Savile Row tailor who taught me so much about tailoring and overcoming garment construction issues. I still use these techniques when making dresses for my clients. I studied Fashion Atelier at university, which is the art of creating bespoke, hand-crafted garments to a very high quality.
What should someone consider when looking for their perfect wedding dress?
The main thing to think about is how you feel in the dress and choosing a wedding dress that suits your personal style and makes you feel comfortable. What is beautiful to you? This is your day and your dress, never choose a dress based on the opinions of others.
Can you recommend some styles/shapes for different body shapes for our readers?
My general wedding dress recommendations for different body shapes:
- Apple shaped women look amazing in ball gown dresses with low necklines or A-line dresses with high waists.
- Pear shaped women look great in fishtail dresses as it shows off their curves. Dainty-sleeved also works really well on this body type.
- Straight body shapes can enhance their waistline with a belt or detailing and look fabulous in ballgowns.
- Hourglass figures look gorgeous in fit and flare dresses as it shows off their curves. I also recommend A-line dresses for this body type.
What are your favorite three ever wedding dresses created?
These are my favorites from my own collections…
This is the ‘Ophelia’ dress. I love this dress so much, I think the shape is so elegant and classic, and I love the trumpet skirt and wide train. This dress also has a deep open back which is beautiful paired with an up-do hairstyle.
This is the ‘Vivienne’ dress. This is one of my favorites because I love the textured, brocade fabric on the dress. I think the pattern is really beautiful and works really well with the playful mini skirt. This dress is a bit daring with the side split and I think it adds to the playful vibe which I love.
This is the ‘Amelia’ dress. I really love how traditional this dress is with its full tulle skirt. I absolutely love the delicate beading on the bodice and halter style straps, I think its the perfect way of adding a modern touch to a traditional style.
Is there a designer who inspires you?
One of my favorite fashion designers is Elie Saab. I am so inspired by every collection he releases. The Haute couture collections are always so detailed and opulent.
Could you describe a challenge you’ve had in your career that you’ve overcome?
As a small business owner I’m constantly faced with new challenges. For example, when I moved into my first studio from working at home; I had to deal with the issue of paying rent even when cash flow was low. I think as a business owner I am constantly putting out fires and dealing with issues. I have had to learn to be comfortable with the uncertainty.
What’s been the best day ever in your career?
The best day in my career so far was the day of my photoshoot for my first collection. I had put so much work and so many hours in the weeks prior to the shoot. It was really lovely seeing the team come together and the model wearing my dresses in full glam for the first time. It was such a rewarding feeling seeing the outcome of the day.