Michelle René

mr dresses-1Photography by Ali Waxman

 

Tell us about your background.

I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My mother is a native of the country, and my father was in the United States Army, so we traveled quite extensively throughout my childhood. I like to say I had an “eclectic education.” Because of my family’s military background, we were always relocating to different areas. I spent time and attended schools in Colorado, Texas, Virginia, New Jersey and California, so I learned to pack up my personality and put it in a box, adapting to whatever surroundings we found ourselves in at the time. I used to joke that my house was like the television show Bewitched because when my dad wasn’t there, my mother’s “Spanish magic” would come out. When my father was home, we all spoke English, and as soon as he walked out the door, the eclectic side came out, and my mother and her parents (they traveled with us) spoke in Spanish. So, as a result, when I went to school, I spoke “Spanglish,” which made me a colorful person but drove my teachers crazy.

I love the challenge every day brings to me as an artist to create something beautiful for someone. I have the ability to transform someone’s life – if even for just an evening – and make them feel beautiful. From the minute I open my eyes each morning, I say thank you.

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What keeps you motivated?

For me, it’s all about passion, but it’s also about taking care of people. While I am an artist who loves the craft of creating, I am also a realist and a nurturer. I have two beautiful daughters who need to see a strong, independent mother. In addition to taking care of them, I want to set a good example for them. Obviously, earning a living is key, but it extends beyond the “bottom line paycheck” for me. That motivates me.

 

What word describes you?

That’s a tough one because there are so many words that encapsulate what I do that to assign one word to it is hard. My top three are “quirky, accommodating and driven.” But if I had to say one, it would be “driven.” Drive drives me.

I love to create, and my work is basically taking a flat piece of fabric and making it into three-dimensional, movable, wearable art. On top of that, each time a client comes to me for a dress, it’s like a mini relationship and journey we embark upon for that time. I get to be inside their head, so to speak, and hear about what makes them passionate and what makes them feel good. Nothing satisfies me more than seeing a smile spread across their face once their dress is done. And that extends to their family as well. When I see mothers, sisters, etc. in awe of their daughter or friend and know I was somehow a small part of that happiness, that’s where the passion comes in.

la voz mr-2

What did you want to be as a kid when you grew up and why?

Well, as a young girl, I loved to watch my grandmother sew. She always created such beautiful things, and it piqued my curiosity. However, my father was very pragmatic and entrepreneurial by nature, so of course he wanted me to be secure and told me I needed a career that could yield a lucrative salary. Not because that was his dream, but because he wanted to make sure I could support and take care of myself. So, I got my broker’s license and took several 9-to-5 jobs over the years and became what I like to call “a closet sewer.” I would work all day and then come home at night and create these beautiful patterns and dresses. Eventually, after working at several salons along with my full-time job, I was able to make the decision to work full-time for myself as a designer and seamstress. So my childhood vision came full circle.

 

Any final words?

Never be afraid to commit to your dreams and then chase them – and chase them hard.

la voz mr-4

 

Ali Waxman

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