Local fashion designer Angelina Rennell on design and her online eco-boutique
Fashionistas: listen up. We’ve got some crucial career advice for all of you seamstresses-in-the-making. You’ve always wondered: how do they do it? How does a fashion designer get off the ground and get a line started, and then sell it, and so on? Such questions about how a designer creates this reality burn in the fashion-consciousness of designers-in-the-making. We stumbled upon some answers when we met the creative, inspiring, local fashion darling Angelina Rennell, a Santa Cruz designer who has carved out her own niche in the world of fashion, both locally and beyond.
While others take the fashion school route straight out of high school, Rennell took a different and more organic route, one that seems to have been destined for her, and a path that might inspire other women who may feel like it’s too late to get started in a career in fashion.
Her story began at Los Gatos High School, when Rennell remembers being associated with the word, “eclectic.” She always enjoyed dressing up, and her mom was a shopper. From a young age Rennell would thumb through fashion magazines and was entranced by the “crazy photos,” she says. “I thought they were so beautiful, unusual, different and creative.” (If you’ve ever seen a Vogue or W magazine editorial, for example, you’ll know exactly what she’s referencing.) “A lot of times people look at those magazines and think that no one will wear that. But I don’t think that’s the point. It’s where fashion turns into art. With my line (Lina Rennell) and even with the shop (Beklina.com) I’m always pushing the limits, and being a little bit adventurous.”
After wrapping up that “eclectic” time in her life and moving on from high school, Rennell went on to study at several colleges and even spent a semester at sea. She received a college degree in social science and tried her hand at technical writing for about five years. Then came marriage, kids, and a move to Santa Cruz.
About five years ago she decided to create Beklina.com as a hobby of sorts—an online retail store that would sell products that are, “comforted by nature, inspired by design. … Our shop is a family operation that hand selects the best available in sustainable style and heirloom wares. Our fashion is modern organic, reflecting Northern California's grace and beauty. Beklina believes clothing and design can be precious, radical, nurturing, healing and wonderful,” says Rennell on Beklina.com.
Some of the lines on the website include the well-known Prairie Underground, and other lines like Julie Park, John Patrick Organic and Rennell’s own line, Lina Rennell. Her line was birthed from her investigation into organic fabrics and what was available for women. At the time when she was looking into these things, she noticed a strong organic fabric movement with baby clothes and yoga wear, but she didn’t feel that women’s fashion was strongly represented. That was part of her driving force with launching Beklina.com as well as beginning to design her own fabric.
“[With the shop] I’m expressing things I love, and I buy what I love,” she says. “It’s my art, what’s inspiring me, sort of my little playground.” Her own line, of course, is also a kind of playground. “I would call my line ‘Native Modern.’”
Creating such a line, however, is often more work than play. Every morning she rises to have a cup of tea and to do some journal writing, sketching and painting. It’s from these journal entries that clothes will evolve. She creates an image of the type of fabric that she’s interested in developing then delivers an enormous negative of the fabric image to a screen printer in San Francisco, who then transfers that image to bolts of fabric. She then takes the fabric, along with her designs, sketches, measurements and other necessary information, to seamstresses who she has hired, who then sew and produce samples of each garment for Rennell. From there, she will have anywhere from five to 100 garments created of each design and then they are sold on her website Beklina.com, at oakandco.com (another local online eco-boutique), and shipped to places like New York, Seattle and Tokyo. She also creates belts, hats, handkerchiefs, tote bags, jewelry, scarves and more.
As for her influences, just like her line, and the rest of this career pursuit, she takes an organic approach. “I read a lot of blogs and I subscribe to Vogue, but I feel that, as a designer, unless you’re into being trendy, you mess with your mind to see too much current stuff,” Rennell says. “You want your stuff to be original. Look at old things, or nature, or some other object.”
In addition to designing her own line and launching Beklina.com, Rennell also designs her own website and handles the photo shoots for the various products—all of this from someone who was called “eclectic” in high school. It’s the highest compliment.
For more information about Angelina Rennell, visit beklina.com.
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