Top Drawer wants to get into the minds of Asheville’s notable fashion forecasters, trend-setters and style icons. In this series, we ask boutique owners and designers what inspires them, and what tips they have to pass along. Here, Gigi Reneé, clothing designer and owner of retro boutique Vintage Moon (46 Commerce St., Asheville, 225-2768), gives us her twist on “romantic classics,” from literature and china dishware to high-thread-count sheets and reinvented clothing.
Mountain Xpress: How long have you been in Asheville, and what prompted your move?
Gigi Reneé: I’ve been here three or so years. I’m originally from San Francisco. I’m drawn to the artistic vibe and progressive attitude here, but I’m really here for the trees and wildflowers.
Do you follow trends or stick to classics, and why?
I really like to mix it up, but I lean toward the classics with my own personal style. Classics always keep coming around and people identify with them.
How would you describe your designs?
My designs are deconstructed, reinvented or made from scratch using recycled fabrics, original patterns and vintage textiles. They are sort of a twist on the old romantic classics with a Bohemian flare and funky edge. I like to mix Victorian and Japanese elements for a little charm and whimsy. I love to use vintage lace, Chinese silk, velvets, ribbon, trim, buttons and lots of fringe. The creative process for me is esoteric. Of course, as an artist, your ideas always evolve and sometimes you really surprise yourself.
Who is your favorite designer?
Some of my favorite designers are Betsey Johnson (because she’s nuts and that’s why we love her), Alexander McQueen (for his impeccable attention to detail and architectural boldness) and Magnolia Pearl (my hero, because she puts the essence of romance in her designs). They are all very different, but I think it’s important to explore many design styles.
What luxuries do you count among your necessities?
Using the good china. Eight-hundred-thread-count Egyptian cotton bed sheets. Organic milk. Always dressing for yourself.
When you shop for art, what styles are you drawn to?
Art is in the eye of the beholder.
Which books or films do you turn to for inspiration?
Antique French design books, fashion magazines, and black-and-white movies. The Romantic era of the 1920s and ‘30s. Authors Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen. I get a lot of inspiration from epic period films with great wardrobe and set designs. Fantasy films are great for the unusual. And, of course, the Ziegfeld Follies girls.
Which one item (or outfit, or accessory) in your wardrobe is your fool-proof piece?
A simple, grab-with-your-eyes-closed, solid basic (such as a dress, tights, body suit, pants etc.) to go with all of my romantic, funky, colorful frocks. And a big chunky piece of jewelry to set it off. Comfort and style are a must.
Where is your favorite Asheville hangout?
I love to meander aimlessly into downtown shops, galleries and restaurants. My favorite hangout is outside on a bench so I can people-watch.