An ongoing series introducing Greater Lowell’s creative minds

Photos by Tory Germann

Warlene Rene specializes in the art of the dress. Photo by Tory Germann.Fashion is the way you talk without words,” says Warlene Rene. And the local designer, originally from Palm Beach, Fla., who’s an expert in formal wear, is all about keeping the conversation going. Her signature designs are beautiful, comfortable and made to be versatile, so the amazing dress that carries you through a special occasion lives more than just one life.

When did you realize you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I realized I wanted to be a fashion designer at the age of 5. I went on a trip to my parents’ native country, Haiti, and remember just clinging to my aunts and grandmother. They had this fancy vintage machine and not to mention they were dressed beautifully. My father is also a tailor. I come from three generations of seamstresses. My mother was great at finding vintage gems at antique and thrift shops and she would always resell to the ladies in our community. So I was always around style and beautiful things.

You specialize in custom fitting and designing for special occasions, including weddings. Can you describe the Warlene Rene bride in three words?
She’s vibrant, she’s creative, she’s playful.

How do you feel you are unique to other designers?
I don’t dwell too much on the future or create things my ladies cannot actually envision themselves in. I love history and I love the now. I like practical items that will work over and over again. A lot of what I do can literally work for many type of events. I like the idea that a bride can use her dress for maybe a dinner date later on because it was created to be convertible. Or after a dress is worn to prom it’s history, but it can actually become something totally different afterwards.

What is the most important thing for you when designing a dress?
That it will be comfortable on the body and that it makes sense

Warlene Rene. Photo by Tory Germann.Are there any trends you’re loving for 2016 prom and wedding?
For Bridal I am loving the illusion look. Sheer bodices with intricate beading. For prom it would definitely be the two pieces, again the creative thinker in me. I would switch the long skirt for a pair of nice dressy jeans when its party time, after I’ve got all my pictures taken.

Personal style is always evolving and changes with the times, the movement of pop culture, music and media. Do you have a favorite decade for style that you like to incorporate into your designs?
The ‘20s and ‘60s are my absolute favorites. In the ‘20s women were in more forgiving fashions. The fashion was free form, unique, and the detail and cut was amazing. The ‘60s represented a fun free spirit as well and it was evident in the cut of the fit and flare dresses, and also the refined glam look will continue to influence fashion. My pieces reflect both in one way or another.

Who is your style icon?
Donna Karan for her art. She has brilliantly made collection after collection easy on the eyes, practical and again, every piece compatible in so many ways. If you need to go to the office, a wedding, or just hang out, she’s got you covered.

Quick —the house is on fire and you only have time to save one item from your closet. What do you take with you?
Purse, scarf, cardigan.

What song best represents your dress collection?
Beyonce’s “Get me bodied.” Seriously I put that on when I have a special event to dress for or a special occasion underway. It puts my closet into perspective!

You lived in Lowell, moved to Florida for a bit but then came back to the area. Does living in New England influence your designs?
Yes. There is a lot of history here in New England, especially the industrial revolution and the seamstresses who were a part of that. Learning about Lowell alone inspired me in the very beginning. I toured the mills in Lowell and heard the stories of the seamstresses and their life in the factories. It made me appreciate sewing as a real art and the city I was living in.  I also like how fast paced it is here. In Florida, I feel like you’re on this constant vacation. Here it’s down to business and timelines, which I love. So when I design I’m always keeping these things in mind

Warlene Rene. Photo by Tory Germann.Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from nature. I am big on the environment. It has so much to offer and it’s nice to slow down and appreciate it. So many ideas flow from paying attention to my surroundings.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I’m styling people. To me, it’s another art form. It takes confidence to help others look their best.

What’s the most challenging thing?
The challenge is when a girl or guy is happy with a selection but the ones who tag along with them convince them otherwise. So then they are dressing up someone other than themselves. It’s the worst.

What’s your golden rule of dress shopping that every gal should know?
Do not let numbers or letters determine purchases. Each company has their own measurements. So you may be a size 2 at Banana Republic, but in a size 10 at H&M. Know your circumference measurements: bust, waist and hips. Then wherever you are shopping find out where you fall in that company’s measurement chart. So many people are stuck on a number and make the wrong purchases.

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About The Author

Rita Savard
Founder & Executive Editor

Founder and Executive Editor Rita Savard grew up in Lowell and is a forever-proud Acre girl. An Emerson College alum, she was also an award-winning journalist at The Sun newspaper before exiting to start Howl in 2012 — the answer to managing her addiction for local pop culture. She falls in love with music, movies, books, stray dogs and telling people’s stories.