We had the good fortune of connecting with Renee Stewart and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Renee, what inspires you?
I am inspired by the people around me – my closest friends who have become family. For years I was very self-sufficient and tried to be the strong woman who didn’t need anyone. When I moved to Grenada that changed. I finally had a strong community that loved and supported me and it made all the difference.

Creativity requires vulnerability and openness. The best things you create will always be those that either reflect others or serve them. By giving up my strength I was able to tap into the strength of others and that is when true creativity unlocked within me.

The pieces you find within my collection are inspired by, and named after the women in my circle. They are my inspiration.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I believe that my work stands out because it goes against what we have come to expect from a Caribbean fashion brand. I have always loved tailoring and minimalism and this is very evident in my work. I am happy that I stayed true to that over the years. Even when I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say or what my aesthetic was…instinctively knew what it was not. This had me struggling for a while because I felt so lost. I knew I loved this field and I loved designing but there wasn’t a clear message or brand there for a while.

Of course, trying to build your name as a Fashion Designer without a defined aesthetic is a recipe for failure and fail I did. It was really hard to take the space and time to just play and explore because I didn’t have that luxury. I needed to work for my very survival and so I was going through the motions and just taking on any job that would pay. The highlight of that period in my life was when a client, upon hearing my very low and below market quote, told me to my face that “I am not on that level”. I cried like a baby that day. She never said my work wasn’t good – afterall she came to my little home-based studio for me to make her clothes. She sought me out based on recommendations. So her issue was not with my work. It was me…the person…the woman. She looked at me and in her estimation I had no value. That was a really low point for me because deep down I believed it too.

It took me years to build my confidence all the way back from the ground up. I walked away from fashion and when I moved to Grenada I didn’t even plan to ever get back into fashion again. I was just so defeated. But once I got the space I needed to do more reflection and figure out my own worth and value I came back even stronger.

The biggest lesson I have learnt is that the negative voices will only affect you if you believe in your heart that there is some truth to it. If you find that you are getting beaten down my a certain narrative that surrounds you, then take the time to find out why that is. Here is an unpopular opinion – it is not them, it’s you.

Today, as a more confident designer and business woman, I want to build a brand that can stand the test of time. I want to keep reinforcing the idea that someone who looks like me, comes from where I am from, and has the little resources and access I have can also make it in fashion in a big way. Is it harder to do it when you’re starting with almost nothing? Absolutely! But there is nothing that a little creativity and out-of-the-box thinking can’t solve

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am a homebody so I don’t go out much. But if I had someone visiting I would definitely want to take them to the kind of places that make Grenada special for me:

1. Street Food Wednesday at Dodgey Dock because your life will never be the same after having Oil Down

2. A hike up to Welcome Stone in St. Patricks is a must. The view is worth the climb, trust me

3. I know this is a weird one, but I will have to take you to the market on a Saturday morning. Besides getting some of the fresh local fruits and veggies you are sure to meet some the NICEST aunties and uncles who just can’t wait to drop their knowledge about the best way to prepare the food you just bought. Plus they will give you free extras too

4. On Saturday afternoon we will go for a Hash. This is where a group of people come together and hike through some of the most impossible terrain for no reason except we get to congregate afterwards and drink beer

5. Speaking of beer. There is a longstanding feud on the island about which beer is better – Stag or Carib. I don’t expect you to settle decades of community rivalry but I will take you to one of the roadside bars so you can be the judge. We’re doing it for science and this is usually where you find the most vibes

6. At some point we will have to do a Sunset Sail with Savvys. We get some beautiful sunsets on this island and it’s always better, somehow, at sea

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Shoutout is dedicated to my Grenadian family.

I moved here just under four years ago and it changed my life. I lived a very self-sufficient life before I got here. I was always the independent strong one. Coming to Grenada created a space for me to strip all of that away – meeting all these amazing people made it very easy to do that. For the first time I felt true safety. That safety is what helped to foster my confidence to take one last try in this industry.

Nothing about running a business on a small island is supposed to be easy or possible. Getting resources is hard and there is so much that I do not have access to. The only thing that has kept me going is the fact that I can depend on the assistance and kindness of complete strangers. Grenadians are the kindest set of people I have ever met, and the only reason I am evolving into this confident business woman building a brand is because they created the space for me to do so.

Website: https://cottoncogrenada.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cottonandcogrenada/

Image Credits
Bronwyn Knight Floyd Robinson

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