By Renee Greenstein
As an African-American woman of Jewish decent, designer Renee Greenstein initially attended an all-white Catholic college and fell in love with theology. But in 1969, she headed to New York City to live her dream of working in fashion. She started as a model at Radley Furs and then became a fit model, showcasing sportswear and swimsuits. That’s when she realized that fashion was limited to women with a certain figure. When she decided to create her own line, Citiknits was the result, and a national home shopping network became interested and ultimately bought the brand. Her next venture would be a line that helped all women. Inspired by shapers, which she found uncomfortable, she sought out a light-weight matte fabric that is 14% spandex and designed the first pant that women could wear to work and for an evening out by just switching their shirt and accessories. Women in Control® and Attitudes by Renée® are available in women’s sizes XXS to 3XL with no up-charge for the larger sizes because Greenstein believes that fashion should be comfortable and accessible to all women, and everyone should be able to feel beautiful and confident about their bodies.
I loved clothing when I was a preteen, so my aunt who lived in Paris sent me my first Louis Vuitton EPI bag. The fashion was everything to me. It opened my eyes to the style quality that was out there. I was absolutely in love.
Art is a very big passion of mine, and being a very visual person, I look at things from a different perspective. I can be out to lunch and see umbrellas floating in the wind or hanging upside down at an outdoor exhibit and get ideas from simple things we see every day. Over the years, I have learned how to incorporate these ideas into clothing.
I got where I am today because I took that leap of faith. If you don’t, you will always wonder why you did not and what could have been. I left my job, went out on my own, and learned from scratch. I was fortunate to have a friend in the industry who began to mentor me. He gave me a line of credit and connected me with someone in clothing manufacturing.
Of course, I made mistakes along the way and learned some very valuable lessons in this industry as it is not for the faint of heart. I worked non-stop with tear sheets and fabric strewn all over my living room floor. I, along with others, made it happen through a lot of trial and error, and after 22 years, we are still in control.
My greatest challenge was when my husband had a heart attack and died unexpectedly while I was away receiving an award in Arizona. I had zillions of things running through my head, but I needed to focus to clear my head. I focused on my son. I did what I had to do to get through it.
I went into survival mode and prayed. But at the time, all of this crazy was swirling around me, and I could not get home fast enough. Eventually, my tears began to subside so I could at least get some type of clarity, but I was still just going through the motions of the day-to-day things that needed to be done.
The serenity prayer helped get me through that time. My Women with Control line, in part, came from this experience in handling a very difficult situation. I wanted to make a statement that, indeed, we are in control. We can handle whatever is thrown at us, and we do come through. It might not seem like it sometimes, but you will make it, and you will be stronger for it.
Greenstein’s designs can be found at reneegreenstein.com. Join her inspiring Facebook group Wardrobe Warriors for positive interactions with women worldwide.