Renee Claire – The Queen Of Sleep

We were delighted when Phillip Nokav from The Queen Latifah Show approached us about doing an article on Renee and BedHead on their website.  Check out the full story below!

 

BedHead Pajamas chats with us about her inspirations and what’s next!

ARTICLE BY:

Staff

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” – Joseph Campbell

If only it were that simple – right? But often, due to circumstance, lack of trust in ourselves, or perhaps a combination of factors, it can become a challenge to even find one’s bliss, much less follow it.

So when we came across the story of Renee Claire, the founder and head designer of BedHead, the Los Angeles-based sleepwear company, who quit her job as a waitress and risked everything to follow her bliss and start a clothing line, we simply had to chat with her and share her story.

Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, Renee Claire grew up sewing with her mom and sisters in the basement of their home. For them it was a delightful diversion during the long cold Canadian winters. Drawn by the LA lifestyle (and the warm weather!), Renee moved south after college and paid her bills like most in Hollywood — waitressing. Determined to follow her bliss, Renee began making clothes at home, after work and on her days off and until it eventually became her only job.

We talked to Renee about her beginnings, her current success and what’s next for the designer from chilly Canada who is following her bliss under the sun in California.

You started something from nothing. How did this happen? 

You know, sometimes I think back about my childhood and the fact that we had very little money as a family. But we had a great family loving unit, if you will, like a lovely place to be. A creative world was created in our basement, just playing with fabric. My mother used to make all of our Barbie clothes out of scraps of fabric, [including]great little dresses for Barbie and some pants for Ken … she was very creative in that way. And as I got older, I became more and more interested in making garments for myself. 

So this love for fashion and design started in childhood? And you still love it as much today? 

Even to this day, I think my favorite part of it was always picking out the fabrics and ironing the patterns and cutting the patterns out. That was what fascinated me. More so than the sewing, so the creative part of what I do now is picking out the patterns, designing the fabrics, and scaling and recoloring –it’s what I love to do every day.

But how did you make the leap from sewing in your basement to running a sleepwear empire?  

I came to the US on a six- month vacation and ended up staying the rest of my life in California. And one thing led to the other, but I mostly paid my way through waitressing.

The majority of my 20s and 30s were waitressing at night, and then working on my projects during the day, getting enough money from waitressing to buy a pattern or a fabric. Pretty soon I started waitressing in the pants that I made and the shirts that I made, and people started to take notice.  I got a commission from a restaurant called 72 Market Street — which was, in its heyday, quite a fine restaurant — and made the waiter shirts for that restaurant and it just started to kind of form itself around the time. I was kind of a late bloomer, and at 33 I decided to make my own dress line.

For seven years, Renee worked on her dress, coat and shirt line with moderate success. Realizing the market was getting soft, she began to search for alternatives. While making a delivery, she saw a pair of pajamas in the store window. Seeing this she was immediately inspired and thought to herself, “Wow, I can really top that! If it’s put in the window, it must be a great item to be sold in the store!”… and from there the pajama line was born.

Renee knew immediately that she wanted to do something that was more sophisticated than the typical ‘cows jumping over the moon’ or ‘toast and eggs’ designs that were prevalent in 1999. Seeing that Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks did not at that time carry the more sophisticated sleepwear she had in mind, she quickly put a collection together. It started to grow from there.

So who do you design for? Who is your customer? 

I try to cater to women that like to show their bodies and also ones that need to cover it a little bit more. So [for example],the classic pajama, it covers the tooshie and the waist area. Whereas the knit ones are kind of more for the young that want to show their body and feel sexy even their PJs.

And from where do you draw your inspiration and how do you get the vision for the collections that you design today?

Well, I have to tell you, I like to hit all personality types. For example, somebody might like a romantic print. Or an Asian-inspired print. I try to hit from conservative to wild within my collections. That’s always my focus. It is to try to be a lot for a lot of different people. For fall, I like a little bit of whimsy but I also like a lot of serious too, in case people do not want to do that fun whimsical thing. There’s a balance of all of those things within my collection.

What was your biggest challenge in getting this business off the ground?

Working out of my garage, moving into my living room and then my spare bedroom. I knew that I needed to get it out of the house and have my home sacred again, because I was sleeping under piles of pajamas. It was really out of control. I ran out of space. So I rented a storefront, and that was a challenge, because I was like, “Okay, now I have to open a little store,” and in the back behind the “magic curtain” was the wholesale division. It was just me and a mannequin and a desk at first. So, what was challenging was to run the front of the store to help pay for the rent, and then run the wholesale division. When I started, I had one person part-time and then became full-time. And then I added people as I needed because everybody was like, “you know what, you need to delegate.” That was the hardest thing for me because I wanted to control — or at least have my hands on – everything.

After years of toiling away and following her bliss, success came to Renee Claire and her BedHead business. All of the gorgeous prints are designed in-house and daily she seeks inspiration from vintage fashion to contemporary art. Nearly all of BedHead’s products are cut and sewn in Los Angeles, providing jobs to more than 70 people in the community.

BedHead is the go-to sleepwear source for Hollywood stylists and is frequently seen on television and in film. Fans of BedHead include Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl, Kate Hudson, Oprah Winfrey and Cher. Mindful that women of all figure types want fashionable, well-made pajamas, BedHead offers sizes up to 3X and will make custom pieces for hard-to-fit figures. BedHead has two free-standing stores, one in Los Angeles and one in New York City. Their entire line is available for purchase online www.bedheadpjs.com as well as at many fine stores worldwide.

- See more at: http://queenlatifah.com/learning/renee-claire-%E2%80%93-queen-sleep#sthash.Z5TTgENT.dpuf

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