Belinda “Kamshuka” Barrocks recently had the opportunity to sit down with designer Shanté Renee Roline, founder of Vanity Couture, a luxury swimsuit line that recently made its mark at Fashion Art Toronto. Here’s what she had to say.
Kamshuka: What initially drew you into the fashion industry?
Shanté Renee Roline: My sister and I had a dress up box growing up full of all my mom’s old vintage clothing, lace accessories and even heels far too big for us to be wearing. We used to have the time of our lives with that thing. Dress up transcended into dressing up Barbies. Gradually, from barbies I moved onto bigger things. Larger than life things. Myself.
I was always very experimental and expressive with my fashion since I was young. I would even get upset in grade school if my mother would try to dress me.
I had to dress myself and would lay my clothes out on the edge of the bed the night before school.
Kamshuka: Who was the major influence in the early part of your career?
Shanté: My grandma had a sewing box and I would spend every weekend with her before eventually moving in with her in my early teen years. She taught me the basics of sewing and I joined the sewing club at school, while we had one. I used to take apart my clothes, and recreate them.
I always wanted to be a designer. I had an uncommon figure growing up so nothing ever fit me properly, and I had so many ideas of garments I wanted to wear, but could never find anywhere. That desire is what made my love of fashion turn into a career goal.
Kamshuka: Why did you choose swimwear as the focus for this latest collection?
Shanté: The runway show I put on at Fashion Art Toronto 2018 was actually my debut as a designer. I decided to start my career in fashion with swimwear because I absolutely love hitting the beach and the pool. I worked at a bikini shop years ago and always felt like swimwear was never glamorous enough and that a lot of styles didn’t necessarily compliment a body type like mine. I felt like we needed to bring the bedroom to the beach, which is a saying I’ve used for far too long. It’s definitely challenging for women to find something they feel confident in with no makeup and messy hair, and all your flaws are pretty much exposed.
“The song ‘Diamonds From Sierra Leone’ by Kanye and Jay-Z definitely inspired [one of my pieces]. – Shanté Renee Roline
Kamshuka: What is your inspiration behind the styling of each piece?
Shanté: I called this collection “A Touch Of Marilyn”, showcasing garments that could truly make you feel as timeless and glamorous as [Marilyn Monroe] was.
“Black Magic” is a style or version of embellishing that I do on my swimsuits for specialty orders. My showstopper monokini that I used to kick off the runway was covered in over 9000 gunmetal genuine Swarovski crystals that I individually set by hand. It literally looks like you are wearing black diamonds; it’s rather magical. The song “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” by artists Kanye & Jay Z definitely inspired this piece, so naturally I needed it to be part of the show. Between Shirley Bassey’s majestic voice and that grandiose beat drop, I wanted to make for a memorable powerful entrance.
Kamshuka: What message are you trying to communicate through your designs?
Shanté: It’s not so much about the message. I think it’s more about the experience that I am trying to create for the people who enjoy my brand. I want them to feel confident, bold and sexy in their skin. I definitely think all my models did a fabulous job at displaying how Vanity Couture made them feel walking down the runway.
Kamshuka: What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d have for aspiring designers?
Shanté: Never give up on your passion and your dreams, regardless of what anyone says or believes. Focus, tune out all the noise and tune into yourself. You are the key, you and you alone.