Where does an up-and-coming fashion designer go after Project Runway? For Renee Hill, a winner of the ApparelMagic Grant for Emerging Designers of Color, the answer is right back to the studio.
Hill, a recipient of the ApparelMagic Grant for Emerging Designers of Color, is no stranger to fresh starts and getting back to work.
After beginning her fashion career only in her late forties, Hill had a faltering start, but is pleasantly irreverent about the mistakes she made along the way.
“I made so many mistakes, lost a whole lot of money,” she says.
It wasn’t the designing that was the issue. In fact, the creativity and spotlight came naturally to her. It was the backend business elements that were the real struggle.
“I was jumping around and just didn’t know,” Hill says. “I’m doing shows but I’m not ready for production. I’m doing New York Fashion Week, but I don’t have a lot of sourcing. I didn’t have a stable manufacturer. I didn’t have my ecommerce set up. There were a lot of things I didn’t have in place.”
The things designers miss in design school—the finances, the contracts, the software, the schedules—are the invisible ingredients in a healthy company, and that is where businesses are most likely to fail.
“Many designers don’t know the backend. Many designers don’t know the business part,” Hill says. “As a creative, those are the things that stagnate your business in addition to hindering you.”
After hitting her business’s lowest lows, however, Hill and her line Harx4 had a change of fortune that most in fashion could only dream of.
“I had shut down and said I was going to revamp and start all over again,” Hill says, “and then I went on Project Runway! So this is the process of me starting over, trying to get things done the right way and not make so many poor decisions.”
Starting back over, Hill has made an effort to get behind the steering wheel when it comes to the business aspects of her brand.
“I don’t have to master these things, but I also need to know them because this is my business,” she says. “I’ve lived and I’ve learned.”
But don’t let the renewed focus on the right-brain part of Harx4 fool you. Hill will continue to surprise and impress with the same strong, chic clothes she has been known for since her Project Runway stardom.
In her upcoming collection, Hill will be exploring new elements like tailoring and strong color like she’s never done before. Experimenting in texture, her preferred medium, she’ll debut new styles that make a big statement.
And those statement pieces won’t come as a shock to her longtime fans. Strength is an intrinsic part of the Harx4 identity.
“That is a part of my character of being a strong person, being a person who is really comfortable in her own skin,” she says. “I’m 53, and a lot of people don’t think I should wear flame Vans sneakers or Jordan 1s or anything like that. But I feel comfortable in that. That’s who I am. And I want people to feel comfortable in their own skin when they wear my pieces.”
It’s that message of power, fearlessness, and individuality that attracts her fans and customers.
“A lot of women do want to start a new career or start over at this age, and it’s scary to want to take that leap of faith,” Hill says, “I really had to accept that I was a role model for a lot of people.”
Hill plans to continue to share her own story with that of Harx4, aiming to inspire people through her own hard work and the beautiful clothing she creates.
“Your story is very important. And people should not be afraid to tell their story.”
Hill, who also works as a consultant on diversity and inclusion, sees our current circumstances as a way to move forward when it comes to race.
“In this climate, designers and businesses need to reflect on this time,” Hill says. “Take this time—this pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter movement, and what happened to George Floyd and that triggering so many things—take a moment to reflect. Just reflect on what’s going on, and see how you can grow as a person, as a city, as a society, as a world. We just need to continue to try to grow. This stuff is not going to be eradicated in the next year, ten minutes, whatever. We just have to be patient in this process. It’s a process. And you have to be willing to start the process. You have to be willing to fight the fight. It is going to be challenging because you’ve never done it before.”
That said, Hill is inspired by this movement and the positive repercussions it has already had and will have in the future.
“Young people are out here marching and risking their lives for a cause. That’s passion: People fighting to see things change. I have such a level of passion for what I’m doing. That is what drives me.” Hill says. “You have good days, and you have bad days, but I just push through with my passion.”
For more information on the ApparelMagic Grant for Emerging Designers of Color, the winners, and other resources for fashion businesses, please click here.