I first met Felix in a Lyft ride on my way to the airport at 6 AM. Even that early in the morning, I knew that after talking to him about his work with his friend Brenton, we needed to work with them!
Felix and Brenton, founders and photographers of TenderSouls, take their cameras to the streets of the Tenderloin and give community members an avenue to tell their stories. When they told me about Kelly Burns, I got goosebumps. She’s a designer for Renea Clothing- a “make when you order” clothing line that focuses on base pieces that are “darling, comfortable, and a little weird.” She aims to make getting dressed exciting, rather than a task.
First…we listened to her interview and immediately wanted to learn more. Second, we know we needed to share her story with our amazing readers who constantly support and are inspired by other women in our community.
When asked to describe herself, she says, “I’m 22 and trying to absorb as much as I can from the powerful community of women I am surround by. It’s taken me a long hard time to get to where I am and now I can finally take it all in. These days are precious and I will only survive this cold world by learning from my mentors, and being guided by the ones who have broken barriers so I can begin breaking more.”
To me, Kelly is all of us trying to make a life for herself in a city that doesn’t make it so easy. But man, at 22, she is strong, confident, a business owner and seriously such a badass. Everytime I hear her story or listen to her interview, I get inspired.
Kelly Burns, 22, founder and designer for Renea Clothing.
1- What brought you to SF?
I had just moved to Colorado from my hometown in Pennsylvania and I was on the college search. I had been researching online and found a school I felt fit my personality the most. A few phone interviews later I was ready to visit the campus; priorly thinking this school was in Denver. Comes up that Academy of Art only had one campus and it was in San Francisco. Moved here January 2013, haven’t left since.
2- Tell us about your clothing line. The passion behind it.
Renea has been a long term goal of mine since before I can remember. I am currently on a learning hiatus and have taken on the role of an Assistant Stylist. At this time I can be challenged to a new set of skills that will overall assist in Renea. Although, the current design situation is looking rather progressive and empowering with elastic harness to lace kimonos. All items are made to order; therefore, custom additions can be made for each and every client. Lots of new and exciting designs in the works for Fall 2017. I hope to push out a collection different from anything I’ve ever done.
3- Where did you think you would be at this age?
Right here. I have accepted the time travel of my career. In the past I wanted to rush the process but now I see how important it is to live where you are vs. past/future. Right on track and taking on all opportunities that lie in my path. I’m actually further along than I mapped out. I assumed to still be studying yet I’m in the workplace making it happen instead.
4- Where do you want to be in 10 years?
I always wanted to spend my ten thousand hours mastering clothing design but now that I am styling… its going to have to be some kind of combo of all the things I’ve put together. I just want to be designing with a team in a bigger space, that is for sure. But I know it will all fall into place. Keep on keeping on.
5- What do you want for your career?
Right now I am an Assistant Stylist and this is by far the coolest job I’ve ever had. I just spent the day in LA styling my boss and one of her clients for an after Oscar party. All these little jobs are going to collect into the business I curate in life. I’m very open minded to taking opportunities and growing. I have my eye set on creating confidence in women and will do so in any way possible. I think we pigeonhole our selves with small goals. Things don’t happen in specific ways though; life’s a bitch after all. Take it as it comes.
6- Piece of advice for other women trying to start their own businesses in SF.
Go for it. Let your fear drive you.
7- What keeps you going on days when you’re not feeling so great?
That I’ve come this far; there is no going back.
And candy – that’s the fix to keep me going even when I’ve hit the wall of delirium lol. Truly though, remembering that life is what you make it and creating art and clothing that is beautiful brings beauty into your day to day.
8- Any role models?
Grandmother. She is my angel. She started her own upholstery business in the 1960’s in Pennsylvania. My grandfather tried to take over but everyone knew that business was her work. She was the only woman doing that kind of work in her area so she served quite a few towns. I can remember sitting on the huge cutting tables as a little girl, dreaming of having my own space to create some day. Dreams do come true.
We will continue to share stories and support the badass women who inspire us here on VF!
For more info on TenderSouls and their project, definitely check out their website! These guys are incredible and want to support their community as much as we all do! And their photos (as you’ve just seen) are too, too good. So much emotion.
Read our story about finding things we truly admire in the Tenderloin neighborhood.?