What’s more impressive than a successful, 25-year-old fashion designer launching a collection in New York? How about two successful, 25-year-old fashion designers? And better yet, they’re locally grown.
Grand Ledge native identical twins Shawn and Claire Buitendorp already have an impressive resume in the fashion world. After college, the pair moved to New York to intern with fashion designer Betsey Johnson. Together, the twins founded Shock and Awww, a clothing brand that, in their words, “embodied both Shawn’s love of edgy and dramatic fashion and Claire’s passion for sparkly and romantic styles.” The brand will launch it’s first complete collection in New York later this month. The duo returns to Greater Lansing Tuesday to share their tips and tricks of the trade with aspiring designers at the Runway’s Fashion 411 speaker series.
“We’re going to highlight who we are, where we’re from,” Shawn Buitendorp said. “We’re from Grand Ledge. We went to LCC, we went to U of M and we are local girls. We want to highlight that you don’t have to be someone from New York to find success.”
The twins will talk about how they launched their brand and major milestones like working with Katy Perry and other notable musicians and celebrities. The twins are still riding high off their winnings of $222,222.22 on VH1’s competition-based reality television show “Twinning.” Since the final episode, the Buitendorps have been busy managing publicity efforts, attending Los Angeles and New York fashion weeks and putting the finishing touches on their first full-fledged collection with Shock & Awww.
“We really want to highlight the skills to get there,” Shawn Buitendorp said, “Not necessarily what people say or assume you have to do to get to this kind of level and success.”
“Of course it’s through hard work and determination,” Claire Buitendorp added, “But there’s certainly luck and strategic planning. There’s no formula for how you do it.”
Housed in the renovated Knapp’s Centre, the Runway is a fashion incubator that opened its doors a year and a half ago. The space offers a retail shop, office space and a retail store for young designers.
“We launched the Fashion 411 series last year,” said Quin Stinchfield, business incubation manager at the Runway. “The intention behind it was to bring entrepreneurs to the Runway and to give our tenants and community access to entrepreneurs that have had success in creating a fashion line.”
The event began as a monthly series, but is now offered on a quarterly basis. When Stinchfield was putting together this year’s lineup of speakers, the Buitendorps seemed like a perfect fit.
“We wanted to reach out to some people that had a base in Michigan but had experienced some greater success,” Stinchfield said. “We thought it would be a cool idea to bring them back to the Runway and they could talk about the challenges they had with their line and give advice to budding entrepreneurs.”
The twins toured the Runway shortly after it’s inception, and they were already impressed with the resources and tools the program had in place for aspiring fashionistas.
“We toured the facilities and met with the staff,” Claire Buitendorp said. “It seemed incredibly interesting and totally encompassing. A brand could start from nothing and they would help them grow through the entire process.”
It’s a network of resources that Stinchfield is proud to offer budding designers.
“When people think about Lansing, you don’t necessarily think a high-profile fashion scene,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be avant-garde, there are a lot of people with a lot of ideas, and they just need the resources to get them started.”
The Runway program assists in everything from design and pattern-making to business development, manufacturing and sales/marketing support.
As former Lansing-area fashionistas, the Buitendorps are excited to see projects like the Runway supporting local talent.
“We’re always excited to see people interested in this industry within Michigan and that there are institutions and companies that are willing and able to facilitate those who want to make fashion their career path,” Claire Buitendorp said.
Fashion 411 Speaker Series with Shawn and Claire Buitendorp
5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16 $10 The Runway 300 S. Washington Square, Suite 100, Lansing (517) 230-2942, runwaylansing.com