The Renee Fashion Show

The Renee Fashion Show

The Diversity of Fashion
By Hazel Yuhas

Friends, family, and fans gathered for a Saturday night fashion show at the Renée and Sole Mates stores in Ocean Casino Resort, Atlantic City. Business owner Renée Esposito took to the mic to describe the unique, international styles paraded down the Ocean Casino retail concourse, with models dressed by Amber Hamlett. Standout items included a handmade Mongolian fur purse paired with a Romanian deconstructed denim skirt and two looks of Y2K-inspired sparkly lightwash denim. The styles also included some familiar names, such as a jumpsuit from Versace and a patterned suit from Kozan, a Turkish label whose owner got her start at Diesel.

The lineup of models for the show was a diverse group of talent ranging in age, height, and experience. Lounique Spellman, Tiffany La and her sister Mary-Jun La, Amoya ‘Bleu’ Williams, the mother and daughter team of Mineli and Gionellie Garcia, Aissata Sy, and Noelle Cunningham all walked with purpose and professionalism. The audience praised the range of representation from Hamlett’s models and team, as well as the varied looks from haute couture fashion to ready-to-wear casual.

Store owner Renée Esposito has been in the fashion business for nearly 30 years. She got her start in children's clothing, then moved onto plus-size fashion before opening her namesake store, Renée, in the Ocean Casino Resort. The store features a unique collection of ready-to-wear women's fashion from designers around the world. "I like to give [smaller designers] a chance to showcase their pieces in here," Eposito said.

More recently, she opened the shoe store Sole Mates next door. The retail space features wearable yet striking women's shoes as well as purses and accessories. Sole Mates has a focus on "a comfortable shoe for women who are a little tired, like me," joked Eposito.

One-of-a-kind designs are the hallmark of both stores. “People love it because they know they’re not going to see it anywhere so it’s one-of-a-kind and they’ve really had their heart and souls in it,” Esposito said. “When you shop with a small business boutique, you get something a little special that you’re not going to get in a big department store.” Renee stocks sizes from extra small to 3XL to make sure every customer feels welcome. “We try to have something in the store for everyone. All ages, all kinds of fashion,” said Esposite. “It is very hard to find plus-size fashion. Not just plus sizes, but plus-size fashion.”

Debbie Donnigan and her husband are longtime Ocean Casino Resort goers–and Renee fans. It was Donnigan’s husband who heard about the event through the casino marketing emails. “I love her store, it’s wonderful,” said Donnigan. “She carries all sizes.” Donnigan has been shopping at Renee since it first opened. “My husband said, ‘Oh god, there she goes’,” when the sister store Sole Mates first debuted, Donnigan said with a laugh. Donnigan took advantage of the night’s promotions at Sole Mates.

The event wouldn’t have been possible without the modeling styling and promotion provided by Amber Hamlett of Glamour In Amber (a local women/minority owned business). Hamlett has long considered Esposito a mentor and was proud to work with her on the fashion show. “I wanted to make sure I execute Renee’s beautiful, one-of-a-kind designs at such a high level to help people feel that they can also wear these unique pieces.” Hamlett stated the event went even better than her expectations. “We expected that this would be a VIP exclusive event with under 50 people, but we had over 100. We had to get more chairs, so that was really exciting.”

Hamlett is an Atlantic City native who hopes to change perspectives about her hometown. Atlantic City is “not what you would think of as a fashion city like a Philadelphia or like a New York. So I wanted to be an example to young people like myself, coming from here, that you can be in the creative space, that you can bring fashion and creative new ideas from a small city like mine.”

Stephanie Marshall, Atlantic City councilwoman-at-large, was in attendance to show her support for small, local businesses. “I know Amber…because she is active in the community so I came out to show support,” Marshall said. “I’ve never been to the store before but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.” Marshall enjoyed the show as well as the store and was later seen leaving with a Renée shopping bag. Other notable attendees included Atlantic City council president Aaron Randolph, Whitney Ullman from The City Pulse and GoTo Whitney, Dirk Dacosta of CliqSuite, Dina Guzzardo of DPG, and Lorena Loyola of Americano Newspaper.

Hamlett produced the fashion show in collaboration with Black Ink, a creative brand agency led by Eric Vincent and Mark S. Slotnick. The Black Ink team was impressed by Hamlett's drive after meeting her at a local MBCA fundraiser. They then invited her to speak at their flagship event, ProcurementCon, which focuses on helping small businesses secure government contracts.

Based on the success of the Renée fashion show, Hamlett and Black Ink have already started production on even more fashion-forward events. Up next is the Dress for Success fashion show at Monmouth Ocean BizCon, scheduled for March 11th. It will be followed by another Dress for Success fashion show slated for the 2024 Atlantic City ProcurementCon in November at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

Eposito was “very, very pleased” with the success of her show and had nothing but praise for Hamlett. “I look at Amber and she has a lot of me in her. She’s very driven, she’s very go-getting. And I know if we all help each other, that’s what it’s all about. We all succeed.”