Sharing Beauty with Renee Friedrich
Creator of the once beloved retailer Anaise, and now HÉLÈNE, a creative studio offering photography, styling, creative direction, and model management.
Renee's feminine aesthetic and unwavering commitment to beauty have always captivated us. Her soft, cinematic photography evokes a sense of familiarity and comfort that draws us in, time and again. We were honored to have been a part of Anaise, her once beloved store that boasted a carefully curated selection of clothing, accessories, and objets d'art. Anaise was truly one-of-a-kind, a dreamy destination crafted with love and Renee's singular, distinctive vision.
This profile was conducted in December 2020. Renee has now moved on to open HÉLÈNE, a model agency that celebrates individualism, non-conformity, and diversity of age and background. A creative community of models based in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. HÉLÈNE also serves as a creative studio offering photography, styling, creative direction, and research.
Is there anything you would like to share with us about how you chose to take on this project?
Thank you so much for including me in Araks' Lingerie on Film project. When I think of Araks, I think of her work primarily as a colorist whose medium is lingerie. She works with an intense, vibrant color palette that is immediately recognizable. I was hoping to translate that on film with deeply moody, grainy images.
Can you share a little about your background, where you grew up?
I was raised on the nectar that is Nutella and Brötchen and spent my childhood in Frankfurt, Germany. Every Saturday, my family and I would walk to the Zeil (the main promenade) and pick up fresh Dolmas and fish sandwiches followed by a long walk along the Main River. It is my favorite memory of that time. In the early 90s, my family and I moved to Maryland, where I later studied Biology at university followed by Pharmacy school.
What clothes did you like to wear as a child? Was there a particular shop that you loved going to when you were young?
I was often mistaken for a boy and wore oversized tees, baggy shorts, multi-colored, doubled crew socks folded over. I ordered most of my clothing from a military catalogue. A fine, personal fashion moment.
Do you recall a moment or point when you became aware of your interest in fashion and design?
You might call it a happy accident. The exhaust fan in our bathroom caught fire one morning, followed by the collapse of the entire roof. We were on the 6 o'clock morning news wearing bedsheets, another fine fashion moment. We moved into a hotel for a month, then lived in temp housing for a year. It was strenuous and stressful, the five of us in a small, single room that served as both a living and sleeping space, so I escaped into my own world by collecting images of photography and fashion that inspired and strengthened me. As the saying goes, out of the mud grows a lotus!
Previous to opening your store, you were a pharmacist. Can you talk about why / how you transitioned into owning one of the coolest boutiques in California?
After graduating, I worked at Kaiser Permanente and then the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. While I feel lucky to have experienced that line of work, my dreams lied in an imaginative realm and I felt drawn to translating that in the form of a clothing store, full of shapes, color and possibilities.
Can you tell us a little more about the beginnings of Anaise?
It was very much a fly by the seat of your pants type of beginning, as I had no background in running a business. I approached a few lines that I admired when I started out in 2010 - A Détacher, Rachel Comey, Mociun, Tom Scott - and the on-line store grew steadily, mostly by word of mouth.
Who is the woman you are thinking about when you are buying?
The collections are centered around an imaginary woman who has a cinematic, romantic way of life in the time period of the 60s-70s.
How would you describe the lines that you carry? Is there a similar theme that runs through them?
I'd say an element of conviction runs throughout. Each of the designers I carry has an individualistic, well-considered and thoughtful perspective and a strong language with which they approach and interpret design.
“Most importantly, for me at least, is that their work is an expression of love – pure and sincere.”
Outside of fashion, what inspires you?
I'm fascinated by lighting and chair design, music, film – mostly the way in which these subjects elicit emotion and create mood. But equally inspiring are random things I come across on the ground and people with a good sense of humour.
Is there something you'd like to share that's had an influence on your work and creativity?
I am always moved by observing people - strangers and friends - their expressions, movements and gestures in conversation. It is a thing that is mundane yet grand; a fascinating slow dance which feeds my eyes and soul.
Do you have any muses that you continually go back to as inspiration?
Women on the street. Older women, especially.
You started online, opened a brick and mortar, and then went back to online exclusively. Are there any learnings from brick and mortar that you bring to your online store?
I miss the one-on-one interactions and relationships that come with a brick and mortar shop. Some of my customers became a second family. Conveying the personal on-line is not as facile, but simple gestures like the wrapping of a package or including a type-written poem with an order is a way to express that care and desire to connect.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
The man is the head, the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head whichever way she wants.
So many businesses have been fighting to stay open since Covid. What has been your strategy?
Crying under the covers.
In all seriousness, there is no time more important than now to celebrate beauty, hope, and imagination. The limitations and restrictions brought about from the pandemic, as uncomfortable and inconvenient as they may be, will hopefully culminate in a more beautiful, imaginative, and sustainable way of working.
Do you think there's a future for brick and mortar stores?
Brick and mortar stores bring people together. They are hubs of culture, design, art, and community. It is the atmosphere and experience - that feeling of discovery and togetherness - that I think people desire. I believe there will always be a future for brick and mortar shops.
Thank you, Renee!