11 Faves From the Minimalist Maven Behind Rennes
Before launching Rennes—her line of minimalist bags, pouches, clothing and ceramics—in 2008, Julia Okun held down two jobs. Both “pretty boring,” she says with a laugh. She’d been a sewer from way back, so she started tinkering with items, built a website and hopped onto then-bourgeoning Etsy. Her sweet and simple designs—inspired by travel, archeology and history (“Rennes” refers both to a French city and a legend about the holy grail)—took off from there. We talked to this stylish entrepreneur and Boston native about juicers, shoes and all things Japanese.
What inspires your work?
I went to Japan in college, and I really fell in love with their aesthetic and attention to details—even how they’d wrap or present things, that’s really inspiring to me. If I’m making a piece of clothing, I try to keep it pretty simple, but I like having small accent details and things like that.
I love Kyoto. There’s a cool shrine there, (1) Fushimi Inari; it’s all these red wooden torii gates. It’s really beautiful. Japanese shopping malls and department stores, like (2) Takashimaya are really interesting, too. They have a lot of vendors, and there’s usually a supermarket, and everything is immaculately wrapped and presented.
What designers do you like right now?
I really like (3) Maison Martin Margiela. It’s this deconstructionist, minimalist stuff. They make (4) leather Tabi ballet flats that are split-toe, Japanese-style, and I have a pair of those. I had to save up because they’re pretty expensive, but it was worth it.
What’s a typical food day?
My husband and I both have a ton of tea—we’re always having to go buy more—so I have different green teas at work. Because I started doing ceramics, I have so many mugs! It’s a lot more fun to eat off your own ceramics. I’m pretty into Korean food, because the neighborhood my studio is in, for some reason, has a lot of Korean restaurants. I should be packing lunch from home, but I find myself ordering Korean takeout more often. (5) Bon Chon has this thing called tteokbokki, which is this dish of Korean rice cakes and veggies and fried noodles; it has tomato sauce on it, and you can get it with cheese and different toppings. It’s one of my favorites.
What’s always in your fridge?
My husband got me a juicer, so I’ve been trying to stop buying the fresh juice that costs like $10 and trying to make my own! Once a week, I fill some plastic containers with juice for the week. I’ve tried doing green ones, but I can’t get the proportions. I like (6) carrot-orange-apple, and I do beet with apple and mint a lot. Mint makes everything taste great.
What kind of look do you like for a night out?
I’ve been wearing a lot of black lately. I like wearing just a linen dress and leggings, and if it’s not too cold out, I’ll wear these (7) Martiniano shoes that I sell or (8) Repettos. For the winter, I’ll also wear a lot of big sweaters that I’ve knit. A lot of times I end up wearing things that I’ve made. In the winter, I don’t really carry a bag a lot, which is funny, because I make bags. I just put things in my smallest pouches and coat pockets, because I feel so heavy with all the coats and boots and things. But otherwise I’ll carry one of my own bags or a backpack.
Where might you go for dinner?
(9) Oleana in Cambridge is good Middle Eastern-style food. They have delicious muhammara, a dip with red pepper and pomegranate molasses. We also really like (10) Dorado, a taco place ideally situated between where we live and where we both work. We’ll stop there on the way home. There aren’t a ton of taco places here in Boston, and the ones we do have are really snooty and expensive, but these are perfectly priced and really good. I get the shrimp tacos, with chipotle shrimp and jicama, which are delicious.
What would be your favorite food to eat while wearing stretchy pants?
Oh: (11) Indian food. Now that I think about it, a lot of Indian food.
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