Christine Gionet is on a mission…
Through her plus-size clothing store, Renegade, she has worked tirelessly over the past three years to promote a body-positive message. She’s dealt with the typical challenges of small business ownership but firmly refuses to back down. To her, every obstacle is a lesson, and every lesson a signal for Renegade to turn the page.
Another chapter has begun.
Along with opening a new pop-up location in Old East Village, Christine has partnered with local photographer Caitlyn Peesker to create an online movement of self-love and acceptance dubbed the Renegade Rebellion.
I met with these self-proclaimed rebels over slices of Blue Majik cheesecake to learn more.
Why did you first open Renegade?
Christine: I worked for an insurance company for 13 years and was miserable. I needed to find something else to put my energy into, and that’s how Renegade came along. I wanted Renegade to be an environment that was encouraging, empowering, and non-judgemental for women in London who are plus size. There was a pretty great response when I first opened. Everyone was excited to see something unique and local that they never had access to before.
Did you feel that kind of environment was lacking?
Christine: Yes, definitely. London and many towns throughout Canada only have the big box stores as far as shopping goes for plus size women, and when you shop there it’s a very generic experience. There’s no empowerment, there’s nothing fun. It becomes a chore and there’s no excitement. It’s mostly a stressful thing for most women, at least it was for me and I wanted to have something for me.
Christine: Because Renegades are rebels. I think that our attitude rebels against society’s standards and allows us to express ourselves despite what people in the world tell us what we should like.
What kind of changes has Renegade gone through since opening?
Christine: We started with pop-ups and then moved into a brick and mortar location for two and a half years. As all things go, we needed to evolve. Consequently, I chose to go with an online platform, since I wanted to reach more people yet have more flexibility in my time to work on events and the Renegade Rebellion.
What exactly is the “Renegade Rebellion”?
Christine: The Renegade Rebellion is our campaign to promote size acceptance, body acceptance, health at every size, and basically having a healthy mindset about your body and about yourself. Our goal is to create a body-positive community.
Our motto is:
We reject society’s unrealistic expectations and take a stand in the name of size acceptance. We resist the notion that our value is any less because of our shape and size. We rebel in the name of love, acceptance, freedom, and empowerment of all bodies. We are the #renegaderebellion.
Who can be a part of the Rebellion?
Christine: Anybody, [any gender], anyone of any size.
Caitlyn: Cats, dogs.
How did it start?
Caitlyn: I met Christine three years ago while photographing her grand opening party. I continued to photograph parties and we did the “Capture Your Confidence” photoshoot, which is when 10 women come in together to get a picture. They wear Renegade clothing, get hair and makeup done. It has been a great way to help women embrace their bodies. Christine and I became personal friends as well. We were sitting together one day, and she was talking about a hateful comment she got on an outfit. And we were both like, something needs to be done!
What have you done so far?
Caitlyn: We started with a free photoshoot for a bunch of Renegades we personally knew. The shoot was for girls to feel comfortable and do what they wanted to do.
Christine: They wrote their version of why they were a part of the Rebellion. Everyone’s reason is a little bit different, but in the end, we’re all here for the same reason.
Caitlyn: The message they told is that we accept our bodies, despite what other people may think. It’s important for everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin. Therefore we want to rebel against conventional standards of size and beauty acceptance.
Christine: We also do blog posts and live videos discussing aspects of body image and acceptance. We would eventually like to go around the country and talk to more individuals about their personal stories.
As Renegades how do you express yourselves through fashion?
Christine: I like to have fun with my clothing. Sometimes I’m in a retro dress, sometimes I’m in a boho dress. Overall I love showing my body, wearing tight clothing like pencil skirts and my tummy.
Caitlyn: I love that you love that.
Christine: My sense of style is all over the place. That’s what I love about fashion, being able to express yourself, how you’re feeling in that day and just having fun with clothes.
Caitlyn: I wear whatever the hell I’m feeling. It involves a lot of see-through shirts, crop-tops, shirts tucked into jeans, a lot of shorts where my thighs jiggle. I like to let everything hang out. I love my body, and I love the way people are like, should she be wearing that? But honestly, why shouldn’t I be showing my stomach? Your body is a vessel, why hide it?
With the movement in motion, what does the future hold for Renegade?
Christine: I currently work at the Boombox Bakeshop in Old East Village, and I’ve established a permanent pop-up for Renegade in their new location. I get to see my customers on a more regular basis again, which I really missed. I’ll also continue doing random pop-ups at events like the Punk Rock Flea Market. Finally, as for the Renegade Rebellion, Caitlyn and I will be pushing via photoshoots, live feeds and blogs. You won’t stop hearing from us – and we’re not sorry.
Join the movement and share your story of body positivity with the hashtag #renegaderebellion, or visit Christine at 520 Adelaide St. N to grab a delicious vegan cupcake and see what she has in store.
Feature photo courtesy of Caitlyn Peesker