Teacher’s homemade fashions tap global market

SATURDAY, OCT. 10, 2009

Ronnie Ryno is a teacher, a mother of two, and a wife. Two years ago, she added a fourth element to her repertoire: fashion designer. “I was thinking about the impact designing has had on my life. It’s filled an empty space that I didn’t even know was there,” she admitted, “That sounds pretty cheesy, but is perfectly true.”

Ryno, 35, grew up in Spokane Valley and graduated from Gonzaga Prep. She attended Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. for a year and then Whitman College in Walla Walla. She graduated from Eastern Washington University with a bachelor’s in English literature, a teaching degree and a special education teaching degree. Currently she works as an elementary school teacher in the special education department of Riverside School District in Chattaroy.

Her mother is local painter Christine Kimball; her father, now deceased, was a musician. Still, it wasn’t until Ryno’s cousin suggested she make a craft room in the basement of her North Side home that her own creative juices began flowing. “I took off,” she said, “I began reconstructing my dated or damaged clothing.” After about a month of teaching herself to sew and experimenting with fashion, she opened an online store and sold her first piece within minutes of posting. After that, she was hooked.

Her imagination ran wild; She began Runway Renegades, a fashion show where local designers strut their stuff, and started designing cocktail dresses, ball gowns, skirts, halter and tank tops, vests, jackets and purses out of men’s ties with the idea of taking something quintessentially male and turning it into something beautifully feminine.

Each tie dress is made from 35 to 45 ties and typically takes two spools of thread and about 20 hours of labor. Her dresses have gone to Hong Kong, Australia, England, Scotland, Oman (worn to the Governor’s Ball), Germany, and all over the United States and Canada. She has made two tie wedding dresses in white, silver, gold and cream, both for weddings with an environmental theme. Her dresses have also gone to the prom.

Her more recent designs include recycled T-shirts fringed and layered into a modern version of a flapper’s dress. “I like to combine modern and classic elements in my clothes,” she said, “Fringe dresses are flapper inspired, but are also reminiscent of ’80s trends, and the long tie dresses are a very formal, classic ball-gown design made with an unusual material that reflects an environmentally friendly ethic that is very relative to what’s important to people today.”

Ryno said that her sewing and design work have helped her become a better-rounded person and even a better teacher. “I’m more relaxed and less uptight.”

She also sleeps a lot less, something she said she is able to do because she is happy doing what she is doing. What used to be empty spaces in her life are now filled with color, texture, flair and a fashionable future, definitely, she said, “without rules or constraints.”

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail jlarue99@hotmail.com

Click here to comment on this story »

Back to Spokesman Mobile