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Feature Story

Modeling in Des Moines


The who, what, where and how with Des Moines fashion show producer Camille Renee

Des Moines is a well-dressed metro, according to Camille Renee. The 26-year-old model has returned home, and she likes what she sees, saying Des Moines men have great shoes and its women have great hair. Raised in the Midwest, Renee has modeled and worked in fashion in places like Los Angeles, New York City and Paris — all before reaching her mid-20s. After working with top designers, photographers and models,she decided to settle where she grew up and create those experiences and opportunities in Des Moines. In September 2016, Renee launched
Des Moines Fashion Week with a fall show. Her second show took place in fall 2017, and she is now planning the first ever spring show of Des Moines Fashion Week. CITYVIEW chatted with Renee to get the inside info on how modeling in central Iowa is done — and we couldn’t help but share her fabulous take on style and fashion, too.

Camille Renee (left) in her design studio in Clive with Chelsea Dubczak (Miss Iowa 2017). Image by Camille Renee

Give us a little bit of background about yourself.

I actually grew up in Vietnam. I was adopted when I was 8 years old, and then I moved to Clive with my new family. I went to Ankeny High School, then I went to Iowa Western Community College and majored in fine arts. Then I transferred to Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana. I really loved photography, and I discovered it when I was in high school. It was just something I carried along throughout schooling and the majority of my life. After college, I came back to Des Moines and just started building my roots here. Basically, I’ve been living around the Midwest my whole life. I currently reside in the Sherman Hill area of Des Moines. I like architecture, and I love living in this historic area.

How did you get your start in fashion?

Prep Iowa

I began my work in fashion with an internship at Omaha Fashion Week in 2010 that led to a position as an art director with Omaha Fashion Magazine in 2011. I learned so many things from each role and also learned how much I love to stay busy. I had a passion to help other creatives, especially in the Midwest fashion community. I wanted to bring designers and models from all over the world and showcase them in my home. I wanted to show Des Moines that they can have a career in fashion. This led to the founding of DSM Fashion Week in 2015, and our first events were held in September 2016. The events culminated with an open-air fashion show in the East Village with a grand finale at Splash.

Did you always want to be involved in fashion?

I’ve always wanted to be in fashion. Working with Omaha Fashion Week truly sparked my creative energies to create something unique to the Des Moines area. I’m fascinated by the unique expressive qualities that designers, models and photographers bring to the runway.

Who are your inspirations and role models in the fashion world?

Zac Posen has an elegance that inspires me, as does Dior’s eveningwear and Perfection’s romantic appeal.

Describe your personal style. What influences your fashion choices?

The 1920s-1940s are a huge inspiration in my wardrobe, and playing with the modern day style of Ann Taylor.

What’s your favorite type of fashion?

Intimates, because it’s the closest thing to your body, and it’s often never seen — and, of course, it’s exciting. Did you know that Des Moines has the No. 1 intimate store in North America? Amour is a lingerie boutique in the East Village, and I like their store because it’s delicate and brilliantly designed lingerie. They collect an assortment of high-end lingerie from all around the world.

What is your fashion weakness?

Shoes. My favorite pair are a size 4.5 Christian Louboutins. Second is my Giovanni Rossi Italian leather shoes.

What is the most you’ve ever spent on a single item?

It was $650-ish on a floral jumpsuit from Rachel Zoe’s first spring/summer resort wear collection. It was a limited collection, I’m pretty sure I got the only size extra small. She was in Des Moines in 2017 and was releasing a new collection with K. Renee, and that was my opportunity to meet her. I tried on the jumpsuit, and she said, “Oh, my god, that looks so good on you; you are so cute.” I was sold.

Do you ever get buyer’s remorse?

I never get buyer’s remorse. I only buy the items that suit me.

What color do you wear the most of? Why?

I tend to wear more white since it’s clean, brighter and simpler than other colors.

How do you organize your closet?

I organize my closet by color and season. I actually use two closets — one for the current season and another for summer clothing.

DSM Fashion Week runway models at the Fall 2017 grand finale runway show at Splash Seafood Bar &Grill. Elizabeth Rosetta (facing the camera) wears designer Dan Richters.
Image by Marc Longbrake

Are there still rules? (Wearing white after Labor Day, etc.)

Absolutely, there are still many fashion rules, though I choose not to follow them.

What are the ultimate fashion no-nos?

Overalls. I know we’re in Iowa, but they don’t flatter us.

How much stock do you put into trends when making purchases?

If I like it, I buy it. Developing a classic set of styles to express myself is key to my brand, no matter if it’s trendy or breaking fashion rules.

How do you feel about fast fashion?

I love it because it’s affordable, it’s fashionable, and you can select more.

What is one trend you wish would go away?

I don’t like Crocs. I don’t want to even talk about Crocs.

What is one trend you love?

The 1960s vibe is finally speaking to me. It’s perfectly modest, yet sexy at the same time. Who doesn’t love short hair on a beautiful woman?

What about fashion cycles? Everything seems to always come back around. Should we never toss out any of our clothes?

Be confident in your purchases. A good shirt is a good shirt.

What is your fashion forecast for 2018?

It’s hard to predict. I see it being very space-inspired. It’s going to be edgier than it’s ever been.

West Des Moines model
Avery Merkley, 16, poses
for the camera.
Image by Camille Renee

What was your worst experience modeling?

Any job that you don’t feel appreciated in leaves one with a bad taste. When I was modeling in California in 2014 working on a shoot, the photographer was so rude that I had to immediately get on a flight to go home because the
situation was so toxic.

What was your best experience modeling?

The best job was when I was modeling in Kansas City, Missouri, in October 2013. The photographer gave me the freedom to be creative during the shoot, and I staged the shot. It was a ’60s style shoot, and it worked out perfectly. Then it made the cover of Interior Design magazine. They then printed and framed the cover on their office wall. It brought me happiness and confidence that other people appreciated my talent.

If someone wants to model in Des Moines, how do they go about it?

First, you have to attend a model call. You will learn a lot about yourself by walking in front of others for that audition. If you make it, you make a new group of friends, memories to last you for a lifetime. Through that you’ll make connections and build your work. One minute you’re in Des Moines, the next your walking for the world’s
top designer. The world is small; it’s all about who you know. I actually offer a workshop to help people get started with that (see sidebar).

What makes someone a good model?

I feel that it comes down to character, a go-getter attitude, being able to take direction, and having the confidence to put it all together effectively. You can tell a model’s confidence in the first three minutes of meeting them.

Is there enough work here? What typesof jobs are available? Is the pay there?

Yes there is! Look at how many businesses are growing in Des Moines. You don’t have to be with an agency to get a job. Create yourself; share it with people. Go knock on doors. Don’t be surprised if you get a big YES! See how you can help businesses. There are so many other types of jobs besides fashion modeling. You can model in architecture, you can model products, and you can be in commercials. I do think it is all about strategy and how you package yourself.

Do you need a certainbody type to model?

Different body types make for a more diverse mix of models and ways to express yourself through various styles.
Christian Siriano proved this in his 10thanniversary show in New York Fashion Week. We need more diversity in the
fashion industry. I’m all for it.

Can you age out of modeling?

A lot of people age out of runway modeling, but one of the highest paid models is also one of the most mature — Gisele Bündchen. It’s all about how you market yourself, keeping up with your career and making it a priority.

How would you describe the fashion scene in Des Moines? How has it evolved in the last few years?

The fashion scene in Des Moines has been on the rise for quite some time. With all of the local fashion events going on year-round, many people can appreciate it more.

How would you describe fashion in Des Moines?

I think they’re very well dressed. Men have great shoes, and women have great hair. I look at the shoes and go from the bottom up. Maybe it’s because I’m shorter, but it’s the first thing I see. It’s the easiest thing to notice, and you can tell a lot by their shoes. You can tell if they live in the city or on a farm, you can tell a lot about a man and his shoes. It’s shoes and hair; I think it’s funny.

What would you say to someone who thinks fashion is irrelevant in Iowa?

They’re close-minded. If you’re saying that creative fashion expression in the Midwest is impossible, the local fashion community disagrees. It is the art of what you’re wearing. It’s all in the way you live your expression, and that expression lives in Des Moines. ♦


For the first time ever, Camille Renee is offering a workshop for those interested in modeling in Des Moines. The two-part workshop will cover two topics: photography and runway. Each topic will be its own session.

The photography session covers body angles, how to pose and how to take direction from a photographer. It will also discuss pacing when posing for a shot. Participants will have their photos taken and receive a physical print of their photo along with a digital print.

The runway session will cover form, pacing, arm placement, how to walk to certain music and how to correctly pose at the end of the runway. The cost for the workshop is $150 per person, with dates, location and more details to come at ♦


Tickets available at
April 19 | Night of Street Style
VIP cocktail hour 6:30 p.m. | Show starts promptly at 8 p.m.
Attire: Cocktail Chic
Featuring a variety of designers and styles, including street style, boutiques within Des Moines and Iowa, along with daywear and into eveningwear. In the style of fashion shows, the show location is private and will be announced closer to the date.
April 20 | Friday Night Show featuring Stevie Boi
VIP cocktail hour 6:30 p.m. | Show starts promptly at 8 p.m.
Attire: Cocktail Chic
The Friday Night Show of DSM Fashion Week will be a luxurious evening that will showcase top selected designers’ collections. Get ready for a night of excitement and accessories in a top-secret location. In the style of fashion shows, the show location is private and will be announced closer to the date.
April 21 | Official Fashion Week After Party
After party begins at 9 p.m.
Attire: Cocktail Chic
Located downtown at Seafood Splash Bar & Grill, this will be a night to remember. Come mingle, dance and dine with designers, models and Des Moines’ fashion elite. Guests are invited to join a fabulous after party in celebration of the third annual DSM Fashion Week. ♦



  1. Linda Rule says:

    Just wondering if you can give me some directive as to how an 11 year old girl interested in a modeling career might get started in Des Moines. She is tall and looks 13; a very beautiful girl! Glancing at the article in CityView, I’m guessing the workshop is intended for older girls.

  2. There is a great new modeling agency called Midwest Model Agency. They pay for new model portfolios if the model is accepted.

  3. Linda says:

    Do you have a need for any senior citizens?

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