Reel Black List: Anre’ Brownlee, fashion designer

Anré Brownlee

Anré Brownlee

fashion designer
enjoys notable
success across
the continent,
but prefers to work
in Chicago

Anre’ Brownlee is a self-taught fashion and costume designer with a background in makeup artistry and photography.

For over 25 years, the Chicago native has been engulfed in the world of fashion and design. Brownlee also knows how to sew, a skill that is not necessarily shared by every professional in the trade.

Her first collection, Skin On Skin, debuted at Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week in Spring/Summer 1997. Later, Anre’ became one of the featured designers for Magic Johnson’s NBA All-Star Weekend Fashion Show for several seasons.

Anre’ was commissioned by Lamarre to work on the Lifetime special, Vivica’s Black Magic and provided some costuming for Chocolate City 2: Vegas Battle. Last year, Brownlee was one of the featured designers for the Congressional Black Caucus Fashion Show in Washington D.C.

Although Brownlee’s profession takes her to thrilling events on the coasts — Brownlee’s currently shooting a layout for Kenneth Cole in New York and last month attended the Grammys — Brownlee prefers to work in her hometown Chicago.

Vivica A. Fox talks about the series while Anre’ Brownlee shoots fashion and talent in the studio


Facebook: personal | Facebook: professional | Facebook: Anré Photography
Instragram: Anré | Instagram: Royalty Robes

What was your first break? I worked on a project with Michael Jordan!!!! | It was for a men’s grooming kit for a hair care company, I was the set designer. We had five hours to create six different sets. It was very “touch and go”, but I was up for the challenge. | The same company booked me to work on several other projects, as a result I was able to work with notable make-up artists Reggie Wells who later went on to become Oprah Winfrey’s resident make- up artist and QuietFire Easter who was Whitney Houston’s make-up artist, on those projects.

Designs by Anre' Brownlee
Designs by Anre’ Brownlee

Worst thing that ever happened to you to remind you that you are Black? I went to a private grammar school in a suburb of Chicago, and everyday I was confronted with racial issues. I went to school feeling as if it was my sole responsibility to defend the entire black race. | My parents were paying tuition for six children at that school, and my Mother would instruct us on how to deal with the blatant racism. She said that “racism is being taught to the white children in their homes.” | Racism is stupid, my answer to racist people is that “you have to live in this world with people you hate until you DIE, and after you are gone they will still be here. Don’t use your limited time on earth hating others.”

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are Black? I can’t point to any one thing, I am an accomplished Photographer, Make Up Artist and Fashion Designer and I do my own sewing, I am a self study without any formal training, this is my living testament to the fact that “GOD blesses an honest effort.” | As a Black talent sometimes opportunities are few and far between, often times we have to be twice as good as our white counterpart, sad but in my case has proved to be very true.
I did not let it get me down, I just intensified my developmental efforts to be a better all around artist. | My work hasn’t gone unnoticed, on many occasions I not only get booked for any one of my skills but all of them. So my need to be better and seeing my efforts pay off reminds me that I am black and and I have learned how to make it work for me.


Work you are most proud of? I worked on a TV show with Vivica A. Fox called Vivica’s Black Magic, I was the Costume Designer for the show and cast member and I also did the photography for the promotional campaign. I am most proud of my billboard for the show on full display on the “Sunset Strip” in West Hollywood. On one of my most recent projects, a movie called KINKY, seeing my name on the big screen in the opening credits, “Costume Designer, Anre’ Brownlee,” was surreal.

How has the business changed since you broke in? When I became a photographer your film had to be publishable, there was no such thing as photo enhancement software. You had to learn the mechanics of how to make a good exposure, whereas now digital cameras with auto focus lenses are the standard. | I think the basis of photography should be learned before entering the realm of digital photography, this will prevent just taking whatever photo that an automatic camera will give and then you have to use computer software to try and enhance the image, to me, that’s like trying to dress up a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. | When I became a fashion designer, it was imperative that you know how to sew and understand how to construct a garment. Presently, many people order t-shirt, jogging suits etc. that are manufactured by workers in China who consider themselves to be fashion designers.

Trapped on an island, what essentials must you have? Cameras equipment,sewing equipment,light sources,solar panels.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? Don’t stress over missed opportunities.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? Ann Lowe, who was the first African American to become a noted fashion designer. She designed the ivory silk taffeta wedding dress worn by Jacqueline Bouvier when she married Senator John F. Kennedy. She lived through the Jim Crow era and endured racial oppression and suppression, yet she was able to rise above all of that. | I’d like to know how she learned the art of fashion design and ask her for tips and secrets in garment construction.

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