Couture Swagg was discovered in the summer of 2009, as the founder Cassondra Lenoir was modeling in a well-known St. Louis fashion show. While at practice one day, a designer repeatedly told Lenoir to “start over from the beginning” because her walk was too “couture” and that she needed to add more “swag.” Being that her clothing line was more urban than high fashion, she wanted a model walk that catered to her brand. After about her fifth go-around and diligent efforts but no major change in her walk, the designer again told Lenoir to start from the beginning because her walk was still too couture and needed more swag.
Realizing that she couldn’t change her model walk into the likes of the designer, Lenoir felt like she was at a lost. She tried her hardest to conform her walk into what the designer was looking for and to add more swag but from the designer’s stance it was to no avail. It was at that exact moment, Lenoir knew that she would either have to try once again to change it or to just take pride in it. Her walk was different. She knew that. Actually, this was what usually made her stand out from other models. Lenoir’s mother instilled in her from a very young age that “your differences are what makes you special and that it’s perfectly fine to be uniquely you. Embrace them. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made. (Bible Reference: Ps 139:14).” After her final walk-through and the designer telling her once again, “Honey, your walk still needs more swag. Sway your hips and swing your arms more! This is not high fashion but urban wear. Your walk is still just too couture for my line.” Lenoir smiled confidently at the designer and politely responded, “Well, I guess I just have a Couture Swagg.” And so it was formed.
In 2011, Lenoir molded the idea of Couture Swagg into an organization on her campus. It was centered on individuality, promoting high self-esteem, uniqueness and the celebration of fashion. Because the name Couture Swagg was conceived in the midst of a fashion show, where she was repetitively told that her walk wasn’t quite what they were looking for, Lenoir knew that it was only right to have her first event be a fashion show as well. Only this time, it would be done differently. Although she was still selected to model for that designer, her experience during those auditions forever made an impact in her life. Lenoir believes it was her confidence that made that designer still give her a chance even though she didn’t perfectly fit her vision. In 2009, Lenoir was unable to conform into the desired mold of that particular designer and with her “please accept me as I am” attitude, she knew that the focus of her fashion show would be uniqueness, embracing yourself, confidence and loving you.
The Missouri launching of Couture Swagg took place in Cape Girardeau at Southeast Missouri State University, on October 19, 2011 and was titled, “Couture Swagg Presents: The Dare to be Different Fashion Show.”
In this show, she highlighted individuality by featuring different shapes, sizes, heights and ethnicities. For the show, there was an international wear line and she was also loaned fashions from St. Louis and Chicago designers, plus-sized boutiques and the JC Penny’s department store. Behind the scenes during model practices, Lenoir continuously stressed that “despite what society depicts as beautiful, beauty is what you see every day when you look into the mirror. The clothes you wear are simply accessories; they don’t define you.” In her first fashion show, no matter the level of confidence, walking style or look, EVERYONE who attended the casting calls made the show. With her refusal to exclude anyone from the opportunity to model in her show, she kicked off her first fashion show with 61 models.
Through Couture Swagg, Lenoir also coordinated charity events, fundraisers, instituted the first ever male pageant on her campus and partnered with the local high school to begin a mentoring program with underprivileged teens and members of her organization.
Before graduating on December 15, 2012, Lenoir not only successfully coordinated all events from conception to implementation, she was also the host of each event and had audiences of 500+. With the launching of Couture Swagg in New York City on February 19, 2014, she has began her NYC takeover by hosting bi-monthly Entertainment and Media Industry Networking Events, launching a website and talk show. After a 1 year Couture Swagg hiatus, Lenoir is once again ready to encourage, empower, inspire and dare to be different. Stay tuned.