When I arrive for the shoot, Renée is immaculately turned out as ever, with her instantly recognisable red 50s waves and vintage attire. Her glamorous look has been the basis of a successful career in the beauty industry. She spent several years as Spa Director of the Royal Garden Hotel Spa in Kensington, and later at the Refinery in Mayfair, before branching out on her own, travelling the country doing vintage workshops; teaching people to create looks from the 20s to the 60s. A desire to have a base, and not spend all her time on the road persuaded Renée to take on the onerous task of transforming a dilapidated building into an elegant local oasis. This formerly squalid corner now twinkles with the hundreds of Swarowski crystals which Renée stuck to the Vymura diamond pattern wallpaper by hand. And while her vintage loving clientele have come to her, she has also gained a loyal following from locals. Treatments range from manicures and pedicures, to waxing , electrolysis, massage, scrubs and wraps. Spa day packages are offered and hen parties catered for.
Showing me around there is clearly much pride in what she has achieved. Beyond the reception is the treatment room with its french style furniture, and more will follow downstairs in the next phase of development. And that pride in her work and surroundings, clearly extends to the street outside. Even while I'm interviewing her, she dashes out to remonstrate with a careless lorry driver who has just reversed into an iron bollard. And all her words are backed up with actions. Renée and co-campaigners, Gill Wing, Amanda Sciberras and Elinor Michel set up the Anerley Regeneration Project, which successfully bid for a £25k from Bromley council to spruce up the area. Among the many projects of the ARP, has been the painting of a new mural on a blank wall down the road, and the restoration of the children's dinosaur mural adjacent to the station, in the park. Pavement improvements, new bins and benches, removal of estate agent boards, and redecorating of shopfronts, are all in the pipeline. And Renée's local involvement doesn't stop there; she also set up a new local online forum, Crystal Palace Life, which has proved hugely popular. Renée so nearly didn't become a local. Originally from South Wales, she escaped the green valleys for the urban grit of Elephant & Castle, and loved life there. Then a new partner, attempting to woo her to Crystal Palace, showed her the vintage delights of Church Road, and wined & dined her at Joanna's. Initially all to no avail, Renée's immediate response being "If I wanted trees, I'd have gone home to Wales". Fortunately she was won over and hasn't looked back since.
|A collection of vintage cosmetics and fragrance
La Belle Jolie
35 Anerley Road
|Artist: Angela Menezes