Michele Sylvan.

Michele Sylvan. (Illustration by Farrin Abbott/KQED)

Fashion designer Michele Sylvan, 37, was known as “Colette” to her friends. She lived for several years in Oakland’s Vulcan Lofts with her partner, Wolfgang Renner, who also died in the fire at Ghost Ship.

“I was really taken by Colette the first time that I met her,” her friend Stefania Devire says. “She was beautiful inside and out.”

Sylvan designed ornate outfits that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Burning Man. “She had hundreds of beautiful, whimsical, fantastic designs in her room,” Devire says. “Haute couture. Really high-end fashion, made impeccably by hand. Ruffles head to toe. Lots of detail.”

Wolfgang Renner and Michele Sylvan
Wolfgang Renner and Michele Sylvan.

Sylvan also designed the clothes her partner wore. “They were so in love,” Devire says of Sylvan and Renner’s relationship. “The ultimate love affair. It was very romantic the connection they had.”

But as much as Sylvan and Renner were into each other, they were also a lot of fun for others to hang out with. Renner made the cocktails, they ate BBQ, and the conversations at the Vulcan ran long into the night.

“I was taken with her presence,” Devire says. “She was sweet and friendly, but also fiery, which added to her being such an interesting person.”

Sylvan and Renner were regulars on the underground electro and goth music scenes. One of their friends, Robert Janca, paid tribute to the couple on Facebook. “His lovely, wildly creative partner Michelle was a potent visionary and was always up for life’s adventure,” Janca wrote. “The world is a decidedly less colorful one without them.”


For more of our tributes to the victims of the Oakland warehouse fire, please visit our remembrances page here.

Click here for a printable poster of the portrait above.

For a printable poster of the illustration above, see here.

Michele ‘Colette’ Sylvan, Clothing Designer, ‘Beautiful Inside and Out’ 27 December,2016Rachael Myrow


Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow is KQED’s Silicon Valley Arts Reporter, covering arts, culture and technology in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. She regularly files stories for NPR and the KQED podcast Bay Curious, and guest hosts KQED’s Forum.

Her passion for public radio was born as an undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley, writing movie reviews for KALX-FM. After finishing one degree in English, she got another in journalism, landed a job at Marketplace in Los Angeles, and another at KPCC, before returning to the Bay Area to work at KQED.

She spent more than seven years hosting The California Report, and over the years has won a Peabody and three Edward R. Murrow Awards (one for covering the MTA Strike, her first assignment as a full-time reporter in 2000 as well as numerous other honors including from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television News Directors Association and the LA Press Club.
Follow @rachaelmyrow