by Mellissa Thomas
Students in fashion design degree programs share two common goals: featuring their clothing in fashion shows, and retail distribution—seeing their clothes on store shelves. Thanks to its partnership with the Mall at Millenia and the Southern Women’s Show, Sanford-Brown College Orlando affords its best fashion design students that first goal. According to Sharon Smith, Sanford-Brown’s National Program Chair for Fashion Design and Retail Merchandise Management, the fashion school will be showcasing twice during this year’s Southern Women’s Show, happening at the Orange County Convention Center September 24-27, 2015. The selected designers for Friday’s showcase, fresh off their glory from last Friday’s Emerging Designs showcase during Mall at Millenia Fashion Week, shared the inspirations behind their designs as well as their post-graduation goals.
Smith explained Sanford-Brown’s two shows: The first is an encore Emerging Designers showcase on Friday, which will highlight Sanford-Brown’s “cream of the crop top fifteen” designers and their Spring 2016 collections. The second show, happening Saturday, is a maternity and children’s wear showcase, the overture for the Southern Women’s Show special guest, Jessa Duggar, who will be presenting her book.
The competition was fierce, but Sanford-Brown’s requirements were equally stringent. “The first round, we cut it down to twelve,” Smith said of the selection process. “…And then we added a few other young designers that we noticed were trying really hard in their classes and really wanted to participate, so they’ve produced smaller collections.”
She explained that the school looks for people who can meet deadlines, who are aware of trends, and who have something innovative to show within their collection.
The Top Emerging Designers for 2015
Sanford Brown’s top designers are as diverse as their fashions are creative.
Ari Naranchimeg (left), who hails from Mongolia, drew inspiration from “technical inner city building[s] from Sweden.” She prefers the simplicity of solids, and chose to use a three-tone palette of red, black, and white for her collection. Her clothing is aimed at the “sophisticated, busy…girl who can wear it day and night from work to partying.”
Naranchimeg, who previously studied medicine in China to become a surgeon, will start a costume design internship at Disney after graduating Sanford Brown in December. “Same thing, I’m still sewing now,” she said, laughing. “Still stitching things together.”
Rochelle Thomas’s eveningwear collection also incorporates solids, with a palette of teal and grey. She described her clothing as very feminine, while still carrying neutral colors that will work for all types of women, with “nice, off the shoulder silhouettes…and a pop of color.”
The Brooklyn native, who is also of Jamaican descent, says Elie Saab inspired her collection. “He just really elevates his looks by using different fabrics, and a lot of hand appliqués that really speak to the consumer or whoever plans to wear his garments or gowns.”
Like Naranchimeg, Thomas was also studying to enter the medical field. She went to Maryland to further her studies, but was drawn to fashion and returned to Florida. She will graduate in two weeks and wants travel by next year; she will also transition into trend research and designing concepts.
Despite her fashion ambitions, however, Thomas plans to keep the medical field within arm’s reach. “It’s always a field that’s going to be there, so you can always go back to it, and I’m just as passionate about it as I am about fashion.”
Jelany (pronounced yeh-LAH-nee) Rivera will present a collection of gowns as well, with vibrant, feminine colors. Her inspiration was art—its vastness in color, its fluidity to the times, and especially how its elegance translates through the dresses.
She was studying business at Valencia when a friend told her about Sanford Brown, and led her to take a tour of the school. She returned to her business studies, but found herself still drawing dresses—something she’d been doing since childhood back home in Puerto Rico. “I [told myself], ‘I want to go back’,” she said, reflecting on her Sanford Brown tour; and then enrolled.
The Stage 3 Lymphoma survivor, who was “sent home to die” at six-and-a-half years old in Puerto Rico, said fashion doubles as her impetus and her message. She wants to show others that cancer is not the end of life—that there is more than that. “If someone is passing through the same thing that I am, I know there’s going to be a smile on their faces, because I know that I did…I know that God did the miracle in my life.”
Joanna Baker’s dress will be featured as part of the “Spring Cocktail” collection. Her pale French blue taffeta 1950’s-Grace Kelly-inspired dress is fit for a princess. It includes a net overlay, an illusion neckline, and fluttered sleeves, making it “romantic and whimsical.”
Like Rivera, Baker has been involved in fashion since childhood, and it called her back. She has been sewing since age six. She was studying English literature and felt it was not creative enough for her, so she returned to fashion by attending Sanford Brown. “I love how creative it is, and I’ve been able to express myself.”
Baker wants to start a 1940’s/1950’s vintage-inspired clothing company, and also wants to get into designing bridal wear.
Alabama native Noni Tate’s collection, called “Garden of Freedom” was chosen for its myriad of brilliant colors and light, diaphanous fabrics. She graduated from the International Academy of Design and Technology (Sanford-Brown College Orlando’s former name) in 2012, and periodically receives email notifications from the school about events that may interest her. She learned of this year’s Southern Women’s Show and completed the participation process.
Tate (left) first got involved in fashion back in Alabama modeling in a fashion show geared at mentoring kids. She asked her mentor if she could start designing clothes and subsequently designed clothing for the shows. “I moved to Florida to enhance my design skills to get a degree,” she said.
She designs clothes for private clients, but wants to have her collection in stores.
Effervescent design duo Lisa Cupp and Catherine Miranda will showcase a fetching resort wear collection. “Our collection was inspired by seafaring, and honestly, pirates,” Cupp noted. “It has sunset colors; it’s very comfortable and vacation ready.” She added that, in a previous show, the models all loved how comfortable the pieces are, which include “loose and flowing” dresses, jumpsuits, and skirts.
Miranda (left) came to Florida from New York and worked for Disney for thirteen years. She decided that she wanted to return to school at thirty and chose to attend Sanford-Brown to fulfill her love for fashion illustration.
Cupp came to Florida as a teen from Omaha, Nebraska, and worked in the restaurant industry for many years. She had dropped out of school while pursuing her previous degree; she is now excited about graduating Sanford-Brown soon. “I knew if I was going back to school, it was going to be for something I loved, and I’ve really loved it.”
She has so excelled that she will be showing two collections in this year’s Southern Women’s Show—her collaborative collection with Miranda, and another, distinct collection all her own.
Perpetual Fashion Fuel
These top designers and their peers continue to fuel the Sanford-Brown faculty and make them proud. “That’s why I’m kind of ruthless at promoting the talent we have here,” Smith explained of the school’s five-years-running partnership with the Southern Women’s Show. “We’ve got some amazing students…[They’re] an endless source of ideas and energy, and that keeps us all going.”
The top designers have proven the power of passion, even and especially under pressure.
“The challenges are there,” Cupp said in retrospect. “But every time you master one, it’s awesome.”
About the Author:
Orlando Fashion Magazine Chief Editor Mellissa Thomas is a Jamaica-born writer. She’s a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with Entertainment Business Masters and Film Bachelors degrees from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.
She is also an author success mentor, helping advisors, coaches, consultants, entrepreneurs, and experts double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book via her Inevitable AUTHORity™ Author Mentoring Program.
She has published six books, all available on Amazon.com. Her newly released book, From a Babe 2.0, is now available for free download on the Kindle until September 27, 2015.
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