During the recent Fashion Week in New York City, top designers unveiled their fall and winter collections to buyers, the public and young students who hope to one day see their own designs on the catwalk.
Arianna Janelle Moultrie has always had a passion for fashion. "When I was in third grade, I used to design dresses all the time," she says. "I'd help my Mom pick out her outfits in the morning and everything."
Brittney Paulson also recalls her childhood interest in fashion. "I started getting into fashion when I was really little," she says. "My mom always told me that I always wanted to dress myself and I would never let her do it, and that I have always had a passion for fashion."
The two young women are grand prize winners of the Passion for Fashion Competition 2010. The contest is sponsored by The Art Institutes, a consortium of private schools that prepares students for careers in a variety of applied arts, including design, media, fashion and culinary studies.
Arianna, who submitted her entry in the design category, caught the judges' attention with an autumn-themed evening gown.
"It was inspired by autumn leaves that are in my neighborhood," she says. "They are orange and yellow. So I made that dress orange and yellow."
In the marketing category, Brittany submitted a prize-winning fashion retail concept.
"My actual entry was a business plan for a store called 'Iconic,'" she says. "This store is based on celebrity trends, which is basically taking celebrity items and clothes and their styles and bringing them in to this store at much more affordable prices, so everyone can afford them."
Both winners earned a full scholarship to attend The Art Institutes, a $500 shopping spree and a trip to New York City for Fashion Week.
Fashioning their future
Arianna says the experience reinforced her dream of becoming as successful and recognized as her favorite designer, Valentino, known for his opulent gowns.
"I plan to start my own fashion label and then get into women's shoe design," she says. "I'd like to bring a more unique couture. I'd like to start working on that part of the fashion industry. I'd like to see it develop into more creative forms of fashion."
Brittany says she has her eye on a more affordable label line for her fashion career.
"I plan to be a stylist for either a magazine or a celebrity stylist and eventually have my own styling agency," she says. "I would like to see everyone getting involved with fashion. I know that not everybody can afford to be completely fashionable and everything, but I think my contribution is trying to make it more affordable for everyone. So they have a chance to be fashionable at an affordable price."
Tomorrow's style makers
The Art Institutes' spokeswoman Devra Pransky says Passion for Fashion encourages high school seniors to pursue careers in the highly competitive fashion industry. The contest is now in its fifth year and, she says, the entries' level of sophistication has been steadily increasing.
"It's truly inspiring, seeing the work of these high school seniors because they are just coming up with some fantastic concepts in fashion marketing and merchandizing and retail management category, some truly original thoughts," she says. "In terms of the fashion design category, we're seeing some really unique concepts, really unique designs. They are putting so much of themselves into each piece, which really gives a lot of meaning to every entry that we see."
Pransky says the ultimate winner is the fashion industry.
"I think these young talented high school seniors will bring to the fashion industry a very fresh and young perspective that they are pulling from the pop culture, that they are pulling from environmental issues, that they are pulling from their everyday life," she says. "I think that that can be a great asset to the fashion industry."
The future of fashion, she says, is being designed today.