First Place in Fashion Design
Stephens College senior Holly Hmielewski unveiled her collection of dresses and swimwear at The Night of the Stars Fashion and Lifestyle Awards sponsored by the Dallas Fashion Group International in November 2013.
Hmielewski had been working on the collection since May, when she won the Musselman Fashion Design Award at the Fashion Group International of Dallas Career Day Awards.
The latter, named after the late Shelly Musselman, co-owner of the Forty-Five Ten emporium in Dallas, came with a $10,000 prize and the chance to design the collection under the mentorship of Forty-Five Ten Owner Brian Bolke.
The six-piece collection doubled as a tribute to Texas, said Kirsteen Buchanan, an associate professor of fashion and design, who accompanied Hmielewski to Dallas.
The pieces featured patterns inspired by the monarch butterfly, the official state butterfly; blue bonnets, the Texas state flower; and Texas blue topaz.
Audience members “thought it was stunning,” Buchanan said. “The garments were outstanding. It was really an amazing, cohesive collection, very professionally done and very striking.”
Hmielewski and several other fashion design students from Stephens competed in the FGI Dallas Career Day on April 12, 2013. Among her winning designs was a dress inspired by a children’s carousel. Hmielewski created an engineered print using Illustrator, then had the fabric digitally printed. It sounds easier than it was: The computer files were so large, it took hours to execute, meaning late nights in the design lab. She then had to cut and sew together the fabric just right to make sure all of the carousel horses lined up correctly in the circle-style skirt. As an added detail, she added LED lights on the bodice of the dress, and a tulle petticoat. The dress took first in the cotton category.
For her swimwear design, Hmielewski used galaxy-themed sunglasses as the inspiration for her out-of-this-world swimsuit. Offsetting the unusual print was hand-woven latticework shoulders and hip panels.
The two first-place nods earned her a spot as one of three finalists for the Musselman award, which also required a one-on-one interview with Bolke. There, she was able to show him all of her unusual creations during her years in Stephens’ School of Fashion and Design, ensuring her the win.
Perhaps most impressive is that Hmielewski came to Stephens from Florida for the dance program. When she got to campus, she decided to switch gears and turn her love of wearing edgy and unique fashions into a career. She learned the basics, including sewing and design, in her Stephens classes. “I wouldn’t be here without Stephens,” she said.
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The Columbia Female Academy opened in 1833 under the helm of Lucy H. Wales. The institution was renamed in honor of James L. Stephens in 1870, who endowed the College with $20,000. The first half of the 20th century saw the birth of the Ten Ideals — values to which Stephens women pledge to adhere — the Stephens College Children’s School, the country’s oldest continuously active horse-riding club, and the country’s first aviation program for women. Stephens launched an innovative distance-education program for Health Information Management in 1970, later building on the program’s success to launch 100% online graduate and undergraduate degrees for working professionals.