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Teen’s designs on a career in fashion

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Ready for the runway: Michaela Lewis, 19, will show her eponymous collection, M Lewis, at the Bermuda Fashion Festival in July (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Michaela Lewis has dreamt of being a designer since she was playing dressing up at six years old.

“I was so young, but so ready. I always knew,” she said.

“My mind has never changed.”

By middle school, she was making and customising her own clothes. Her eponymous collection, M Lewis, will show at the Bermuda Fashion Festival in July.

“I pretty much had my own style from young. I used to cut up my jeans and paint on them and add fabric to the back pockets. That’s where it all started.”

The 19-year-old said she grew up around sewing machines.

“Sewing runs in my family. My mum sews, both of my grannies sew.”

Her great-aunt Sally taught her to draft patterns last year, a tough skill that requires time.

The aspiring designer said not being selected for last year’s fashion festival did not hold her back.

Because she was shortlisted, she was invited to sell her six-piece, all-white collection at their trunk show and used those designs to secure her place for this year.

She said a highlight was spending a day with her mentor, Kathyrn Typaldos at New York City institution, Mood Fabrics.

The 40,000 square feet three-floor emporium is meticulously organised by colour and material — a dream for the young designer — and shopping with industry heavyweight Ms Typaldos, who is Alicia Key’s stylist and represented by Jay Z’s entertainment company, Roc Nation, was invaluable.

“I was excited to go there because if you watch Project Runway, that’s where they shop,” Ms Lewis said.

“I spent 2½ hours in Mood. It went by so quickly, I couldn’t even get my zippers.”

This time she’s branching away from the singular colour palette for her resort collection,

“With this collection I’m piecing old patterns together to create something very streamlined.

“It’s more 1960s Americana,’ she said. “It’s red, blue — as denim — black and white. I added details like the Sixties round collar. It’s a classic womenswear collection.”

She checks in with the stylist four times a week. The two communicate through e-mail and Skype and have become close. “She knows the industry, so having her point of view is great,” Ms Lewis said.

“Our style is very similar. Very classic womenswear, a red lip and a classic, white button-down shirt.”

“As far as colour, she really likes red, so that’s where my all-red set comes from and she really wants to customise everything as far as accessories, headwear and shoes.”

Ms Lewis said her classic choices came with age.

“When I was in high school I would wear juvenile clothes because they were in style and as I got older I looked into a more business look — a red lip and a classic, white button-down and maybe a pair of jeans.

“Very simple, but still elegant and classy. I would say my style developed in time with my age.”

Working in an office environment has also played a part in her evolution.

“I love fashion, so new looks are everything to me,” she said.

“And I love heels. I wear them every day — it’s just something I have to do.

“If my feet hurt, I’m sorry, fashion kills, but I have to wear it” she added, laughing.

Her style icons are Bianca Jagger and Sade. “I kind of mix the two together. Sade is more urban, but still feminine, the white shirt, the red lip, the sleek bun. She’s urban and simple, but still bold with how she accessorises. And with Bianca Jagger, she’s so feminine as far as the suits and dress pants, scarves and heels. It looks like what a man would choose, but she feminises it.”

She said she’s faced challenges in settling on the 12 looks for her collection and is now finalising her last two.

“Everything for me has to be perfect. I have so many ideas and I can’t use all of them. That’s why I change my mind a lot.”

Last year’s showpiece, a transparent, vinyl cape had clear, hand- shaped pockets — a playful detail that won’t make it into her more grown-up collection.

“I’m such an old soul. Anyone who knows me says so.,” she said.

“The theme of that collection was Eighties Jamaica and Dancehall, so I chose white to stand out against the [red, gold and green] background.”

“I like to pick an era. This one is late-Sixties, early Seventies — wide legs and turbans.”

She’s had no formal training. Each skill has been inherited through her family.

And, while she is more confident in her pattern-cutting abilities, she’s leaving the sewing to the professionals.

“I’m still learning. I don’t want to send just anything down the runway.”

“I have a lady that is mind-blowing, she sews wedding dresses. Her name is Bethea Pearman.

“And Shawnette Place. They’re both family friends.

The former Berkeleyite is leaving in August for South and City College in Birmingham to study fashion design.

She studied art for a year at Bermuda College. “I like to paint. I feel it mostly expresses how I feel, what’s on my mind.”

All white: Michaela Lewis’s showpiece last year was this vinyl cape with hand-shaped pockets
Blossoming talent: Michaela Lewis’s collection last year stood out against the Jamaican-inspired backdrops
Fashion forward: Michaela Lewis is finalising her looks for July’s fashion festival
<p>Michaela’s favourite things</p>

Last bottle of wine: 689. I love wine.

Favourite book: I love reading. I read them over and over. A Do Right Man by Omar Tyree

Favourite movie: Heathers

Favourite concert: Johnny Osborne at BAA. I love to listen to reggae. I used to want to DJ.

Favourite sport: Cricket

Place you want to visit: Marrakesh

Best denim: Calvin Klein

Playing on repeat: Sade’s Sweetest Taboo