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American dream: Desiree has designs on Atlanta

Desiree Riley (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A Bermudian fashion designer is making her final preparations before her work is featured at an Atlanta show.

Desiree Riley said she was stunned to discover she had been selected as a featured designer for the Pitch Black Fashion Weekend being held in mid-July.

“I was asking my parents if this was real, if this was really happening,” she said.

“It is definitely a great experience. It’s a great feeling because Bermuda is very small, so it’s hard for the fashion industry coming from Bermuda and trying to get to the industry outside.

“It’s a good feeling to know that people are seeing my work and appreciating what I have done and excited to put me in their show.”

Ms Riley said she first heard about the fashion show through Instagram, and felt inspired by not just the fashion on display, but also the show’s dedication to raising funds to combat domestic violence.

Eager to be involved, she submitted some of her designs along with a write-up about herself and her life.

“I really didn’t expect to hear back from them because I’m just a little designer from Bermuda,” she said.

“Then they messaged me through e-mail, and it said I was selected for the show and that they were really impressed by what I put forward for the show and the letter I sent. That was a shocker.”

While Ms Riley is no stranger to the catwalk, having had her work displayed at several local fashion shows and at one other show in the United States, she said this would likely be her biggest showing to date.

“It’s very nerve-racking. I was looking at the pictures they had from their previous shows and seeing what the designers were showcasing, and they had some really good stuff, so I am very nervous, but I’m going to have to do what I do and be confident in my designs,” she said.

“For this show, my line is based on a garden, so I am going for a natural look with flowers and colours. It starts off from the ground with the first group featuring brown, earthy colours and it then goes to the green stems and into the solid, bright colours like blue, pink and yellow. Then it goes into the flowery prints.

“I am still doing the finishing touches on some of them — a few have been bringing me a little trouble because of the challenging designs I have come up with. I do have someone helping me with it, which is a blessing, but for the most part I am just doing my final touches.

“I’m doing some fittings here in Bermuda with myself and some models just to see how it looks and how people can walk in it to make sure it will be OK for the fashion show.”

While getting a foot in the door in the fashion industry is difficult, she said her family had always supported her in her endeavours and credited her mother with giving her a passion for fashion.

“My mom, she was very fashionable and she always had me and my sisters dressed to the nines everywhere we went,” she said. “It just stuck with me over the years.

“I started fashion designing as a career about 2½ years ago now. I have a little studio at my house that I do design work from.”