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Opportunities as a Student in Fashion

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Students these days have endless opportunities to pursue their passions; one only needs to seize the opportunities.

Meet Carnegie Mellon University student Hilary Lai, a freshman who jump-started in fashion design by designing for the prestigious annual Lunar Gala at CMU. Her inspiring journey through the design process proves that with a dream in mind and a little determination, anyone can achieve great things, no matter how young.

Lai receiving flowers at the Lunar Gala on February 13, 2016. Photo Credit: Matt Nielson

How did you get started in fashion design? 

I have always had in interest in fashion design, but it was more of a fascination than anything. CMU’s Lunar Gala show was something that I saw fliers for on campus in the fall and had heard a lot about when I first got here; it is the largest student-run event on campus and has a very notable reputation in the area. I would never have expected to have been able to design for it, especially my freshman year because I had no fashion design-related or sewing experience. But by coincidence on the day portfolios were due, my friend pulled me into her team, we were selected to design, and it all started from there.

What motivated you to design for the Lunar Gala?

Knowing of Lunar Gala and its reputation really made me excited to design for the show. It was definitely a long four months of preparation that we spent making everything, but there is really nothing like seeing all of the results of our hard work come alive on the runway. I honestly had no expectations of what the show was going to be like, especially because the first show I was here at CMU for I was a designer, but it is truly something special. The opportunity to get involved in a type of design that I had never gotten my hands dirty in was something I did not take for granted.

What inspires you?

I definitely do not have a set list of fashion inspirations, but in general, I personally draw a lot of creative inspiration from Jennet Liaw, street style photography, Zoe Suen, 90’s minimalism, and the people I follow on Instagram, like Ai Weiwei.

What advice would you like to share with upcoming fashion students?

Take your curiosities seriously. I definitely would not have been able to be a part of all the cool projects and people I have worked with in my creative career so far without listening to my gut and taking the initiative myself to find the things that get me really excited about design. A lot of my friends were really surprised when they found out I was designing a fashion line, or even when I first started my design portfolio my junior year in high school. I hear a lot of people telling me that “they wish they could draw or design.” If I have learned any life lesson through my journey pursuing all the things I love about design, it is that talent only goes so far, and self-motivation will go even further.  Whatever you do, do it with intent and because you truly love what you do.

Photo Credit: Yoonji Kim Photo Credit: Matt Nielson

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