This RISD Alum & RI Native Is Mentoring So Many Future Fashion Stars

We asked RISD alum, RI native, and internationally known designer Elana of Elana Carello Sweaters to talk about Project FashionWorks, the program she created back in 2007 to guide young talent, and to share a few of her future fashion stars. In Part 2 of our series, you'll get to know another designer on the rise who has studied with Elana.

About Project FashionWorks

I started Project FashionWorks in 2007, the year I moved back to RI from NYC. Having spent the last 20 years working as a fashion designer, I realized that what I enjoyed the most was teaching my young assistants. And I wanted to teach what you really need to know to succeed in the fashion industry.

In my tween classes, students 8-12 have fun with fashion, while developing skills in sketching and design. In my teen classes, students ages 12-18 learn professional standards for fashion design. The workshop covers the essentials of fashion, including design vocabulary, sketching fashion figures, using markers, and understanding how to use colors and fabric to develop an illustrated men’s or women’s fashion collection. I keep the classes small, so that I can work individually with the up and coming designers to clearly develop their skills and showcase their personal style.  Students can and do take the class over and over, and since I know each student well, I make sure they continue to grow and learn.  

Student Spotlight: Julia Fitzgerald

Julia Fitzgerald started taking my classes when she was 10 and is now 17 and applying to fashion design colleges this year. Julia has become a part of my family, having taken my classes for 6 or 7 years. She has great style, and an uncanny ability to pick up on trends. She’s going to be an amazing fashion designer if she isn’t sidelined by modeling (She resembles a young Gisele).

Also, Julia's dress for "The Trashy Fashion Show" we host, which showcases designs made entirely from recycled materials, won first prize. (Photo above.) Believe it or not, it was fashioned from garbage bags, loose beads, and video tape

Q & A With Julia

1. Who or what are the major style/design influences in your life?

My personal style is slightly bohemian and inspired by Stevie Nicks and off duty models, very slouchy chic. When designing, I am inspired by major high end fashion houses such as Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, and Gucci. I love Clare Waight Keller who worked as the creative director for Chloé until recently and is now the artistic director for Givenchy. Loved everything she designed while at Chloé because she was able to make clothing that was equally bohemian as it was chic and taylored. I also love Karl Lagerfeld, who among many other things, is the creative director of Chanel. I admire his creativity, work ethic, as well as his ability to constantly design genius collections for Chanel.

2. If you could design a dress for one high profile person in the world right now, who would it be?

Bella Hadid, I absolutely love her attitude and style. She was named 2016 model of the year and is only getting more popular by the day. 

3. For others aspiring to a career in design, what's been the biggest challenge in pursuing your dream? Also, how do you stay motivated and inspired?

The biggest challenge I have faced has been to get people to take me seriously. When you are a little kid, they will support and encourage you because a lot of people don’t actually think that a little kid will grow up with the same idea of what they want to be. Now that I am older and applying to colleges, I get a much different reaction when I explain what I want to pursue. A lot of people don't take me seriously and dismiss me.

What many people don’t understand is that the fashion industry is a $1.2 trillion global industry, with more than $250 billion spent annually on fashion. People constantly tell me that I won't be able to find work after school, yet the fashion and apparel industries employ 1.9 million people in the United States.

I think it's important to remember that a career in fashion design, like a career in anything else, is about how proactive you are. The upside to people not taking me seriously is that it motivates me to prove them wrong and to work harder.