For Yeongran Hong, the world is her living, breathing Pinterest board, an amalgam of everything she sees, hears, and feels. That creativity is one reason why she was recently selected the first winner of the Stella & Dot x FIT Style Forward Challenge.
Hong, a recent graduate who was studying fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), collaborated with Stella & Dot to create a three-piece, limited-edition capsule collection based on a ruffle theme. The resulting statement pieces were not only versatile and eye-catching but also popular. The necklace and pendant sold out within days after they were posted on Stella & Dot’s site, the company says. Only the Ruffle earrings remain available.
“Whether it is interior design, artwork, fashion magazine, or movies, whatever I’ve seen becomes my database and asset,” Hong says. “Learning fashion design at FIT opens my door to all types of design. It was a training to learn how to use my accumulated database or aesthetic to create something tangible.”
The collaboration is one way FIT and Stella & Dot want to empower the next generation of creators, including students such as Hong, says Jessica Herrin, CEO and founder of the Stella & Dot family of brands.
“Our company is focused on championing women in all ways,” Herrin says. “From giving a new designer a chance to empowering our ambassadors to turn a passion for style into a paycheck, having our mission impact every part of our business motivates our community and customers.”
Participants in the Style Forward Challenge submitted mood boards and videos for consideration. Finalists were selected to present their designs to a panel of judges from Stella & Dot and FIT. The second-prize winner is Brianna Jones, fashion business management, class of 2023. Rachelle Huntley, advertising and marketing communications, also class of 2023, is the third-place winner.
Hong’s idea started with how to take a soft shape like a ruffle and blend it with harder materials, such as gold or enamel, she says.
“I sketched so many ruffle shapes and sizes,” Hong says. “I also played with organza fabric with wire around the edge to come up with better ruffle design. Also, I was certain about using a combination of white enamel with metal. I saw a stairway, which was an ivory wall with a gold metal handle, and it was so elegant.”
Hong was involved in the creation of the collection every step of the way, from ideation to meeting with Stella & Dot’s production team virtually and weighing in on the samples. Hong also will receive royalties for each piece sold.
“The whole process of watching my design coming to life [and] being sold gave me such great joy,” Hong says. “I am more interested in accessories and jewelry design at the moment. I want to start as a designer at a brand that aligns with my aesthetic. If I can’t find one, I will start my own.”
Hong was working for a textile company while living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side during the pandemic, and just like many others, she got furloughed. It was then she realized she should take a chance on herself and decided to return to FIT to earn a one-year associate’s degree in fashion design.
Hands-on experience and mentorship are key to FIT and the kind of education it provides, says FIT president Dr. Joyce Brown.
“Stella & Dot shares FIT’s commitment to empowering young women from diverse backgrounds, and I am deeply grateful for the exceptional opportunity this competition offered to them,” Brown says. “Surely all of the participants benefited greatly from the experience, but for the winners, it was truly transformational.”
Top: For the first time, Fashion Institute of Technology fashion design student Yeongran Hong was able to see her designs come to life, thanks to the Style Forward Challenge presented through a partnership between FIT and accessories brand Stella & Dot (all photos courtesy of Stella & Dot).@jckmagazine
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