Chicago fashion designer turned down “Project Runway” opportunity

Cutting up Barbie doll clothes and redesigning her wardrobe was the beginning of a successful fashion designing career for one Chicago native.

Cutting up Barbie doll clothes and redesigning her wardrobe was the beginning of a successful fashion designing career for one Chicago native.

“I would do some of the weirdest things [like] deconstruct my clothes and put them back together. The same thing with my Barbie dolls,” Veronica Ariel Kelly, the creator and designer of Socialite, told the Defender.

As a young girl, she always knew she was a little different. Her mother and sister would tease by calling her eccentric, but she didn’t let their playful jokes hold her down. “I used to wrap t-shirts on my head and tie them up and play like it was my hair. I was a mess as a child,” Kelly said laughing.

Reminiscing, she recalled a moment when she begged her grandfather to purchase her a pair of white cowboy boots with shingles and silver buckles. She was six years old.

Kelly’s fashion sense toned down as she got older. “I think I kind of found myself in high school. I would wear some statement pieces, but overall I’d be toned down. I was a big sneaker-head. Every time a (pair of) Jordans came out I tried to stay up on it,” she said.

In order to still stand out, she would dye her hair. “The only thing I did a lot in high school was dye my hair, all the time. I was every color you could think of.”

Despite her natural calling for fashion, she never thought it would turn into a career path. “I went from psychology, to songwriting and production to fashion design,” Kelly said. “I finally got back to my calling, it took awhile, but I’m here now and I don’t regret anything or the process I took to get here.”

Enrolling at Columbia College for fashion design and songwriting/production ended up becoming a mistake. “I found out I wouldn’t be hands on in my fashion department until like my junior year. I’m an instant gratification type of person. I need something like right then and there,” said Kelly.

Since Columbia wasn’t offering her what she was looking for, she chose the Illinois Institute for Art in Chicago where in 2008 she obtained her BFA in Fashion Design.

This decision was the beginning of her new career. IIA Chicago helped shape and mold her already natural talent. As she progressed in the rigorous program, she was able to participate in fashion shows her school put on every year. It was in her senior year that Socialite was born.

“It was my senior project. We had to create a line and do five pieces as if we were presenting it to a buyer,” she said.

Her admiration actress Grace Kelly inspired her to create the line. “I [first] called it Amazing Grace but she was kind of like a socialite so I changed it to Socialite and it just kind of stuck,” Kelly said.

Since graduation, the label has attracted many in the fashion industry. At one point, she even had Project Runway producers encouraging her to be on the television series.

Most of her designs are inspired from past decades, but that doesn’t stop her from staying up to date on the latest fashion trends. “For this season I notice everything is big and slouchy. Kind of flowy.” She adds that blues like seafoam turquoise, pinks, grays and oranges are big this season.

Socialite offers more than just designs though. Kelly had always designed clothes for her friends and helped them shop so one day she decided that she could charge for what she already loved to do.

She would style for photo-shoots and people loved what she put together. Since her label is geared towards women, Kelly wanted to make sure men weren’t left out. “Most guys don’t like to shop at all. They rather have someone go shop for them. Why not a designer who has some sense of style put them in clothes so that they feel a little pampered?” she said.

Her services include Photo shoot and Wardrobe styling and Personal Shopping and Style Renovation. She even goes into homes and “revamps” clients’ closets. Kelly doesn’t consider herself as brutal as Stacy Adams on TLC’s “What Not to Wear.” “I’m not anywhere close to that and I think that’s all for show anyway. If they want to keep it, I’ll offer to remix it a little bit,” said Kelly.

Kelly has participated in over 50 fashion shows nationwide. A lot of hard work has been put into this business. “When I first started out I just wanted to get my name out there so I was doing any show that anyone was asking me to do. I was doing like 2-3 shows a day.”

“When you have your own business, you have to always be clocked in, there’s no time you can be clocked off unless you’re sleep,” Kelly said.

Her hard work paid off. She’ll host her first fashion show next month; the first time she won’t share the stage with other designers.

“Nothing happens overnight. You really have to be patient and really determined to get to that next step. Work hard, pray harder,” she said.

Copyright 2012 Chicago Defender

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