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Johanna DiNardo ’16

BS fashion design 2016

Dinardo on runway with model in black dress

Breaking into the world of luxury fashion design is not for the faint of heart. It takes talent, total commitment, and a high tolerance for risk.

Good thing Johanna DiNardo, BS '16, has all three.

DiNardo, assistant designer for Randi Rahm, a small eveningwear brand based in New York, has her sights set on Europe's top design houses. Since that's no easy feat for an American without a work visa, she's putting her Drexel training to work and taking an entrepreneurial approach – starting with accepting an invitation last year to showcase her work at Vancouver Fashion Week.

It cost her time and money. But British Vogue was there, loved her collection, and featured it on its website. That brought DiNardo even more attention from fashion bloggers and celebrity stylists. The U.K. based web platform Not Just a Label listed her as a Black Sheep - something reserved for new designers who are particularly pioneering.

In January, model and fashion show producer Jessica Minh Anh invited DiNardo to showcase her collection during Couture Week SS17 in Paris.

"The show was held on a moving catwalk on the Seine River," says DiNardo. "It was an ideal setting for my designs, which were inspired by my time in Paris and the moonlit reflections of water that I found so romantic."

But it required six pieces, and she only had five. Once again she invested the time and money to pull it off – and used the trip to set up meetings with design houses and Eyes on Talents, a website that connects designers with brands looking for new talent.

And DiNardo doesn't plan to slow down anytime soon.

Now she has stylists contacting her to create or lend garments for magazine shoots. Several celebrities, including UK singer Rebecca Ferguson, requested DiNardo's designs after she spotted rapper Cardi B. wearing one of her garments in her cover shoot for Fader Magazine's summer music issue.

"When I sent Beyonce's stylist a link to my website and the Vogue UK collection, she wrote back to me and said she loved my work," DiNardo says.

DiNardo credits Drexel for a strong technical foundation, something that gives her a keen eye for unique detail and cut.

"How can you be a good designer if you don't understand how to construct what you're drawing?" she says. "You can sketch all you want, but if you don't know how the piece will go together on the body, with seams, you won't get the result."