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10.9.15

Tech alumna to debut designs at New York Couture Fashion Week

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.
Published in print edition, page 7, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015.

Mixing cultural inspiration with timeless style, DiDomenico Designs draws inspiration from around the world into unique, handcrafted designs. Kelsy Dominick, the founder of the brand, graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013 with a degree in Apparel, Housing and Resource Management.

From her freshman to senior year, she worked at a tailor shop and her designs were featured in school and community fashion shows. They started to sell at 310 Rosemont in downtown Blacksburg and other local boutiques.

Now they will be debuting for the first time in one of the fashion capitals of the world: at New York Couture Fashion Week.

Eight of Dominick’s dresses will grace the runway at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square. A product of six months of preparation, the theme of her collection is a virtuous woman, inspired by her Christian faith. Most of the dresses are silk and decorated with hand-beaded embellishments and stitching work.

“As crazy as the concepts might be, they are still very elegant,” Dominick said. “They transcend through different trends. It’s different, and it’s different in a tasteful way.”

Since 2009, Dominick has been building her brand, which specializes in eveningwear and custom-wear and designed for women 25 to 35 years. The pieces to be featured on the runway are couture and are available in ready-to-wear versions. Her designs are no stranger to runways, but when a friend encouraged her to apply to New York Fashion Week, she went for it.

“When I got the email from them, I was kind of like ‘Wait, now what?’” Dominick said.

Sleep-deprived, nervous, but most of all prepared, Dominick anticipates the networking opportunities to meet and collaborate with other designers. “It’s an overflow of emotions,” Dominick said. “I know once it’s all done and once it’s all out there, I will appreciate the nights I sacrificed, not sleeping, to get to this point.”

During Fashion Week, Dominick hopes to raise awareness of her brand and to inspire others to share her perception of beauty: that fashion is not confined to any look. As part of her efforts to showcase diversity, DiDomenico Designs features models of different ethnicities on the website. She also explores diversity through photography, as a part of her photo series of her in exotic places with a rustic sewing machine.

Do you remember the time? ... #MichaelJackson http://ow.ly/PgrTE Funny story about this picture. I was actually in a cab driving along the highway passing by the dust hazed mountains of Sinai. Because I was on a roll with sewing pictures, I couldn’t let the moment pass. I asked the man to pull over in the middle of nowhere, I jumped the roadside barricade and darted off with my back pack towards the mountains. As I pulled out my props, the man understood what I was trying to do and immediately started styling my outfit! haha Nothing like having an international stylist as a cab driver. Fun Fact: The biblical Mount Sinai is one of the most important sacred places in all three Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. #SewingTheWorld #DiDomenico #DiDomenicoDesign #Egypt #MtSinai #MichaelJackson #TravelingSeamstress #DoYouRememberTheTime #Cleopatra
A photo posted by DiDomenico (@didomenico_design) on

“When I first posted the #SewingTheWorld photos, I was like, ‘People think I’m crazy.” Dominick said. “But the more you inspire other people, the more they inspire you.”

A self-proclaimed travel addict, Dominick’s travels first began after she quit her day job to backpack through Southeast Asia for two months.

“When I came back and still continued to travel, I was like, ‘How can I merge the two together? How can I put fashion with travel?’” Dominick said. “A lot of people who like one like or are inspired by the other or they can appreciate both at the same time.”

The photos are part of her brand, showcasing cultural influences. Dominick’s first trip featuring the sewing machine was to the Middle East, with one of the places she photographed being Petra, the Lost City of Stone in Jordan. Now she researches and plans ahead of time.

“I know every time I go somewhere now, I have to bring my stuff with me,” Dominick said. “This week, when I go to Fashion Week, I have a photographer lined up who’s going to shoot me sewing something on a rooftop with New York in the background.”

Dominick hopes to entertain and to provide a story for her audience to follow.

“If I find an opportunity or someone who will go with me, I usually drop everything and go,” Dominick said. “Life is short. It’s inspiring because the people you meet are sometimes more interesting than the people you meet on the runway or in your line of work because they have such a different perspective.”

The name “DiDomenico” finds roots in culture as her family’s original surname before being Americanized by her grandmother. Half Italian and half African American, her family and culture is reflected in her brand. The logo was also inspired by her grandmother’s signature. Italian in origin, DiDomenico means “day of God,” which serves as a subtle reminder of her faith.

Dominick expresses gratitude towards her parents for supporting her and allowing her to major in a creative field. Her mother, who was also an entrepreneur, inspired her to believe anything is possible and to never stop learning.

“It’s not just about making pretty dresses – it’s about everything business-savvy and everything you have to learn in order to be successful in every aspect,” Dominick said.


After graduating, transitioning out of school and into a nine-to-five job was difficult and left little time and energy for anything else. It was her commitment to her passion that set her apart.

 "It is wonderful seeing our program graduates thriving in the fashion industry and Kelsy is an excellent example of a young entrepreneur who has risen to the challenges of creating her own product line,” said Dr. LuAnn Gaskill, Professor in the Apparel Program at Virginia Tech in a recent press release. “Kelsy identified her career goals early and is making great gains in living her dream through her drive, tenacity, and creativity. She is clearing an inspiration to those who know her."

Simultaneously working and pursuing her passion into building a business forced Dominick to make compromises, but her persistence and consistency kept her going.

“It’s so easy to say, ‘I’m really passionate about something,’ and have life take you over and you don’t practice it anymore or you’re not good at it anymore,” Dominick said. “You have to be consistent and stick with it and do it every single day, and you will see some type of change or difference.”

With eight years of business experience, Dominick’s team has grown with added seamstresses and employees. All products are handmade, despite volume increase and consequent expansion. From making dresses on the side after coming home from work to becoming a designer brand, the fear Dominick once had has become ambition and curiosity.

“Sometimes you’re just afraid to tell people you want to build a business because they might laugh at it,” Dominick said. “It’s being embarrassed to be ambitious. You have to believe in yourself first and that’s the hardest part.”

In the future, Dominick hopes to become a larger e-commerce business with her own warehouse and assembly team. She also wants to ease custom ordering with the added option of made-to-measurement clothing, to allow all women to wear the designs. Despite challenges, Dominick continues to work and to learn as she pursues her passion and keeps high standards.

“I could have stopped and been like, ‘This is good enough,’” Dominick said. “But I want someone to be moved by what I put out there. Not like, ‘Oh, it’s kind of nice.’ I want to speak to people through designs; I don’t want to have to say anything.”

Of the entire process, Dominick considers the most rewarding part to be connecting with people who are passionate about what they do. She believes the more passionate people you meet, the more likely you are to succeed.

“Whether it’s abroad or it’s here, I think everybody has a story to tell,” Dominick said.

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