From high school to high fashion

Backlight Dress LORENAK1sm-JUMBO
Backlight Dress LORENAK1sm-JUMBO
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Fashion Show TBFS 2013-LD_067

When Lorena Knezevic was just 8, she fashioned a skirt with multilevel panels using several pairs of her jeans. She didn’t yet own a sewing machine, so she made every stitch by hand.

That was 10 years ago, and the Ocoee teen still has that first piece of clothing she designed.

With high school now behind her — she graduated Tuesday from West Orange — she is continuing on her well-prepared path to a career in design. This summer she will work on her next seasonal collection for spring 2015; in the fall, she will be attending the University of Miami in the School of Architecture.

“I love the ever-changing world of design,” Knezevic said. “Fashion is so personal, so interconnected with the way people view the world. This continually renewed perspective is represented through the way we dress and is something I can both influence and illustrate.”

Knezevic’s dolls were the original models for her developing passion for design; she first sewed clothing for them before moving on to larger clothes for herself, “so designing for others seemed like a natural progression,” she said. “I’ve loved art and creating as long as I can remember.”

Drawn to the challenge of competitions, she said, Knezevic isn’t shy about entering her work, whether it’s the Knit Witt Skirt (fashioned out of two one-pound spools of yarn that she hand rolled into one massive ball of yarn) or the First Day of Summer Dress (made entirely out of old school tests and homework and workbook pages) or a blacklight dress she calls A Rose in the Moonlight (it glows in the dark).

She has won national Scholastic Gold Key Art awards for fashion five years in a row from the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

Impressive portfolio

Most high school graduates go to college to begin creating a portfolio, but Knezevic already has an impressive one that includes her many awards — and two spring fashion collections and a fall collection.

In between carrying a heavy course load of Advanced Placement classes at West Orange and sewing personal garments the last few years, Knezevic has carved out time to present her collections at fashion shows: Tampa Bay Fashion Week, Jacksonville Fashion Week, Life’s a Label Fashion Show, VH2 Fashion Show, Latina Pageant Fashion Show and Exclusif Fashion Show.

She debuted her first collection when she was 17. Because she works for BMG Models and had been modeling for designers in Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville, she knew who to talk to about getting her original work included.

“I had a lot of connections in the industry as a model working with photographers, makeup artists and fashion show coordinators alike. So, when I ventured on the seemingly impossible quest to present my first collection I had created at 16 years old, I had a lot to prove but a lot of people I had known previously who wanted to support me.”

Her most recent collection was presented at Tampa Bay Fashion Week, and she said it’s her favorite so far, in part because she received an “incredible” amount of press. Her sketches and designs were featured in three issues of Creative Loafing magazine, her sketches were in the fashion show preview, her designs were in a recap of the show, and a look from her collection was used in an editorial shoot for Creative Loafing’s Style issue.

Her spring collection of white and gold tones “was inspired by the idea that women are as beautiful as works of art, the kind art which should be beautifully presented in elaborate frames to amplify its beauty,” the designer said. “In that sense, fashion becomes the frame of a woman’s beauty, presenting her as beautifully possible. Thusly, this collection focused on frames as their graphic shapes that collide with their gentile ornateness. In the typical way I present my style in a ‘modern romance,’ I made this collection with a focus on truly feminine beauty.”

While some of Knezevic’s designs have a serious side, she likes to have fun with her pieces, too. She created the topsy-turvy Questionable Bag with a huge question mark for the handle and multiple questions printed on fabric for the purse. She once sewed more than 200 fabric-covered beads onto what she calls her “blueberry vest.” And, she is always creating and constantly looking for ways to repurpose items for her fashions. One of her belts has a coin-purse clasp. Another utilizes pencils.

Knezevic has her own website, where she posts a blog and updates on her latest projects. She also maintains an online Etsy account and sells her creations. Check out Lorena at Who knows — you might be buying her fashions someday.


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