Marina Qualey and Sinéad Kelly (Apparel) Shine in Circle of Design


When Dressing Room Dojo owner Shelly Gensmer invited apparel design students to participate in her Circle of Design fashion show, she probably expected to attract seniors with completed collections. But sophomores Marina Qualey and Sinéad Kelly stepped up to the challenge, each designing and sewing eight looks on top of their class assignments.

On April 3, Circle of Design took its audience on a fashion tour of the world, exploring the origins of contemporary trends. Qualey’s plaid-filled line represented Ireland and Scotland and Kelly designed colorful garments and handmade headpieces to embody the many cultures of Latin America.

As the only designers in the show without manufacturers or size runs, they were in the studio together around the clock to complete their collections. They applied technical skills learned in their studios and test-drove new techniques like draping shorts. Working with real models quickly taught them about fit, and the time crunch forced them to compromise with their designs. For example, Kelly added an elastic waistband to a pair of shorts “because i didn’t have the time or the fabric or the money. And they looked great in the end!”


They worked up until the day of the show, including some quick fixes at the last minute. “I had a few zipper crises. One of my models was literally sewn into her pants,” Qualey recalled. But both students agreed that their hard work and sleepless nights paid off. The show was a fantastic opportunity to get their work out into the Twin Cities design community, and they even sold a few pieces at a trunk show after the performance! “It was amazing having people want to buy my work. I could finally see myself having my own company,” said Qualey. And Kelly’s working on a custom dress for a woman she met at the show.

The experience gave them an appreciation of just how much work goes into a clothing line, and a deeper understanding of how fashion is influenced by history and place. “I think it’s amazing how we’ve all found influences from different parts of the world to create a style of our own. And we’ve all shared something, even if we don’t see it right away. Fashion helps us share an identity with everyone,” Kelly explained.

Both are starting collections for Fashion & Business RISE Fashion Show in May. “It’s interesting to come from an eight piece line and bring it back down to a three piece line. It’ll be relaxing,” said Kelly.


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