Sunday, August 17, 2003

Teen designer keeps sewing machine busy

Catching up

By Joy Kraft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

No whiling away the summer steeped in the melancholy of spent high school years for Melanie Balasa of Covedale.

Her sewing machine - and future - has been at full throttle since she graduated from Oak Hills High School in June, although she doesn't start at the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning until September.

We first heard about Balasa in April when she was planning a fashion show of more than 100 of her creations, whipped up for friends, relatives and fellow students. Then when we looked into a story about women wearing men's ties as a fashion accessory, we found Balasa already was deep into the trend, producing ties from her home studio business, BoMBshell.

She makes about 60 percent of her own clothes, becoming her own best advertisement.

"People will ask me where I got something, and I give them my business card. A lot of (her business) is word of mouth," she says.

Balasa is one of five finalists in a 7-Up design contest sponsored by Teen People and Triple 5 Soul.

"They wanted something green and upside down that you don't typically wear because the clothing line is called "dnL," which is 7-Up when turned upside down," she says.

Balasa's design is a green cotton one-sleeve shirt with a fringed bottom over a skirt of green and white tube sock material. The shirt reads "yummy" upside down. The back reads "A Taste Worth a Turn For."

Anyone, ages 13-24, can go to the Web site and click on WIN, then 7-Up and vote. The design with the most votes by noon Wednesday will be used in a rap commercial and fashion shoot for the magazine.

Before school and between work at h.h. Gregg and her studio, Balasa is squeezing in a trip to Las Vegas and a three-day project with Teen People magazine. She'll be part of a student panel giving designers, advertisers and manufacturers a teen's perspective on designer clothing lines at MAGIC, the clothing market.

"There will be big-name designers as well as beginners there. It'll be good for me because I can make more contacts ... ," she says.


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