Palatine High alum one of country's hottest fashion designers
Before they went downtown to meet her, not many of the Palatine High School fashion students knew who Maria Pinto was.
Now, they're in awe of her.
Pinto, a Palatine alumnus, is one of the country's hottest fashion designers and her celebrity client list includes First Lady Michelle Obama. Pinto designed the teal dress that Mrs. Obama wore at the Democratic National Convention, among other outfits.
The students say that meeting Pinto, and overseeing the work in her Chicago workshop and boutique, was not only fun and educational, but inspirational.
"It makes you think, you could probably do it, too," said junior Keyana Allen, of Palatine. "The room where they make the clothes reminds me of our class."
Pinto didn't mislead the 40 students who visited her earlier in the month into thinking that the fashion business was easy - she warned of cutthroat competition and the years of hard work required. But she also gave them good advice on how to get started in the business and explained her motivation (the words "tango" and "pull-up" inspired her most recent collection) and what her job really entailed.
"Fashion isn't just about designing," sophomore Hanna Khatib, of Palatine, said.
Pinto let the students examine pieces from her spring and fall 2010 collections, explaining how some of the items were made.
"She showed us a dress that she spent three days hand-stitching," said Gina Scardina, a senior. "I loved how much detail she put on everything."
"Everything was so pretty, especially the handmade stuff," added Allen. "She told us to always keep our creative ideas flowing."
The students were impressed by everything from the electric fabric cutter to watching the patternmakers and seamstresses at work. They saw evening wear that was priced in the thousands of dollars.
"She gave us all-access," said sophomore Nichola Nease. "She said we could touch the dresses, and I thought, 'I shouldn't be touching these dresses!' ... but you'd see these gorgeous, interesting dresses and think, 'How did she think to do this?'"
Palatine High School fashion teacher Caron Morrison said some of Pinto's work has already inspired the students' designs. Senior Caitlin Yawger embellished one of her dresses with layers of tulle, after noticing how Pinto used a lot of layers.
"For the students to be able to visualize someone who was once in this building being that successful is very inspirational," Morrison said. "She told them, 'High school is what you make of it. Instead of complaining about things, think of what you can make of it.'"