Jewelry designer Michelle Pajak-Reynolds is taking a leap from the classroom to the catwalk.
The Stow entrepreneur and former teacher was invited to take her fall collection to be featured in New York’s Fashion Week in September, and now she’s on a quest to raise money to make that opportunity a reality.
Reynolds said it has been a childhood dream to have her work appear on the runway in New York.
“I was overjoyed and cried when I learned that I was going to be a feature designer at NY Fashion Week this fall,” Reynolds said. “This is a career-making opportunity and the biggest break a designer could ever ask for. It's also a huge validation for years of hard work.”
Reynolds taught an adult GED course during the day and pursued her art part-time. In June 2009 her position was eliminated due to state budget cuts.
Reynolds was told to put up a sign for her students and walk away.
Facing an uncertain future fueled Reynolds to pursue her passion as an artist. She earned a MBA in Entrepreneurship at Baldwin Wallace and become fully committed to creating her one-of-a-kind couture jewelry.
Opportunities like this are a chance of a lifetime, but often come with a price.
Reynolds has to raise $5,000 to help finance this venture. The total expense of her Fashion Week debut could reach more than $10,000.
Reynolds is using the site Kickstarter.com
to serve as a fundraising and marketing tool to help get her and her models to New York City.
According to the website, Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding program for creative projects. People can pledge money towards projects created by artists, musicians, filmmakers and fashion entrepreneurs like Reynolds.
She said that Kickstarter is an "all or nothing" fundraising platform and all of her backers know that their pledges will only go through if she makes or exceeds her goal.
“Meeting my goal on Kickstarter will provide critical seed money for my business,” Reynolds said. “If I miss my goal, even by a dollar, none of the pledges that I've earned so far will go through.”
So far, Reynolds has raised $2,405 and needs the rest by Friday to reach Kickstarter’s deadline.
Reynolds said that being a featured designer at fashion week this fall is a lifetime achievement.
“When you pull off the thing that nobody thought you could do, that’s pretty cool," Reynolds said.
“My motivation is fueled by my desire to bring joy to others by creating beautiful jewels that make them feel gorgeous, capable and confident,” Reynolds added.
Heather Mazzarella is one of the models asked to wear Reynolds’ line and appear in the fall fashion show in New York.
“I just became overwhelmed with the opportunity itself,” Mazzarella said. … “This means more to me than I can grasp. It also taught me to never give up on something you truly love and have passion for.”
Mazzarella said modeling is the one thing she can do that helps clear her mind from any distractions that life can bring. Currently, her boyfriend of more than three years is deployed in Afghanistan.
“We both met each other in high school when we were in study hall,” Mazzarella said. “The connection was pretty instant.”
Reynolds said is hopeful to find a way to film the show so Mazzarella’s boyfriend can see it while overseas.
“I was so moved that she thought of that,” Mazzarella said. “It was so incredibly sweet and thoughtful. I would love if there was a way to tape the show so all of the team could have a copy as a memento of this awesome journey we are all experiencing together.”
Stories like these help inspire Reynolds to make these dreams become realities. She said that strong, empowering women inspires her work.
“The overarching inspiration for all of my work is couture fashion,” Reynolds said. “The new collection is inspired by the strength and beauty of women who are moving mountains and changing the world."