For CSU apparel design and production major Sarah Heredia, life changed when her dream of playing softball came to a sudden, heartbreaking halt.
She didn’t know at the time that stepping into the world of glitz and glamour would test her determination more than softball ever had, and would eventually lead her down a path of bright colors, self-expression and an amazing internship opportunity.
Heredia’s freshman year of college was spent at Fort Lewis University in Durango, where she was an English major and attended school on a softball scholarship. Yet her softball career quickly ended when she broke her ankle just a few months into the season.
When she began physical therapy – without any guarantee that she would be able to play well again – Heredia began thinking about her future.
And for the first time in her life, she didn’t know what she wanted to do.
“Everything changed,” she said.
She didn’t play softball for the rest of her time at Fort Lewis; however, after eight months of healing, she passed her physical therapy test and played summer ball for the Berthoud Blaze.
“It felt great to be back on the field,” she said.
She moved back to Fort Collins and after one year at Front Range Community College and another summer season of heat and softball, Heredia made up her mind to leave softball in the dust and pursue a completely different dream.
In 2002, she was admitted to CSU and applied for the design program.
Heredia’s mother, Laurie, wasn’t surprised in the least by her daughter’s apparently sudden desire to enter into the fashion world.
“Even as a child Sarah was into drawing and coloring,” Laurie Heredia said. “And not your normal little girl drawing, I mean totally outside of the box kind of stuff.”
So Heredia made up her mind and submitted a portfolio to CSU.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” she said.
But that may have been difficult to admit the first time she turned in her portfolio and was declined.
“It’s a very, very hard program to get into, but I wanted it so bad,” she said. “So I tried again the next year.”
After she was turned down for the second time, the aspiring designer had her first moments of true disappointment and almost gave up.
“She felt so alienated,” Laurie said. “But I told her that nothing in life is easy – you have to give it 150 percent.”
After heeding her mother’s encouragement and advice, Heredia tried once again to get into the design program.
“I was at my wits end,” she said. “But I told myself ‘I am not giving up.'”
Heredia worked on her sewing and her illustrations in her free time and completely changed her portfolio.
“I work hard for the things I want,” she said.
And the third time she applied, she got in. Then she committed herself completely, she said.
“It’s a different program and you have to devote all of your time to it.”
Heredia is finally graduating this May, and then she is moving to New York City, where high fashion designer Betsey Johnson awaits her arrival.
“I applied for Betsey Johnson because her designs are so fun and whimsical,” Heredia said.
According to the Betsey Johnson Web site, she has been designing quirky, fun clothes for women since 1960. She has managed to expand her design empire with her trademark bold, bright patterns that have made her famous.
Heredia would love to follow in Johnson’s footsteps and counts herself extremely lucky for her opportunity to work with such an amazing woman, she said.
“I love her,” she said.
As for her own style, Heredia describes herself as exuberant, daring and always feminine. She also admits that some of the clothes she wears are a little more daring than what other women attempt to wear.
“I wear funky, colorful clothes,” she said. “And anyone can wear that kind of stuff, you just have to wear it with confidence.”
Michelle Richter, one of Heredia’s models in the recent CSU fashion show, “Breaking the Silhouette,” describes Heredia as fearless in her style, but as a very welcoming, open person.
“She is accepting of all people, and I noticed that about her right away,” Richter said. “She has the ability to understand all different people. She has great insight.”
Her clothing designs are inspired by who and what she meets in life, Heredia said. Yet one common thread throughout all of her designs is femininity.
“I want to design something that makes a woman feel beautiful,” she said. “I am really into dresses; it shows the girlish side of me.”
She also tries to incorporate her upbringing into her patterns.
“I am three-quarters Hispanic and one-quarter Italian,” she said. “Culture is always an inspiration of mine.”
Her line in “Breaking the Silhouette” was called “Bella Loca.”
For a girl who took her first baby steps toward fashion design only because of an accident, she considers herself fortunate and hopeful for the future. Although, if the past has taught her anything, she believes that her internship in New York could lead her anywhere.
“I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity,” she said. “I don’t know what the future holds.”
Staff writer Jessi Stafford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.