Industry Makeover

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Published by IN Community Magazines – Penn Hills Winter 2016

PITTSBURGH – Clothing designer Cary Heard recently organized a makeover that gave the a local woman more energy and confidence.

“I would describe it as a total transformation,” Heard says.

More than 40 applicants applied for the makeover and Heard selected two winners, although one dropped out at the last minute. He says he picked the finalists based on their heart-felt applications. The makeover was completed in conjunction with a fashion show at Epiphany Church on Washington Place in August.

The makeover finalist walked down the runway at the start of the fashion show and then again at the end to show off her new look. The makeover took about two hours and included a new hairstyle and makeup. The makeover recipient was stunned by her transformation, according to Heard.

“She really couldn’t believe herself in the mirror,” he says. “The crowd was in awe. It was well worth all the time and energy spent.”

The event, which also included a fashion show that featured collections by Heard and three other designers, attracted a sellout crowd. Heard says he organized the makeover and fashion show to spread self-love and respect in the community. The proceeds from the event benefitted the NEED program which organizes tours for high school students so they can visit historically black colleges and universities in the eastern and southern United States. Heard says he is pleased with the results and plans to organize another event soon.

“It was also a humbling experience for me,” Heard says.

Heard, a 2011 graduate from Penn Hills High School, has been interested in fashion since he was a child. Unlike most kids, Heard enjoyed browsing in department stores with his mother and picking out his own clothes.

“I wasn’t the usual youngster who threw a tantrum and wanted to leave the store after only being there for 20 minutes,” Heard laughs.

He began drawing his own designs and got his first sewing machine at age 13. He taught himself how to sew and began making gowns and formal vests for his classmates at Penn Hills High School. Heard completed an internship at Sugar Boutique in Lawrenceville where he met a number of other designers and models. He hosted his first fashion show at the Omni William Penn Hotel and has participated in Pittsburgh Fashion Week for three years. Heard specializes in creating bold designs for full-figured women.

“There aren’t too many designers that take that avenue of clientele,” he says. “Plus size women don’t have the greatest selection to pick from in the department stores.”

Balmain is Heard’s favorite fashion line and a number of designers have influenced him, including Malcolm Williams, Darlene Perkins, Miyoshi Anderson, Kari Kramer, and Evon Renda. He also looks to his family for inspiration. When Heard begins creating a new collection, he starts with a color story and begins sketching designs, although some elements will change along the way. Then he selects fabrics and models.

Heard’s business has grown and, although it has been stressful at times, he says eventually it won’t feel like work because he’s so passionate about design. Heard says he has learned from his mistakes along the way and urges other aspiring designers to remain humble and follow their hearts.

“My heart has been my GPS through everything, even when I doubted myself,” he says. “Your heart will sort out the bad and guide you to your dreams faster.”

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