RACINE — The next Vera Wang or Miuccia Prada may be right in our own backyard.
Thirteen-year-old Paris Liu is getting ready to make her public fashion design debut at the Junior League of Racine’s Winter Wonderland Boutique fashion show on Nov. 6 at Meadowbrook Country Club. The seventh-grader at The Prairie School will be showing several seasonal dresses and a pants outfit, with several of her classmates serving as models.
“They’re all really excited for this. I probably would be much more stressed if they weren’t helping me,” Paris said on Saturday.
Paris will be showing her work on the same stage where designs by the House of Chanel will be featured. She will be the only youth designer participating.
Already having an appropriate first name for someone interested in fashion since age 3, Paris possesses an innate sense of design and artistic ability. Her mom, Laura Maaske, is a medical illustrator, so artistic ability runs in the family. But Maaske said her daughter has a gift of being able to envision a design in her head and put it to paper.
“Her ideas begin with a drawing, mine would not come from the imagination that deeply,” said Maaske.
Paris uses no fabric and sewing store patterns, nor does she rely on fashion magazines. She measures her sewing on mannequins in the basement of her mom’s home. But she is a big fan of TV’s “Project Runway” and even traveled to New York to attend a fashion camp that the TV program’s producers sponsored for young people. Maaske said it’s been hard to find youth fashion programs that offer something for design; they tend to focus on modeling, she said.
While the Junior League show marks Paris’ public debut, she did stage a fashion show for family and friends when she was in the fifth grade. The choreography and attention to detail as well as the time spent preparing outfits for the show convinced Maaske that her daughter’s interest in fashion may be more than a phase.
“There was music and it was really beautifully done so I knew at that point that this was something she really cared about and I needed to find a public way for her to have more expression,” Maaske said of the quest that led to Paris’ invite to take part in the Junior League show.
As part of the preparation for the show, Paris had to come up with pricing for her dresses and to try to line up dressmakers for orders that might follow the Nov. 6 show. The family is looking at clothing manufacturers in Chicago and Shanghai (Paris’ dad Terry Liu’s family is from China). Marketing her designs would be the next logical step, Maaske said.
Even before her debut at the Junior League show, Paris has found her design services in demand. On Saturday, she was helping friends with their Halloween costumes. In keeping with her interest in regal dress designs, Paris is making a Cinderella costume for herself, which was inspired after seeing the movie “Cinderella” earlier this year.
While post-secondary training is a good five years away, Paris and her mom have already visited a couple of New York’s premier fashion schools, Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology.
“It’s a long shot, but she loves it,” Maaske said. “We’re going to keep up her academics just in case, but it’s something that she loves. So she should be moving in that direction.”