June 29 2011 12:00 AM

MSU sophomore wins fashion design contest


A year ago, Kelsey Denczek-Kalczynski wasn’t sure she had
what it takes for the world of fashion design. Today, one of her dress
designs has put her at the top of a national competition.

Since February, Skintimate Studios has been running a
contest in conjunction with designer Mara Hoffman in an effort to hunt
down original women’s ensembles. Designers from across the country
submitted their drawings for review by both the public and the studio’s
own judges.

Michigan State University sophomore Denczek-Kalczynski
almost didn’t make it in time, though. Chance brought her to an Internet
ad touting the contest.

“So I clicked on it — found it maybe two weeks before the
deadline,” Denczek-Kalczynski said. “I hurried up, tried to do something
real quick. And in the end, I got the most votes.”

From start to finish, it took Denczek-Kalczynski around six hours to craft a gown design out of watercolors.

“I wanted to put a lot of elements into it that I would
find in the perfect gown,” Denczek-Kalczynski said. “So I made it
purple. Made it flow-y. I was really nervous. I really liked the sketch.
I wasn’t sure though — I  thought it would be ruined, but it turned out really well.”

Adding to the drama of the moment was the fact that what
would go on to become an award-winning design was actually the first
time Denczek-Kalczynski had ever painted a dress. 

However, Denczek-Kalczynski, originally of Williamston,
began her journey into the world of fashion in middle school. Citing an
obsession with “America’s Next Top Model” as one of her driving
inspirations, she originally had dreamed of going into the modeling side
of the business.

“Unfortunately, I soon found out that Tyra (Banks) said
only tall people could be models,” she said. But it opened her eyes to
the design aspect of the business instead. 

Flash to high school, when she spent a year of mornings
designing at Lansing Community College as part of a dual enrollment
program. The summer before her senior year, she went to Chicago to join
Columbia College’s fashion design program.

Yet during her first year at MSU, her confidence wavered.
Fearing she wasn’t cut out for the fashion world, Denczek-Kalczynski
switched to elementary education. She has since changed back to the
apparel and textile design program, however.

So what’s next for the contest champion?

As part of her reward, Denczek-Kalczynski
will travel to New York to study under one of America’s top designers,
Mara Hoffman. She’ll also accompany Hoffman and her staff to Miami for
Hoffman’s Swim Week Fashion Show. It’s experience Denczek-Kalczynski
described as priceless.

Despite all the recent success, however, Denczek-Kalczynski still ponders what she will do with her degree.

“I would love to have my own label. As
long as I can be creative though: I don’t want to get bogged down with
anything too serious.”