From staging an international fashion show in high school to creating an original dress for an Emmy Award nominee, Adriana Mendiola is designing her dreams.

The 2008 Salina South High School graduate has turned her passion for fashion into a career path that’s led to Chicago, Southern California, Italy and New York City.

In the past several years, she’s worked as a technical designer for major clothing brands, custom-designed clothing for special events that included a dress worn at this year’s Daytime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles and founded her own clothing line under the banner Love la Vie (French for “Love Life”).

At age 25, Mendiola hopes to build her design business in the next five years, creating contemporary outfits for women 18 to 26 years of age. Mendiola said her designs are inspired by her travels, youth culture and the world around her.

“They’re lively prints and colors combined with neutral essentials,” she said. “It’s clothing that encourages people to live life to the fullest, to love and enjoy life.”

Starting at a young age

A Salina native, Mendiola is the daughter of Maria and Isidro Mendiola, owners of the former Chiquitos restaurant in Salina. While a young girl, Adriana said she became fascinated with all of the fabric and sewing materials that her mother kept in the basement of their home.

“When I was younger, my mom did alterations and made quinceanera dresses,” Mendiola said. “There were knitting needles and all types of yarn and fabric. I’d always tap into her tools, and she’d get mad at me, but she taught me how to crochet and knit.”

Mendiola credited her art teacher at South Middle School, Gina Lee, for sparking a love of art and design. Mendiola never thought she could turn her passion into a career until she began researching design schools and fashion careers in high school.

During her senior hear at Salina South, Mendiola organized an international fashion show as part of the school’s Project Diversity club, which sponsored events to highlight the cultural differences of students. Mendiola recruited students representing a dozen different nations to show off clothing from their native lands.

Studying in Italy

After graduation, Mendiola was accepted to the Illinois Institute of Art, in Chicago, which offers design, media arts, fashion and culinary courses. She attended the school from 2009 to 2012, graduating with a bachelor’s of fine arts in fashion design.

While still in school, Mendiola was given the opportunity to study fashion design for a semester at the Lorenzo de’ Medici Italian International Institute in Florence, Italy. Arriving in January 2011, Mendiola said spending nearly six months in Italy was quite a culture shock.

“Just walking around the city put you back in older times,” she said. “Their sense of fashion in Italy was so different. Women would walk in stiletto heels on cobblestone streets.”

While studying at the institute, Mendiola learned Italian, worked in an Italian restaurant and “learned a lot about hand stitching and making jackets of different types,” she said.

“They are a lot more refined dressers in Italy,” Mendiola said. “America is more laid back as far as fashion.”

Working in L.A.

After returning to Chicago and graduating from the Institute of Art, Mendiola decided to move to the Los Angeles area. After showing her college portfolio to an L.A. talent agency, she was hired as a technical designer at Hybrid Apparel, a design firm in Cypress, Calif.

Mendiola’s job was to work with factories overseas to aid them in realizing a designer’s concept and to match a designer’s work with retail customers such as Macy’s, Kohls, Sears, J.C. Penney, Target and Walmart.

“A team of designers, product developers and technical designers work together to make sure we’re achieving the same goals,” Mendiola said.

A fellow Kansan

Also working at Hybrid Apparel as a graphic designer was Brooke Wedel, a former Moundridge resident who attended McPherson College. Together, the women formed Love la Vie in late 2013. Wedel does all graphic design for the line.

Mendiola also formed another custom clothing line, Isis & Damian, a line of evening wear for special events. Earlier this year, she created a strapless silk and lycra blend long black evening gown with a white sash for Julie Carmona Young, a nominee for Outstanding Music Composition and Direction at April’s Daytime Emmy Awards. Young was nominated for the song “Just Breathe” from the daytime drama “The Young and the Restless.”

“I started on this a week and a half before the Emmys and worked on it every night after work,” Mendiola said. “It wasn’t on the televised portion of the show, but it was still cool to have one of my dresses on the red carpet.”

Making a move to NYC

In late May, Mendiola decided to leave her job at Hybrid Apparel to make a temporary move to New York City.

“I’m still working with the same talent agency and plan to freelance,” she said. “There are so many opportunities out there, and I wanted to see what’s out there. It’s an exciting new adventure.”

Mendiola said she is keeping her home in L.A. and plans stay in New York until at least September.

“Unless, of course, I find an awesome job,” she said.

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