Photos by Bryan Rindfuss
Story by Desiree Prieto
Dreams do come true. San Antonio native Mandi Gallegos featured her new Mikailee Alton Collection at the PLITZS New York City Fashion Week, "Designer Showcase Presentation,” in which only 36 emerging designers were chosen to participate. The event, showcased in Manhattan’s Fashion district, coincided with the official Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and allowed up-and-coming designers to affordably produce their presentation to industry professionals, investors, boutiques, buyers, and the media, among other interests.
A personable woman with an infectious energy, Gallegos claims that while she’s returned to San Antonio, she still hasn’t awoken from her dream. With a large dimply smile, she enthusiastically explained, “Honestly, it still hasn’t hit me! Even during the show, I was like, ‘I’m here, right? Is this real? I’m not dreaming?’ I thought for sure I would’ve broken down and cried but it really was so fast and it turned out to be everything I thought it would be.”
The dream began just a few weeks before the event, in mid-January, when Gallegos was “supposed to be taking a break,” or as much of a break as a single mother of three boys can take. “I don’t know how they [PLITZS] found me, but they emailed me directly,” Gallegos recalled. Just a few years ago, Gallegos never thought she’d live to see another day, much less live to see her dreams come true. In 2007, she was diagnosed with a rare brain illness and began chemo treatments. While lying in her hospital bed, she promised her parents that if she were to survive, she’d make them proud. Gallegos’s illness is in remission now, and she actually attributes her success as a designer to her regular doctor visits during recovery.
“When I walked out of the doctor’s office one day, I noticed that there was a mannequin in a window display and I didn’t know what it was. I walked in [the building] and the lady greeted me with, ‘Welcome to the International Academy of Design and Technology.’” Gallegos was given a tour of the school and by the time she reached the second floor, she was in love. She began school the following week. She continued working fulltime as a purchasing agent for Toshiba Business Solutions during the day, a company she’s been with for ten years now. “I’ve pretty much been on the go since my last chemo treatment. I never looked back. I kept going,” she said proudly.
However, Gallegos’s story gets, well, more interesting, as she could not participate in San Antonio Fashion Week (FWSA) a local, low-key event in comparison to New York Fashion Week (what I like to call Fashion Week with training wheels). She was anxious to feature her work, but just couldn’t make it happen. “I wanted to do it. They asked me if I would do it; I just wasn’t financially ready. I didn’t have enough money at that time.” In addition, Gallegos explained that she was “in the back” at FWSA—hard to believe considering that while showing her Mikailee Alton Collection in New York, she was not only approached by an investor, but was also contacted by a Project Runway casting director, who congratulated her and asked her to submit her work to participate in the upcoming season. Gallegos hasn’t decided whether or not to vie for a spot on Project Runway, and admitted with laughter, “I don’t know. I’m still a little nervous about it. I’m still contemplating about whether or not I want to do it!”
I asked Gallegos if she was already thinking about the next New York Fashion Week. But while she hopes to attend, she has her eyes set on producing a show in a place where all her dreams began: San Antonio, Texas. “I really think that having it here would be a blessing to me. If New York wants me, of course I’ll go. But I would really love to show here, a really big collection.”
The Mikailee Alton Collection features a unique array of dresses and skirts made in silk chiffon, baby silk and bridal satin in colorful hues including burgundy, magenta, pink champagne and teal. Most of the looks’ clean lines are accented with hand-made burnt pedals on the chest, back and neck area, while jackets are made with narrow sleeves and flared trunks.