Valeria Baker initially came to College of DuPage for some college-level ESL classes that would help improve her English skills.
“While I was waiting to meet with a counselor, I was looking through the class schedule booklet and found out that fashion design was taught at COD,” she said. “My interest changed as soon as I read about getting a degree at COD. That same day I took the required placement tests and I started school right away that week.”
Baker cannot remember a time when she wasn’t attracted to design work. Despite her interest in fashion, she originally chose a different path.
“My first drawings were mostly related to fashion and shoes. But for different circumstances, I decided to study graphic design after I graduated from high school,” she said. “I consider those studies as my platform that today got me writing a bit about my work. A natural love for anything design-related, mixed with a solid base on Graphic Design plus an outstanding passion for fashion, motivated me to enter the Fashion program at COD.”
During her second year at COD, Baker decided to push herself outside of her comfort zone and signed up for the Chicago Fashion Foundation 2013 competition. The experience brought her much more than she anticipated.
“After I had a clearer idea of what fashion competitions were about, I started a new piece named ‘Grey Pleated Dress.’ I was able to show my piece at the Hard Rock Hotel fashion show in the finals competition event, and I got third place,” she said. “I competed among many great student designers from the most recognized fashion design schools in the region, and I felt very pleased with the results of the competition and my piece.
“During the creation of the ‘Grey Pleated Dress,’ I signed again into the 2014 Chicago Fashion Foundation competition and became a finalist again. As soon as I exposed my first piece at the Hard Rock Hotel, I started to get attention from some Chicago area photographers and models. That drove me to meet one of the finalists for Miss Illinois 2014. She asked me to design and create her evening gown for the finals event at Miss Illinois 2014 show. It was to me a great opportunity to show my design to a much bigger audience.”
Baker, who also earned third place in Next Fashion Chicago’s competition, plans to graduate with her associate’s degree in 2014, after which she would like to transfer to earn her bachelor’s degree.
“Ultimately I would love to create my own clothes line and keep up with couture garments. I love to experiment with new techniques and ideas while creating my pieces. I want to create unique pieces that do not need explanation behind them,” she said.
“The Fashion program at COD has been an inspirational motor in my life. Not only did I find excellent coaching here but I have found the way to express myself in a manner I never thought possible. I have been thrilled and fascinated to be a COD Fashion program student for the last two years. And I would tell my fellow students to not be afraid of showing your work. Success will come along while you work hard on your goals. Practice and practice, look at magazines, and teach your eye to create. Improve yourself on each work you make. Do your very best every time. Keep yourself motivated. The opportunities are there for someone, don’t let anyone take yours. Honestly, I don’t think there is another way to be successful in your life and your profession.”