Located approximately 25 miles north of Charlotte, Mooresville, North Carolina is the home of several NASCAR drivers and racing teams. In fact, it is nicknamed "Race City USA."
It isn’t the first place that would come to mind when thinking fashion design. Yet, here, on a historic stretch of Main Street, is the starting block for many future designers, taught by a true Hollywood fashion designer.Owner Shawnelle Cherry
graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles and from the UCLA extension program where she studied costume design for film. She worked in the Los Angeles garment industry before starting her own design studio in Pacific Palisades, California. There, she specialized in evening gowns for the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes and the Daytime Emmy Awards. In 1995, five of her gowns were worn at the Oscars. During her 20 years in Hollywood, Cherry also had a list of more than 30 films to her credit.
When she got engaged, she moved to Mooresville and decided to start her own business. The idea came about as her father was going through treatments for lung cancer. She read the book, "One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life" by Kerry Shook.
Cherry asked herself what she really wanted to do. "I discovered what would really feed my soul was to share my talents and teach kids (of all ages) my passion for the art.”While the engagement didn’t last, the business did. She stayed in Mooresville, opened her doors in January 2010 and offered classes in sewing and design. Students do everything in the process from sketching to draping and sewing. They also show off their work on the runway.
Cherry’s busiest time is summer, when she has camps from June through August.
Students as young as 8-years-old sign up for half-day and full-day beginner and intermediate classes. Last summer, almost all the slots were quickly filled.While there are some other businesses like this in New York and San Francisco, this is the only designer academy in the area. Students come from as far away as South Carolina. Many of the kids Cherry mentors end up continuing with their talents and study fashion design at North Carolina State or Savannah College of Art and Design.Cherry is passionate about her desire to share her skills and lifetime of experience with kids of all ages and skill levels. To expand her reach, in addition to her in-house classes, she has started Project Sew*Way
, an online subscription program where kids can get projects mailed to them on a monthly basis.“Many kids know how to sew,” Cherry says, “but if they go and pick their own projects, sometimes they are too hard and when they are too hard, they sometimes just quit.” That’s what Cherry says happened during her childhood. She just doesn’t want kids to stop when they have the interest. “We send them the fabric, thread, stuffing, everything they need to do the project.”
The hope is that these easy-to-do projects will not only spark imagination, but also build confidence by seeing ideas take form. Kids are able to build their self-esteem and confidence because they are able to complete the projects.
Even though the kits can be sent anywhere in the world, Cherry keeps connected via an online community.Now more than six years out of the frantic pace of Hollywood, Cherry notes how much she really likes downtown's revitalized Main Street and Mooresville ( which is growing so quickly it now has a second zip code
). She adds that there are some perks to having the 123 N. Main Street address. “I get some of the funniest mail,” she says, noting that hers is often used as a test address. One time, she got a package with so many cookies that she couldn’t give them all away.