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Sep 17th

Ballentine makes fashion statement with Suede

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Ballentine makes fashion statement with Suede

There was something special about the makeshift patterns Dee Ballentine, at age four, watched her mother cut from newspapers. And there was an impression made on her young life as she tagged along with her mother during visits to the local sewing center. In her teen years she became passionate about fashion, as she regularly posted pages from major fashion magazines such as Vogue and Elle on her bedroom wall.
There was something special about the makeshift patterns Dee Ballentine, at age four, watched her mother cut from newspapers. And there was an impression made on her young life as she tagged along with her mother during visits to the local sewing center. In her teen years she became passionate about fashion, as she regularly posted pages from major fashion magazines such as Vogue and Elle on her bedroom wall.

"I was always in the fashion magazines; once I was in college I stayed tuned in the fashion channels or checked out runway shows from the library," Ballentine said. Were these occurrences a sign of a future career in fashion? Suede, Ballentine's new fashion line specializing in unique suede garments and accessories, confirms her passion, drive and longevity in the fashion industry. The first line of Suede is scheduled to debut in spring 2008.

"I started working with leather and suede in 2002 and developed a small line that was well received here," said Ballentine. "The following year I decided to take some time off from designing; it gave me a chance to really evaluate what I wanted to do.

In 2006 I decided to focus on just designing with suede. The concept of Suede was a natural extension of that decision. I decided to work with suede because of the smoothness of the fabric, the colors that are offered; it is very easy to work with and the end result is always something beautiful. I believe my designs are unique because I use the skins in their original form to create tops, dresses and handbags."

Ballentine developed her fashion ingenuity while pounding the pavement. At age sixteen she held her first retail job at New York & Company, formerly called Lerner, while studying fashion merchandising at Lowthian College. There she became grounded in business etiquette, the history of fashion and fashion show production. In 1992 she received a Fashion Merchandising diploma, and in 1994 graduated from University of Wisconsin - Stout with a Bachelor of Science in Apparel, Textiles and Design. In 1995 Ballentine expanded her horizons by studying fashion design overseas at the American College of London. Upon returning home, Ballentine developed her own fashion line "Peep This Design," which was featured at fashion shows she produced and other popular community events such as The Gathering and Sunday Savvy. However, life after college opened doors to other opportunities.

"Once I graduated from college I wasn't necessarily focused on becoming a designer," Ballentine continued. "At that time I had passion for fashion show production. I was very active in coordinating student shows at school and also some local fashion events here in Minneapolis. But I also knew that I needed to earn money in order to support myself. So I tried a couple of things, but ended up working in retail management. It became a career path for me; it also allowed me to be involved and stay connected in the fashion show arena."

In addition to ten years' experience in retail management, Ballentine also worked as a fashion stylist for photo shoots, a merchandise product specialist and a model. Knowledge she gained from these opportunities -- specifically running a business, brand positioning and marketing -- have served as valuable tools in managing her business today.

"My ultimate goal for Suede is to have the business be successful and obviously profitable -- and just continue to build the brand. I am focusing on introducing Suede into several different markets; my first stop will be Tampa, Florida this August," Ballentine explained.

As Ballentine aims to dress women with her unique brand she also offers style advice: "Always look your best no matter what. Also wear clothing that is suitable and appropriate for your body type. If you are unsure, there a
 

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