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Hempfield grad designs Fashion Week collection

| Thursday, March 6, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Melissa Magnusson wears a top that is part of her fall 2014 sportswear collection for Badgley Mischka.
Melissa Magnusson design
Melissa Magnusson design
Melissa Magnusson design
Melissa Magnusson design
Melissa Magnusson design
Melissa Magnusson design

As a teenager, Melissa “Missy” Patton Magnusson had difficulty finding clothes to fit her body type.

So she started buying vintage clothing from Goodwill and other thrift shops and re-purposing them to create unique pieces. “I've always been extremely tall and skinny. Making my own clothes eventually turned into a small business while I was still in high school,” said Magnusson, a 1999 graduate of Hempfield Area High School.

“When my friends started purchasing things I made, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in fashion design,” she said.

Magnusson, originally of Champion, applied to several design schools in New York City. She ended up at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

“Getting accepted was a life-changing experience. I'm so thankful for that opportunity, because it's really paid off,” said Magnusson. “Because of it, I've had a successful career for 10 years now.”

Magnusson, 33, received a bachelor's degree in sportswear from FIT in 2004 after serving an internship with Calvin Klein.

“Missy started working when she was 16. She's always been a very motivated individual,” said her mother, Suzie Patton, 60, of Champion. Magnusson's father, Keith Patton, 59, is a Greensburg Salem High School graduate.

“Moving to a new city where you don't know anyone to follow a dream takes a lot of initiative,” Suzie Patton said.

During her senior year at FIT, Magnusson was nominated for a Council of Fashion Designers of America Award.

“Just the nomination was remarkable,” her mother said. “There's an old saying about New York: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Her father and I both knew she had the potential.”

Following graduation, Magnusson immediately entered the design field, working in the menswear industry, despite her women's wear background.

She helped designers with a fashion show re-launch at Joseph Abboud, called Seventh on Sixth. From there, she worked for Ann Taylor and Jones New York, among other designers.

Today, Magnusson is the senior sportswear designer for Badgley Mischka.

Since starting there in May, Magnusson has played an instrumental role in both the 2013 spring and 2014 fall runway collections for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Magnusson works directly with owners Mark Badgley and James Mischka each day to create their collections.

“It's obviously really exciting. Every designer always dreams about seeing their designs on a runway in front of some of the biggest critics in the world,” said Magnusson. “Working with Mark and James has been a dream come true. They're very supportive and hands-on. They let me be open with my designs and inspirations.”

Magnusson's designs have been featured on “E! News” fashion week specials and in various publications, such as Vogue and Style magazines, along with several issues of Women's Wear Daily, a fashion publication.

“They used one of my garments on an episode of ‘Law and Order',” said Magnusson. “They were filming in a fashion studio and needed designs. It was so nice being that young and having my work chosen for something like that.”

Magnusson has celebrity fans, including country singer Carrie Underwood, who wore an ivory crop-top Magnusson designed to the Country Music Awards.

Magnusson shares style advice with actress Tammy Felice, a Hempfield woman who followed her dreams to a successful career in Hollywood.

“She's one of my closest friends, so she calls me for style advice,” said Magnusson. “It's another accomplishment to be able to bounce fashion ideas off of each other when she goes to premieres and other events.”

Magnusson collects fashion designer Barbie dolls as a hobby.

She married Per Magnusson of Stockholm in 2007. Her husband is the CEO of D. Brand, a blue jean and sportswear company based in Sweden.

“It's very fun. We definitely critique what the other person is wearing,” said Magnusson. “He does more of the distribution and sales end, but it's very inspirational because we come from the same background. As a husband, he understands the hours you have to put in to make things work in this industry.”

Magnusson is working on her next collection for spring 2015.

Kaylie Harper is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.