“I don’t follow what other designers are doing – I think a lot of them are doing the same thing,” says fashion designer Cecilia Cassini. “I create my own designs and create my own trends.”
Cassini isn’t a New York Fashion Week veteran of the traditional sort. At just 14 years old, the Encino, California native is a seasoned fashion designer who manages to get straight A’s while fashioning clothes for both Hollywood A-listers and the teen set. In fact, she’s been designing and making clothes since she was six years old – the first dress she cut up and made her own was a brand-new Betsey Johnson dress originally purchased for her older sister – and Cecilia “has been talking and thinking about clothes before she could even speak,” says mother Michelle De Castro Cassini.
“When she was a baby, she had an opinion on what color dress she wanted to wear,” recalls Michelle, a yoga instructor. “At two, she was using markers to paint her nails as a way to accessorize and by three, she was gluing macaroni to her dresses in patterns instead of on paper like the other kids in school.” Sure, dad Lionel is artistically inclined as a professional photographer, but “nothing could have prepared us for Cecilia’s love of fashion,” explains Michelle, who is half Panamian. “When her grandmother purchased her a sewing machine at age six, we thought it might end up in the garage one day. But she’s never stopped designing!”
And while that very first Betsy Johnson dress may have been revamped to fit tiny Cecilia with the help of pony tail holders and hemmed with hair clips, the incoming high school freshman is now an expert self-taught seamstress. She’s a normal kid – she’ll be a cheerleader this year and loves community service, for which she has received two national awards – but she’s also a young talent who has starred on the Style Network show “Confessions of a Fashionette.”
“I would say my clothes are very edgy and avant-garde,” says Cecilia, whose clothes have been sold at upscale clothing boutiques in the larger Los Angeles area. “I’m inspired by art and music. Even things like New York cabs inspire me.”
While the young fashion designer has lofty ambitions (“I want to become the next Coco Chanel, she says”) parents Michelle and Lionel have made sure that the 14-year-old is as grounded as possible. Cecilia donates the proceeds of her trunk sales to young children in need and says she loves dropping off original dresses to local homeless shelters and hospitals. And while Cecilia loves dressing normal girls (“they deserve to look good too,” she explains), she wants to become known as a designer to the stars. In fact, she already is, having designed clothes for pop culture icons like Taylor Swift and Sofia Vergara.
“I made her [Sofia] a very long, sexy long sequined gown,” recalls Cecilia, who was introduced to America on a TODAY Show profile when she was just ten. “It was black with red and black feathers – so beautiful.”
But you won’t catch Cecilia bragging about her celebrity fashion designer status with friends. Instead, Cecilia – who completes all her homework at school to make sure she can sew at home in her free time – says she prefers to keep her fashion design prowess quiet. But that’s just for now, as one day she intends to sell her clothes around the world with a brand as well-recognized as that of her role model Karl Lagerfeld.
“I know I can follow my dreams,” Cecilia says about achieving her goals one day. “And if I can, you can too.”