Latina-Lebanese designer Mariana Valentina will make her runway debut this week. (Photo/Courtesy Rob

New York Fashion Week: Newcomer Mariana Valentina makes runway debut

The clothes are characterized by their sexy design, accentuated by sophisticated, fluid lines that bring to mind the warm, sensual Mediterranean climate and the enduring elegance of some of fashion’s most revered icons.

“I design for the woman who wants to feel powerful and wants to stand out in a crowd – she’s different in a very unusual, but feminine sense,” says designer Mariana Valentina. “I’m creating clothes that are sensual and romantic, but allow its wearer to project their character in a timeless way.”

For the 26-year-old, the opportunity to showcase ten original dresses on the runway for NOLCHA – an award-winning event in its fifth year showcasing independent fashion designers during New York’s legendary Fashion Week – is a chance to step into the spotlight as an up and coming fashion designer.

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Mariana Valentina’s collection features a variety of sexy, feminine styles with timeless appeal. (Photo/Courtesy Mariana Valentina)

“The vision I have for my dresses is also a reflection of my personality; the woman I’ve always wanted to be,” says Valentina, who was born in New York City but spent her childhood traveling between South Hampton, New York and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her father, whose landscaping business brought him stateside, influenced his daughter with his love for balanced design. And so Valentina, as the artistic eldest of three sisters, gained an eye for fashion and quickly grew to prefer watching the Paris fashion shows on television over cartoons.

“Being an artist is something I’ve always been at my very core,” says Valentina, who gave up a ballet scholarship to study textiles and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Armed with excellent sewing skills that she learned from her grandmother,  Valentina threw herself in her studies. With the goal of learning the ropes of the industry before venturing out in her own following graduation, the designer worked her way through a number of entry-level fashion jobs before landing a position as a stylist at Diane Von Furstenberg.

“In those three years after graduation, I just wasn’t happy,” recalls Valentina, who draws inspiration from her ballerina days and uses plenty of airy fabric and costume-like details in her designs. “I was getting to the point where I knew I had to give it all up and design full-time.”

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Elements of Valentina’s ballet background and global influences come alive in her evening wear designs. (Photo/Courtesy Mariana Valentina)

By chance, the designer broke her ankle while opening a pop-up shop for DVF in South Hampton, New York – an unlucky incident which provided her the opportunity to leave her job and design her very first collection, which will be shown this week.

“I have my fiery Argentinean side, my father’s character which is entirely Sicilian and a bit of Lebanese thanks to my maternal grandfather,” says the self-professed travel enthusiast who counts Queen Rania of Jordan and Sofia Loren as her fashion icons. “Those are all global influences that emerge in my collection.”

And although Valentina is thrilled for the opportunity to showcase her evening wear during NOLCHA, she has lofty dreams beyond the cat walk at Fashion Week.

“I can see myself branching out and designing lingerie and contemporary looks, maybe even men’s wear,” she says.

“Bloomingdale’s, Saks and maybe even a store of my own one day – but wherever life takes me, I’m happy living my dream of being an artist.”

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