Laura Lanzerotte '12

As a student at tight-knit Central Catholic High in Bloomington, Ill., Laura Lanzerotte dreamed of rubbing elbows with Chicago’s State Street fashion elite.

After crossing the Commencement stage at Dominican University in May of 2012, State Street is just the starting point in the career of one of Chicago’s most promising young designers.

Lanzerotte, who graduated with a double major in apparel merchandising and apparel design with a double minor in graphic design and business administration, has sewn up some of the city’s most prestigious fashion honors.

She took second place at the 11th Annual Driehaus Design Initiative, the city’s top runway competition for up-and-coming designers. She also was named a finalist for the prestigious Stanley Paul Scholarship from the Apparel Industry Board and netted Outstanding Individual Design and Distinguished Senior Apparel Designer awards at Dominican’s own Mirage Fashion show. She also is a two-time finalist in the Fashion Group International Design competition.

“Growing up I was always the child who wanted to try everything. I was a dancer for 15 years, I played piano, I was in martial arts, I was a varsity athlete, I drew, painted, did ceramics,” Lanzerotte says. “It wasn't until high school where my interest in fashion sprung and I realized that I could express myself creatively through designing clothes.”

Her search for a top-tier fashion program at a university with a close, collaborative environment led her to Dominican. The school’s proximity to Chicago, just minutes from downtown, was also a draw.

With encouragement from her professors and a lot of determination, Lanzerotte set out to learn both the creative skills and business acumen needed to succeed in the fashion world.

“By my senior year of high school, I only knew how to sew a pair of pajama pants from a commercial pattern, but I knew this was something I wanted to pursue and went at it full force,” she says. “I love Dominican's fashion program. The classes are small, which allowed me to have more time with my professors for help. They always encouraged me to push my creativity and really cared to see me succeed.”

She credits Tracy Jennings, professor of apparel design, with pushing her to get her designs in front of some of the city’s biggest fashion names.

“When a student works so diligently designing and constructing a garment, the design is often regarded as just an assignment for a class. It is sometimes hard to see the big picture and how a design can make an impact in contexts other than the classroom. In Laura's case, her garments were impeccable and ready for presentation,” Jennings says. “Students are encouraged to enter into competitions, because it is always a learning experience. The feedback that they receive from industry professionals helps students define their design voice and become better designers.”

After graduating, Lanzerotte started a full-time job with Benefit Cosmetics at the iconic Macy’s store on State Street, where she hopes to gain experience collaborating with professionals and clients to inform her future work as a designer. She’ll also continue to build up her portfolio and garment collections in preparation for graduate school—possibly abroad.

She also plans to apply to the Chicago Fashion Incubator, a selective program housed at Macy’s that provides young designers with resources, workspace, showroom, curriculum, and mentoring needed to grow their establish their own lines.

Designers Concetta Cipriano ’07, Erika Neumayer ’09 and Miriam Cecilia Carlson ’09 were previously selected for the Incubator Program and have since launched successful lines.

“Laura is extremely talented, and she is a quick learner. More than that though, she has passion and motivation. These two character traits are common among apparel majors and make it a pleasure for apparel faculty to teach our students,” Jennings says. “These traits carry the students through many hours in the fashion lab, semester-long design courses, and they also serve the students when they enter into careers in the apparel field.”

Lanzerotte’s collection of luxurious gowns has earned her the highest praise from the fashion industry, but her portfolio showcases a wide variety of apparel, including hats, retro swimsuits and a burgeoning interest in couture.

“One of my professors told me ‘I have a feeling we will be hearing and seeing a lot of you. Your designs are beautiful,’” Lanzerotte said. “My professors are my biggest fans!”

Chances are it won’t be long before they have competition for that honor.