The Moment: First Lady Michelle Obama has done wonders for promoting young designers around the world by wearing an enormous range of labels and looks during her years in the White House, but her latest discovery may be the heretofore least-known yet.
"Incredible, wonderful, overwhelming, I'm just so honored," says Natalya Koval, a 29-year-old design student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, shortly after her dress was worn by Obama this week during a Celebration of Design event at the White House. As part of the First Lady's Reach Higher initiative for students, several at FIT participated in a design competition to create that outfit she ultimately wore during the educational program, which was attended by dozens of international designers. Koval's winning dress was a fit-and-flare dress made of two tones of blue, in hammered satin and four-ply silk crepe."Standing in the great hall, here she walks in wearing my dress, and she just looked so graceful that I wanted to cry," Koval says. "It was such a rewarding feeling. I can't even describe with words how it felt."
In fact, when the FIT students were first approached about the design competition in July, they did not know for whom they were designing. The assignment was to create a look for a "very high-profile person, with a certain description of what the dress should be like," Koval says. "Not too short, not too long, not too conservative, but not too revealing; classic, but modern."
The first person that came to her mind? Michelle Obama. Working with the designer Lela Rose to produce her dress, and later informed that her instincts were correct, Koval created a look that was right in Obama's comfort zone.
Why It's a Wow: Don't expect Koval to become a household name overnight. Her priority now, she said, is to finish her studies at FIT. Having emigrated from the Ukraine in 2005, Koval says her aspiration has been to work in design. (She completed an associate's degree in May and began the bachelor program in September.) Expect big things.
"Besides designing fashion for women of different shapes and sizes, and making them more comfortable in their own skin, I also want to make a difference," Koval says. "I want to make clothing in a more sustainable way. This is my goal — to find how I can differentiate myself and stand out from all the other designers."
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