Hometown: Flint, Michigan
Major: Apparel Merchandising and Design
Minor: Graphic Arts
College: College of Education and Human Services
Graduated: May 2007
Kala Wilburn, aka, Tha Fashion Architect, didn't believe she could turn her hobby of making clothes into a career. Now, as CEO of Fannie Lucille, a maker of edgy and contemporary custom apparel and accessories, she's making designs for brands like Marc Ecko and Rocawear, the apparel collection by Jay-Z.
It all started shortly after coming to CMU in 2003. She originally had her mind set on helping others, like becoming a brain surgeon or physical therapist. But she often found herself stitching together something fun for girls' night out, or something to wear while working out at the Student Activity Center.
Her path was set with a study abroad experience at American Intercontinental University in London. She took classes from professionals in the industry and worked as a visual merchandiser for Jaeger, a clothing retailer for men and women in central London. A side trip to Paris on her 21st birthday provided further inspiration to the fashionista, as she started to make her own patterns, a skill she now uses every day.
"The experience helped me see that every creative has a voice to use in the fashion industry," she said. "You choose whether you will scream loud with your gifts or sit quietly."
Still passionate about lifting up others, the Flint, Michigan, native founded Fashion Against Violence, a nonprofit where she has taught more than 200 youths sewing and fashion illustration and helped more than 50 emerging designers maintain their businesses.
"We're all on this path of becoming," she said. "It's the relationships that I've built from my time at CMU that have helped me build a vision for own my business."