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Parker cummins

Parker Cummins, 15, designed his Charlotte Fashion Week dresses after flowers. This dress is inspired by a marigold.

MOORESVILLE – Parker Cummins and his mom, Melissa, both describe this last month as a “whirlwind.”

“It all went very fast,” Melissa said.

It all began when Parker, who is a 15-year-old rising junior at Pine Lake Preparatory School, decided to start on his senior project early.

As a longtime – and talented – art enthusiast with a budding interest in the fashion industry, Parker thought organizing a fashion show would be an interesting project idea.

“So I started with a few designs, and then my mom put my designs on Facebook, like she does with a lot of my other art,” Parker said.

Melissa, who taught at Pine Lake for 10 years, has several Facebook friends who are parents of her former students.

“And so they tagged me to their (personal Facebook) page, and their daughters have been involved in modeling in Charlotte Seen and Charlotte Fashion Week,” Melissa said. “So the owners of Charlotte Fashion Week and Charlotte Seen saw Parker’s work.”

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Parker cummins designing

Parker Cummins works on a dress for Charlotte Fashion Week.

Those owners then reached out to Parker and asked him to be an emerging designer in Charlotte Fashion Week, which will be held Sept. 25-29.

“And we just kind of looked at each other like, ‘What?’ We had no idea,” Melissa said.

That was in late July. Since then, Parker has been working with a local designer, Venancio “Veni” Tadeo, for three to four hours every day to get all of his pieces put together by Sept. 1, the runway show’s deadline.

“Two years got shrunk down to a month,” Parker said.

Parker didn’t know how to sew when he began designing his pieces – it’s one of the reasons he wanted to start his senior project so early.

But with the help of Tadeo, Parker has been learning to sew and is creating all of his own dresses.

“He usually starts something out. Like, if I don’t know how to do something, he’ll start it and then tell me to finish it,” Parker said of Tadeo. “So he’s definitely involved in the pieces, but he tries to make sure that I’m doing most of it so I can say that it’s mine.”

Parker’s designs are based on botanicals, with each being modeled after a different flower.

“It’s all stuff that I thought was cool or pretty and was like, ‘Woah, that would make a really cool dress.’ Or, ‘I can make a hat out of that,’” Parker said.

He grew up around his grandparents, who he and Melissa said had “green thumbs.”

“So I pretty much grew up helping them transplant and plant and learning about all the different flowers,” Parker said.

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veni and parker

Parker sews a dress while his mentor, Venancio “Veni” Tadeo, monitors his work.

Four dresses he’s made so far have been modeled after a marigold, baby’s breath, a rose and an iris.

With regard to the marigold dress, Parker said he was most inspired by the flower’s color.

“But I also wanted something that wasn’t going to be a normal dress,” Parker said. “Sort of avant-garde, like, weird fashion. So I thought if I got a bunch of petals and stuff and just built it up around certain areas that would sort of add on to the whole flower theme.”

Parker said that when Melissa first posted his designs on Facebook, he got mad at her.

“I wanted it to be a surprise for when I made it in two years,” Parker said. “But all of the sudden, this thing happened, and I got recognition for it.”

“So had I not put it up, he never would have been (recognized),” Melissa added.

Parker said he’s grateful to her now for posting his work online.

“But I can’t do it anymore,” Melissa said, laughing. “I’ve been told I cannot. Just because they don’t want it shown before it’s shown in the fashion show.”

Melissa said she’s happy to see how happy Parker seems when he’s designing his runway outfits.

“He hasn’t fit the mold of all of his peers,” Melissa said. “Like, they’re all in sports and everything like that, and he’s always loved art. That’s been his passion. … The bottomline is he really feels like he’s found a place that he fits in. It’s great to see him happy. He kind of sees a future where he could be in fashion design.”

Parker said he is happy to not feel like the “odd one out.” But, he said, in the “cut-throat” world of fashion, he imagines it will eventually get competitive.

“The designers that I have met are all really nice,” Parker said. “They talk to me about the stuff that I’m making. But I think once I’m more experienced and, I don’t know, maybe get higher up in the whole industry, then the competitiveness will increase and I’ll feel more pressure.”

But Parker said, so far, a career in fashion design feels like it fits him.

His pieces will be shown Sept. 28 during the Emerging and Recyclable Designer runway.

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