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John Lamb, Published June 28 2010

Local designer Christelle Dominique to show at Atlanta fashion week

Calvin Klein. Michael Kors. Cole Haan. Dolce & Gabbana. MeJeanne Couture.

OK, that last name may not belong on this list of fashion luminaries – yet.

Christelle Dominique joins these powerhouses at Atlanta International Fashion Week in mid-July with her MeJeanne Couture line of clothes. She’ll arrive a relative unknown, but the Fargo designer hopes a turn on the catwalk launches her career.

Lofty goals for someone in her early 20s (she won’t say how old) and heading into her final year of college. Dominique studies apparel/textile at North Dakota State University and marketing at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Still, the designer was selected to take place in Atlanta’s biggest fashion event of the year July 13-18. She’ll close the afternoon shows of the 15th unveiling her 2010 fall line of cocktail dresses and evening wear.

“The first half of the collection brings you back to my country, how I see fall,” the native of Haiti explains. “Where I come from, there are no four seasons. It’s summer all the time.”

To reflect this, the colors in the first part are vibrant reds and purples.

“The second half is how I see fall now,” she says, describing how Fargo, to which she moved two years ago, has influenced her work. “People wear blacks and browns and earth tones.”

It’s her third show this year but her first outside of Fargo and likely her largest audience as she’s been told to bring 1,000 look books for guests.

In May, she showcased more than 20 selections of her spring collection at the Plains Art Museum’s Spring Gala. Earlier in the year, she was part of a fundraiser at ecce art + yoga to help her homeland shortly after the disastrous January earthquake.

Dominique had just returned to Fargo from a visit with her family in Port-au-Prince when a quake rocked the country of more than 9 million, killing at least an estimated 150,000.

It was days before she heard that her parents were OK, although their house was damaged. Still, Dominique lost friends in the disaster, and the trauma affected her studies.

She dropped her business classes – only to pick them up this summer – and focused on her fashion classes to help her through the tough times. She also helped with a clothing drive at NDSU and collected 52 boxes of garments to send to Haiti.

“It was a good feeling, knowing I was able to do something other than raise money,” she says.

She plans to return again this December but will forgo her annual fashion show there on the 27th.

“There are other priorities, more important things to focus on in Haiti,” she says.

For right now, she’s focused on finishing her work for Atlanta.

Unlike the Plains showcase, she’s only allowed 12 to 15 pieces.

While her spring work used chiffon and flowing textures, the fall look is satin and silk dupioni.

Ideally she’d sell her dresses in Atlanta, make good business contacts and catch the eye of a celebrity.

“So I can dress someone for some award show,” she says with a smile.

Her work has already caught the eye of a celebrity – at least a local one.

Mrs. North Dakota International 2010 Shelly Gompf is having a MeJeanne Couture original gown made for her competition in the Mrs. International Pageant in Chicago.

“Her designs are unique. They provide an individual style to fit the contour of the body,” Gompf says, explaining why she was attracted to Dominique’s work.

Gompf was particularly impressed with the designer’s attentiveness to her needs as Gompf talked about her life and her need to merge her own style sense, which she calls “corporate America,” with runway fashion.

Gompf’s pageant is the same time as Atlanta’s fashion week, meaning the young designer could be making heads turn in two places at once.

“I think great things will happen after Atlanta. I think it will be a new era for me,” Dominique says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533