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SA designer — and cancer survivor — featured at NY Fashion Week

Photo: Bryan Rindfuss, License: N/A

Bryan Rindfuss

Hunter Cole and Dominique Babineaux in looks from Mandi Gallegos' Mikailee Alton Collection.

More than a month has passed since San Antonio fashion designer Mandi Gallegos showcased her Mikailee Alton Collection at New York City Fashion Week the second week of February as one of only 36 invited "emerging designers," but she says she has yet to wake from her dream. "Honestly, it still hasn't hit me," the energetic and dimpled Gallegos said recently. "Even during the show, I was like, 'I'm here, right? Is this real? I'm not dreaming?'"

The event, showcased in Manhattan's fashion district, coincided with the official Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and allowed up-and-coming designers to affordably present to industry professionals, investors, boutiques, buyers, and the media, among others. While the single mother of three boys was notified in mid-January that she'd been accepted, it was only a few years ago that she was given little reason to believe such a rich future lay ahead. In 2007, she was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer and began chemotherapy. From her hospital bed, she promised her parents that if she were to survive, she'd make them proud.

It was on walking out of her doctor's office that she spied a mannequin in a window display and got curious. "I walked in and the lady greeted me with, 'Welcome to the International Academy of Design and Technology.'" By the time the impromptu tour reached the second floor, she was in love. She began school the next week, while continuing to work full-time during the day as a purchasing agent. "I've pretty much been on the go since my last chemo treatment. I never looked back. I kept going," she told me proudly.

Her Mikailee Alton Collection features a unique array of dresses and skirts made in silk chiffon, baby silk, and bridal satin in colorful hues including burgundy, magenta, pink champagne, and teal. Most of the look's clean lines are accented with handmade burnt petals on the chest, back, and neck area, while jackets are made with narrow sleeves and flared trunks.

Fashion Week connected Gallegos with a possible investor and a Project Runway casting director, who promptly asked her to submit her work for consideration in the upcoming season. And while she is considering that invitation, she has her eyes set on producing a show in the city where all her dreams began: San Antonio. "I really think that having it here would be a blessing to me. If New York wants me, of course I'll go. But I would really love to show here, a really big collection."

With her illness in remission, the sky seems to be the limit.

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