Senior Lennah Cardozo pops her earphones in, takes a look at her detailed sketchbook of designs, colors and fabric, then lays her pattern out. She knows she has to accomplish a geometric skirt today in order to get her designs ready for her Parsons early-action college application due Nov. 1.
A year ago Cardozo was a sophomore trying to figure out who she was and what her artistic path was. She never expected to be working on college applications as a 16-year-old, when she had struggled with her identity for years. After a long time of feeling like an outsider and dealing with self-doubt, Cardozo used fashion to find herself and pursue her dreams of having a successful clothing brand or designing costumes for theater.
“I realized I would never be like anyone else, and that was hard for me because I always had to compare myself to others to get a view of who I actually am,” Cardozo said. “That really hurt growing up because instead of figuring out who I was, I would think, ‘I was like her, and a little bit like this girl but never really me.’”
After sewing for the first time in fashion club last year, Cardozo realized making clothes was her dream. She’s always had a unique point of view that she expresses through her appearance: dying her hair over five colors: from flaming red to mint green and doing her own personal research projects on other cultures to incorporate in her style. She realized that the individuality she puts into fashion is something she could turn into a career.
To prepare for her future and college applications for schools in cities such as New York and London, Cardozo has been immersing herself into various clothing projects to elevate her portfolio. This summer, Cardozo was also hired as an intern with nationally-recognized fashion designer Peggy Noland, who has designed for Sia and Miley Cyrus. Cardozo was Noland’s first high school intern. Cardozo has learned to push her own boundaries from the experience.
“[Noland] really showed me that you can design your own things without it having to be all cookie cutter and she showed me how to embrace a more creative side to myself,” Cardozo said.
Cardozo has implemented Noland’s avant-garde take on clothing into the vision she hopes to have with her own work. She makes clothes with cheetah print lips, “Kill Bill’ inspired jumpsuits and layered geometrical skirts that are almost costumes – all a reflection of herself.
“I enjoy mystery, something always new and changing since I am always changing,” Cardozo said. “Whether it’s my hair or the way I talk, I always pick up on new things. I just have such a weird mindset that I think of something and want it to happen, it’s my way to share my point of view.
Cardozo knew that she wanted to graduate early to accomplish her goals instead of spending another year in classes that didn’t further her along her career path. To graduate early Cardozo took two online classes and a year of English over the summer. It was people like former drawing teacher Tim Rowland who believed in Cardozo that gave her the confidence to take this leap. He was one of the only teachers Cardozo felt she could talk to when she was feeling alone, and also supported her creativity.
“[Cardozo] was a great student for me,” Rowland said. “Our relationship came easy because she loved art. I encouraged her to go beyond her greatest artistic efforts and she always accepted my challenges without hesitation and surpassed my expectations.”
Having this support helped Cardozo have the confidence to graduate early and move. Even though Kansas City has an upcoming fashion scene, Cardozo feels like, to really learn fashion, one has to go to a city were the fashion world is established and thriving.
Aimee Johnston, Cardozo’s mom, was nervous, but excited for her daughter to leave her daughter to take chances. This support has helped Cardozo to take her own advice of being fearless by taking a chance and moving to a big city next year.
“I have to admit, I was a little taken back by her wanting to graduate early, but when I think about it, it doesn’t surprise me at all,” Johnston said. “[Cardozo] has always been a girl that knows what she wants, and if she is not afraid to go for it, then I am behind her 100 [percent].”
Even though it’s scary for Cardozo to take a path that differs from her peers, she knows that
her confidence and likable personality will help her achieve her dreams and continue to further her journey toward self-love. Cardozo is thankful for the times she’s felt alone and the hard work she has put in, because it has only made her believe in herself more.
“Lennah will do amazingly well, as long as she believes in herself and works as hard as she can to attain everything she wants,” Rowland said. “I believe in her. More importantly, so does she.”