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Behind the KSOF Fashion Shoot


Article by Karen Kwong

Photography by Karen Kwong & Provided

I had the opportunity to photograph Karen's School of Fashion (KSOF) "Designers of the Year" showcase. Models from Barbizon of Red Bank were invited to be in the photoshoot wearing the designs.

The photoshoot took place inside the beautiful Princeton University campus. The school has two winners this year - Cori and Reeba, and each winner brought 5 designs to this event.

I am blown away by the talents of each designer and model. They are a group of motivated young girls with great passions in life and actively pursuing their dreams.

Meet the KSOF "Designers of the Year"

Above: KSOF "Designer of the Year" Cori LaVigne with the models in her designs

Cori is 15 years old and has been designing for the last 8 years. She has always shown interest in design, and a close friend of her had recommended that she attend Karen’s classes. She started soon after and absolutely loved it right from the start. Cori has been awarded "Designer of the Month" by KSOF prior to receiving this "Designer of the Year" title.

Her collection was inspired by the timelessness of fashion. What’s popular today may not be what’s considered to be “in” next month, but it always comes back. Hence why she used fabrics like leather, wool, houndstooth and silk and designs like bustier tops, blazers and jackets with lapels. They all seem to stay relevant and appeal to many different crowds.

As classic as I tried to keep these garments, I also wanted to add some modern features to them. For example, the tan, wool and silk bustier top was lined with silk binding at the princess, side and back seams to highlight the seams on the top and add a more fitted and caged appearance to the bodice. Similarly, the houndstooth jacket had a leather collar while the navy blue and black cropped blazer had leather trim for an edgy, modern twist on a rather traditional piece. - Cori
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Above: Cocktail dress with a silk, black bustier top - by Cori

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Above: Navy blue, rayon, paper bag skirt with a slit at the princess seam paired with a tan wool and silk, light champagne colored bustier top with silk binding at the seams - by Cori

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Above: Black and white houndstooth jacket dress with a houndstooth lapel and leather collar - by Cori

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Above: Tan, wool vest with a wool collar and silk lapel - by Cori

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Above: Navy blue and black cropped blazer with a wool lapel and collar, puffed sleeve and leather trim around the bottom and sleeve - by Cori

Dressing the models at the shoot was so fun! Seeing my designs come to life and being worn was an absolutely incredible experience and reminded me of how much I love what I do. - Cori

Above: KSOF "Designer of the Year" Reeba with the models in her designs

Reeba describes herself as a first generation Latina-American woman. She just turned 20 years old on the day of the photoshoot, and is a Junior in college pursuing a degree in Fashion Studies. She has been awarded "Designer of the Month" twice by KSOF prior to receiving this "Designer of the Year" title. She was the first designer within Karen's school to be awarded. She also has a small Etsy shop.

Reeba got into fashion design because of her Grandma.

I was always more into the arts then academics in school. It came easier to me which initially drew me to it and I stayed actively apart of it due to the creativity I was able to express. When I was getting closer to graduating I needed to find something to pursue in a creative field and around this time was when my Grandma passed away. Silver lining to this unfortunate event though was the fact that I was able to learn more about her story and how she made it in America. I always noticed that she had two industrial sewing machines in her basement but I don't remember her ever sewing. Turns out she used to create clothing for dolls and was able to start a small business. These stories made me want to learn how to sew to be closer with her, and I happened to become really passionate about it! I love to learn the ins and outs of the industry as well as garment construction and design from all different places.  - Reeba

For this mini collection Reeba was inspired to create hybrid animal characters initially. Once those sketches where done, she made them into human characters, and used the animal design as the inspiration for what the humans would wear. 

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Above: Cropped white faux fur shirt and quilted skirt combo, inspired by a lion and the power they are associated with - by Reeba

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Above: Light tan dress with gold vines, cuffed bishop sleeves and ruffles along the hem of the dress, with brown scales print overskirt, inspired by vintage dresses from the 1950s or 60s, and loosely inspired by the Greek story of Arethusa - by Reeba

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Above: Asymmetrical dyed wrap dress with faux fur, inspired by the rosy maple moth and a specific street fashion subculture called Lolita fashion created and popularized in Japan - by Reeba

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Above: Natural print romper inspired by the sea and the jellyfish that live in it - by Reeba

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Above: Orange corduroy jumpsuit with royal blue shirt - by Reeba

Due to everything that was going on with COVID and classes being transferred online, Karen and Cori hadn't actually seen my entire collection until the day of the mini fashion show! It was so funny to see their reactions to everything brought together. It was so amazing to work with them both. The three of us spent the day before working on last minute additions all day and I even pulled an all nighter the night before. It was worth it though ! - Reeba

Meet the Models

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Above: Model Skylar

Skylar is Cori's best friend and the dress that she was modeling happened to fit her perfectly. Cori therefore invited Skylar to come to the shoot and model with the rest of the girls. Skylar has never modeled before. She truly enjoyed this wonderful experience.

All of the girls were amazing to work with. They were all so nice and welcoming. - Skylar
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Above: Model Amanda

Amanda is 17 years old and loves everything to do with fashion whether it be modeling, designing, or just studying red carpet looks. She got into modeling through Barbizon of Red Bank, where she learned the skills to pose in photos and on a runway. Her biggest accomplishment regarding modeling so far has been walking in Atlantic City Fashion Week earlier this year.

It was so much fun to be apart of a real runway show and have the opportunity to work with upcoming designers, some of which inspired me in my designing as well. Modeling has helped me to appear more professional, as my posture and walk are much better. - Amanda
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Above: Model Kayla

Kayla is very passionate about love and respect for other people. A big focus for her right now has been self-love/self-care. With her life Kayla was never 100% sure what she wanted to do, but in her mind it was always going to be some form of entertainment/creative field. After she took classes at Barbizon of Red Bank for a couple of months, she felt like a new person - she was more confident and slowly came into who she really was. One of Kayla's big achievements was walking in Atlantic City Fashion Week. That was the first fashion show she has ever walked in and she loved every second - something she would probably never forget across her whole career.

Modeling has actually been an amazing growing experience. From simply learning how to walk in high heels to learning how to present myself in front of people has been a step in the right direction. And the classes I took at Barbizon of Red Bank played a major role in that. - Kayla
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Above: Model Abigail Borrelli

Abby is a high school Sophomore. Aside from modeling she is a performer. She is a proud member of The RockNRoll Chorus which is a professional accapella group that performs all over New Jersey in the school year and has a two week long national tour in the summer. She is also a part of the Rising Stars program in her high school, through which she is simultaneously working toward her high school diploma and her associates degree with Brookdale Community College. This multi-talented young lady is also an actress and always take part in her school productions.  

Abby got into modeling in the beginning of 8th grade. She always loved the idea of fashion and it was something she was always interested in. When she was younger she wanted to be a seamstress like her Grandmother and she went to Karen's School of Fashion for a while. As she got older she realized she wanted to be on the other side of it. Eventually she signed up for Barbizon and did their first round of classes. She immediately fell in love with modeling. Some of her modeling achievements include New York Fashion Week, getting cast in this year's Ready to Wear, and Atlantic City Fashion Week.

Modeling has had a very positive impact on my life and on myself. It has helped not only my confidence but has taught me how to present myself. Attending classes at Barbizon of Red Bank taught me much more than how to walk on a runway and look good in pictures. It taught me how to survive in a professional atmosphere, how to prepare for situations, how to carry myself to give a mature and professional impression to others. [Their] classes taught me how to properly behave and how to succeed in both modeling and other careers. I have been able to take the information I learned there and use it in many aspects of my life. I've used it to succeed in interviews, earn the respect from others, to give respect to others, to land jobs, honor those I work for, be professional in RockNRoll Chorus even though I was the youngest in the cast for over a year, and overall come off as a put together mature individual. Modeling makes me feel confident and it helps me meet other talented, like minded people. It is really fun for me and I get to help other people's careers at the same time.  - Abby
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Above: Model Abigail Mor

Abi is currently a cosmetology student. She was born and grew up in the United States, but speaks, reads, and writes Hebrew fluently because her parents immigrated from Israel. She is from a big loud family, and was raised along with 4 other siblings who she absolutely adore. She has always found passion and interest in the modeling industry and especially in hair and makeup.

Abi got involved in modeling in 2017. She was walking through her county fair when she was approached by a Barbizon representative. Soon after she began to attend modeling and personal development classes at Barbizon of Red Bank.

Barbizon gave me a lot of opportunities to model in different settings and forms. I got to meet a lot of new friends and people who I could network with, exchanges tips and stories. I’ve had a lot of fun experiences through modeling. Modeling has really impacted my life and helped me grow as a person and become the young lady I am today. It helped me break out of my shell and become more outgoing. It helped me with self-confidence and I learned how to talk to people and how to speak publicly and present things to a large audience. Getting involved with Barbizon of Red Bank really changed me and educated me on such a wide range of important life skills. I honestly wouldn’t be half the person I am today without their help and guidance. - Abi
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Above: Model Brianna Kruzinski

Brianna is 18 years old and she has been modeling for 3 years now and enjoyed every single minute of it. She first started modeling when she was 16 years old. One of her Mom’s coworkers who had worked at Barbizon was a model and she told Brianna that she should start looking into modeling. Brianna and her Mom were at the Ocean County Mall when they saw Jackie, who was representing Barbizon while Macy’s was doing a fashion show for prom. Brianna decided then and there that she wanted to give it a try. She wanted to go to Barbizon to gain more confidence in the first place, but after taking the classes that helped her better herself as a person, Brianna knew she wanted to get into modeling right away. After graduating, Brianna was offered amazing opportunities such as walking in Fashion Week, working for print, etc. She also got to work with many amazing designers and photographers.

Modeling had a great impact on my life. If I didn’t go to Barbizon, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Going to Barbizon made me a better person and helped me gain more confidence. I was bullied for half my life and I lost most of my confidence. Barbizon helped me step by step gain my confidence back. Thank you to the director and all instructors that got me here and helped me become successful in my upcoming career. - Brianna

About Barbizon Red Bank

After hearing all these wonderful testimonials about Barbizon Red Bank, I reached out to their executive director Mary DeMont to learn more about their program.

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Above: Mary DeMont, Executive Director, Barbizon of Red Bank

Most people think of Barbizon as a modeling agent because they are world famous for working with and preparing aspiring models, actors, and entertainers. Many are not aware that Barbizon is also the industry leader in personal development.

Barbizon of Red Bank has been in operation for 51 years with client base in their 3rd generation. Mary takes pride in the personal development program the Red Bank location offers, through which a young person can receive coaching in building self-esteem, navigating through the difficult preteen and adolescent years, preparing for a college interview, or even entering the labor force.

The personal development program is particularly beneficial for youth's overall mental well-being during the Pandemic as kids become less social. Barbizon of Red Rank offers both Zoom and in-person classes following COVID-19 safety protocols.

Whether you are walking down the runway in a fashion show or the runway of your life, Barbizon Red Bank is an investment in your future no matter what you choose to do! - Mary

About KSOF - Karen's School of Fashion

Karen Elizabeth Lozner is a Mother, wife and designer / creator of Karen Elizabeth Couture NYC and founder / instructor of Karen’s School of Fashion. Born and raised in NYC, Karen is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology studying Fashion Design and Production Management and has experience working for DKNY. 

I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur when I was 10 years old. I learned the struggles, hard work and gratification that accompanied owning a business from my parents and grandparents. They were owners of a grocery store, a boutique, a real-estate agency and residential buildings in New York City. Because of that exposure, I understood at a young age what it takes to own a business. I have a fashion design degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology, a passion for helping people and a small family business background. It was a no-brainer for me to open an atelier, Karen Elizabeth Couture, as well as a fashion design school business to combine all the things that I love. My journey is extensive as I plan to grow as a entrepreneur, designer and teacher. I plan to extend my professional design services to young designers who need help in the industry in NYC & NJ. In addition, help my students by spreading the love of fashion and helping them grow as young designers of the future. - Karen
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Above: Karen Elizabeth Lozner

Karen’s School of Fashion offers fun and innovative Fashion Design, Fashion Camp and Sewing Classes. The design school offers fashion classes in sketching, draping, sewing, pattern making, accessory and textile design. The school also offers a Fashion Runway program that allows students to participate in the Annual Fashion Show at the end of the program.

Impacted by COVID-19, their 2020 Fashion Show "“Kings, Queens, Astrology during the Renaissance” has been postponed for May 2, 2021. The show would showcase Karen Elizabeth Couture and KSOF student designers' work.

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Above: Design by Karen Elizabeth Couture

Karen brought to the photoshoot one of the designs she did for this year's Fashion show. The design is inspired by the beautiful era of the Renaissance. Karen is obsessed with the story of Marie Antionette, Luis XV1, astrology and the medieval architecture. She wanted to create a collection of evening dresses that would tie in with nature and blend into a luxurious work of art. The fabric print was from a painting that she commissioned artist, Laura Angress of Murals by Laura, for her previous fashion show.

Looking Forward

This collaborative fashion shoot opened up my eyes to these quality enrichment programs around me that are designed for preteens and teens, and led by talented, passionate, and dedicated entrepreneurs. As a parent I am so appreciative of these excellent opportunities available for the youth. My older two daughters are in their preteen age and I understand the struggle of parents with kids in that development stage. My middle daughter is a student at KSOF. The student designers work really serve as great inspirations for her. She sets her goal to be a student designer at KSOF going forward. And I recently enrolled both of them in Barbizon of Red Bank's personal development program. They have attended two classes so far and absolutely love it.

The designers and the models all have great plans laying out for themselves.

Cori plans to continue attending KSOF for the next two years, and eventually studying fashion design in college. Her dream is to design for a big designer company one day, one with a style she would find admirable and can relate to. 

Reeba is really interested in pursuing a career in costume design and she wants to be able to create costumes for film, television or even cosplays for people going to conventions. 

Amanda would like to continue to model for as long as she can, saying yes to as many opportunities as she can, and continue to learn and grow in anyway she can in the fashion industry.

Kayla's goal is to be a full time model and as long as possible. Her big picture is not only to have that top spot as a model, but to show girls who look like her with curly hair and dark skin that beauty is not one look, that beauty comes in every skin tone.

Abby would love to keep doing what she is currently doing with respect to modeling. She loves the freedom of being able to accept jobs, honor those jobs, promote those jobs, and still do other things. She would love to get more freelance jobs with more talented people to expand her portfolio, and would love to work more with print work in the future while doing the occasional runway.  

Abi would like to continue modeling and hopefully get signed to a big agency and really get out there and become more well known in the industry when she gets older. 

Brianna is studying at Ocean County College and hoping to transfer somewhere to follow her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. She still would like to keep modeling in her life.

We wish them nothing but the best!

Mary's headshot is provided by her. All other pictures in this article are captured by Karen the author.

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