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San Diego Union Tribune

San Diego Union Tribune

San Diego Union Tribune
Fashion designer Nisha Hanna Btesh grew up in Del Mar and will be showing her clothes at New York Fashion Week on Friday. CREDIT: Academy of Art University 

 — Most fashion designers dream of one day showing their collection at New York’s Fashion Week. Nisha Hanna Btesh’s dream is coming true at age 23.

 The Del Mar-raised textile artist was one of just 13 students at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University Fashion School chosen to send clothes down a runway on Friday in Manhattan. The 2,500-student school selects just a handful of its MFA students for the honor each spring. Btesh is one of only two undergrads invited to participate this year, said Academy spokeswoman Jeanette Peach.

In an interview from New York on Tuesday, Btesh said she has been completely overwhelmed with emotions — a mix of excitement and trepidation — since she got the news two weeks ago.

“It’s exciting to see all of our hard work coming to life before our eyes. We’re just trying to stay in the moment and focus on the workload,” she said. “I’m so excited about it, but I can’t dance and raise my glass of Champagne until the show’s over.”

photoAn artist's rendering of the womens wear collection designed by Jaci Hodges and Nisha Hanna Btesh. CREDIT: Academy of Art University

Btesh grew up in an artistic family always surrounded by fabrics and computers. Her Yugoslavian mother is an interior designer. Her Panamanian father designs facial recognition software.

“As long as I can remember, I have been around a lot of prints in our house and I’ve always been influenced by colors, fabrics and designs,” she said. 

She started drawing in middle school and began making clothes when she got a sewing machine for her 16th birthday. She credits the arts teachers at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley, from which she graduated in 2009, with nurturing her interest in fashion. 

In her 4 1/2 years at the San Francisco fashion school, Btesh has created her own T-shirt line and designed and donated repurposed clothing for a Bay area charity auction.

The fashion line she’ll be showing in New York is a team project. Jaci Hodges of Austin, Texas, designed the dresses, tops, skirts and pants and Btesh created and dyed all of the fabrics. Btesh said Hodges’ “quirky, whimsical” clothes were inspired by the flower power-era clothing worn by Mia Farrow and the cast of “The Brady Bunch” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Btesh said her fabrics were inspired by her Panamanian heritage.

“I had the opportunity to visit Panama recently and I was inspired by the Kuna Indian women and their beads and colors and prints. I’m also a huge fan of Frida Kahlo and her big bold oversized prints,” Btesh said. “Jaci and I are coming from opposite ends of the spectrum but the clash of these two inspirations worked very well together.”

Btesh said it took her about four months to create her fabrics, which involved a dying and fabric manipulation process known as shibori (a complex form of tie-dye).

Btesh and Hodges are one of five teams (and three solo designers) exhibiting at tonight’s show, which will include eight collections. Among the designers are two students from China, two from Taiwan, one from Bosnia and one from Colombia. The show begins at 8 p.m. Friday at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week showcase at Lincoln Center. It can be seen live via webstream at 5 p.m. PST.

Btesh will graduate this spring and said she’s open to working in any number of industries — fabric design, fabric sourcing, home design or running her own fashion company.

“I’d love to live in New York or Europe, but I’ll go wherever work takes me,” she said. “I don’t have any limits set on where I can go with this.”