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Emerging Designers

Quick link to the designers in this section:

  • Sonika Fourie (this page)
  • Juliana Costa
  • Trang Dang
  • Sandra Dressler
  • Adriana Castro
  • Sonika Fourie
    Senior, Ringling College of
    Art & Design, Sarasota

    > INTERIOR DESIGN

    As a youngster in South Africa, Sonika Fourie loved hanging out with her contractor dad on construction sites. "Our family is very into design and architecture," the 21-year-old says.

    Sonika Fourie
    Sonika Fourie [Photo: Mark Wemple]

    Fourie has excelled in her field of study and won a number of student competitions, the most prestigious of which is the 2010-11 Trustee Scholarship for Interior Design.

    She loves all aspects of design, from graphics to jewelry, and even has her own business, Liefde Handmade Rings (the name means "love" in Afrikaans), which are sold at two boutiques in downtown Sarasota.

    "My nature is that I love to learn new things, so I don't have one set direction that I am planning to go in," Fourie says. "But I do want to work with sustainable and green design because I want to make a positive impact in whatever I do."

    A room by Sonika Fourie
    A room by Sonika Fourie

    » Next page: Juliana Costa

    Juliana Costa
    2006 graduate, Miami International

    Juliana Costa
    Juliana Costa with model Maria Smirnova
    [Photos: Anna Gunselman]
    University of Art & Design, Miami

    > FASHION DESIGN

    Designing ultra-feminine, vibrant dresses for two distinctly different markets is a skill Juliana "JuJu" Costa has mastered. The Miami-based designer, who grew up in Brazil, creates two collections each season using variations on the same patterns — one for her customers in Florida, where JuJu Costa dresses are sold in more than a dozen boutiques, and a more conservative version for her clients in Brazil. "They show more skin on the beach there, but not on the street," she explains. "It's tricky."

    Not too tricky for Costa, who received the Emerging Designer Award at Funkshion Fashion Week 2009.

    Her company, which has 15 employees, posted revenue last year of about $400,000. First-quarter 2010 sales totaled $300,000.

    Charlene Parsons, director of the fashion and accessory design program at MIU, says, "Nothing was ever too much for Juliana when she was in school. She always had drive and dedication but also both feet on the ground, knowing that it's all about the business of fashion to be successful."

    Maria Smirnova in Juliana Costa Maria Smirnova in Juliana Costa

    Above, and at right,
    Maria Smirnova
    models pieces
    in Costa’s
    collection.

    Maria Smirnova in Juliana Costa

    » Next page: Trang Dang

    Trang Dang

    Trang Dang
    Trang Dang [Photo: Mark Wemple]
    Senior, Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota

    > INTERIOR DESIGN

    Trang Dang's class assignment called for creating a pied-à-terre for a young businessman in Manhattan. Dang found inspiration in origami, and her project earned her the 2010 Donghia Award, a $30,000 scholarship that is awarded to only 12 out of 225 students who enter the contest.

    Dang, who left her native Vietnam at 15 to live as a student in the U.S., was eventually adopted by a couple in Sarasota. "My mom found Ringling. I visited the school and loved it," Dang says. Ringling's interior design department head, Norman Hervieux, says Dang was chosen to participate in the Donghia competition because, "We asked ourselves, ‘Could this nominee win?' And the answer was a unanimous yes." Hervieux says Dang's winning design is "truly brilliant."

    Room by Trang Dang
    Room design that won Trang Dang the 2010 Donghia Award.

    » Next page: Sandra Dressler

    Sandra Dressler
    Senior, Institute of Interior Design
    at Southwest Florida College, Bonita Springs

    Sandra Dressler
    [Photo: Brian Tietz]

    > INTERIOR DESIGN

    After a 35-year career as a graphic designer in the packaging and promotions department for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, Sandra Dressler switched course. Having fought two bouts with breast cancer, she decided to make some big changes: She relocated to Florida, and she went back to school to study interior design.

    "I've always had a knack for it," she says.

    Dressler took second place in Florida in the 2009 ASID Student Design Awards competition and has entered 2010's contest.

    "Sandra is one of my best students. She thinks outside the box and pushes all of her designs to the top," says Linda Petersen, director of design programs at the institute. "She can do research, write proposals, space plan, price and present incredible presentations. If I were still in business, I'd hire her in a minute."

    A room design by Sandra Dressler.
    A room design by Sandra Dressler.

    » Next page: Adriana Castro

    Adriana Castro
    2007 graduate, Miami International University of Art & Design, Miami

    > ACCESSORY DESIGN

    Juliana Costa
    Adriana Castro [Photo: Omar Cruz]
    Adriana Castro's career aspiration — to design crocodile handbags — can be traced back to her childhood and her father's crocodile farm in South America.

    Castro prepared for entrepreneurship by earning an economics degree at Purdue, then studying accessory design. In 2007, she won the GenArt Fresh Faces in Fashion Award for accessory design and launched her eponymous company, which posted revenue in the "mid-seven figures" last year and has 22 employees. In 2009, she won the Independent Handbag Designer Award for Audience Fan Favorite. But perhaps the most exciting of Castro's accomplishments is having celebrity style icons like Kim Kardashian and Eva Longoria carry her bags on the red carpet.

    Castro relies on the sights of south Florida to fuel her passion. "South Florida is color," she says. "I am in love with color. Miami is present in each of my collections."

    Castro purse Castro clutches

    Above, and at right,
    purses and clutches
    by Adriana Castro.

    Castro clutches