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Columbia Native Becomes Successful New York Fashion Designer

By Zola Heck
annstone mj2

Photos By Ann Stone And Madelyn Jones

You never know what the beginning of an amazing career will be. For Ann Stone, the lead designer of the Michael Kors Runway team in New York City, her journey from her roots in Columbia to the bustling world of New York City’s fashion started from scrap fabric, glue, doll clothes and presents from her parents. “I remember hot gluing scrap fabric together to make doll clothes and drawing stick figure families where I was more focused on what the outfits looked like than if the faces or heads were drawn,” Stone says.

young ann stone

Once in school, Stone says two teachers from the Columbia Independent School and Rock Bridge High School, Anne Jacobson and Abbey Trescott, helped her find her true calling. “Both pushed my traditional art skills, which I feel ultimately made me a better designer. Rather than focusing on sketching and making garments, I explored other mediums and was able to see the potential of art and design.”

After a lengthy internship, Stone knew she wanted to study art and design, and thanks to the support of her parents, she was able to pursue her dream at Parsons School of Design in New York City. At Parsons, Stone’s creative process evolved through hands-on experiences and exposure to diverse influences, ultimately preparing her for the dynamic world of high fashion.

stone at parsons

Fast forward to today. Stone is living out her childhood dream holding the esteemed position of lead designer, reporting directly to Michael Kors himself. “Michael is entirely self-made, so he values hard work and respects what designers do at all levels,” she says. “Michael made me feel important and seen.” Stone oversees every aspect of design, from the initial concept to the final runway presentation.

michael kors

Her creative process is a meticulous journey that spans months, from sketching initial ideas to collaborating with a team to bring those visions to life. “We usually sketch about 1,000 ideas, which are then edited down to 100. From there, technical specs for how the garments will be constructed are sent to our factory in Italy for prototyping. Once the prototypes are done, we travel to Milan to review and fit the garments,” Stone says. “This is the point for me where I really see our designs come to life.”

runway

Stone says her designs focus more on functionality and purpose over pure aesthetics. Thanks to a saying from her father in college, Stone asks one important question when designing a line. “How can I design in a way that makes someone’s day easier, or how can I assist the customer in achieving their goals through dress practice?”

Along with runway design, Stone also gets to spend part of her career involved in the Met Gala, where she and her team create show-stopping looks aligned with the event’s thematic elements. “The process of designing for Met is much different than Runway and is a bit more fun,” Stone says. “We usually dress about seven celebrities for the carpet, and it is exciting to see how our interpretation is similar or different to that of other designers in the industry.”

ashley park 2023

Beyond her professional achievements, Stone encourages everyone to embrace their creativity, emphasizing that artistic expression is a universal gift. “If you can let go of the perfection and just have fun with it, you will see just how creative you are,” Stone says. And that creativity can be exactly what you need to reach your dreams, just as Stone went from Columbia to the epicenter of fashion, with a little bit of passion and mentorship along the way.

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