A fashionista among us: Local teen creates custom fashions from throwaway items

By Rebecca Long Pyper

What most folks treat as trash, Cartier Dior Eliasen sees as treasure.

She turns disposables and recyclables like sheet music, plastic and worn-out maps into fashion — and we’re not talking t-shirts here. Tax forms and Post-It Notes transform into formal dresses once she and her sewing machine get to them. It’s a hobby she adopted six years ago at age 9, her own little twist on haute couture. And she’s got big plans for the future.

“I hope to keep working on dresses and improving my skills. I am currently working on my fall/winter collection, which I plan to show at the Zonta Fashion Show in April,” said Eliasen, who uses just “Cartier Dior” as her professional name, for obvious reasons. “I plan on going to design school, and I would love to go to either Parsons School of Design or Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, both of which are in Paris. After that my dream would be to show at Paris Fashion Week.”

A Pocatellan at Paris Fashion Week? It would be a first, but this Highland High School freshman set her sights beyond the banal years ago. She began following fashion blogs (and producing her own) at age 11, when she started studying the work of designers like Valentino, Chanel and Dior. “I loved the dresses that I saw and thought it would be amazing to make something that looked as gorgeous as those dresses were. Taking inspiration from these designers improved my design aesthetic, and I started to make more intricate dresses than I did before.”

Yes, she was making dresses before age 11 because she already knew how to sew. Her grandma taught her while a grade-school girl, and she continued practicing her sewing the more she got into fashion design, relying on online tutorials to hone her skills. Nowadays she knows how to make her own patterns and what fabrics work best for specific applications.

She also has a few favorite muses, like Valentino and Zuhair Murad, and for recycled dresses she follows the work of Iris Van Herpen, who favors the use of plastic and 3D printing. “I also get quite a bit of inspiration from ‘Project Runway,’ of course,” she said.

Maybe entrepreneurship runs in her genes — both her parents have run their own businesses — but her father David Eliasen thinks the drive may have been sparked by her avid reading, a pastime she’s maintained since preschool. “She read a book one time and saw a quote in it she liked: ‘I don’t want to climb the ladder; I want to own the ladder,’ and that’s kind of been her motto,” he said, noting that she recently qualified for Business Professionals of America nationals with a fashion-based entrepreneurship she conceptualized.

While Eliasen has worked for years to develop her skills and her aesthetic, she said what she does isn’t beyond reach for other kids. “In order to be successful you have to be determined,” she said. “You have to keep trying, even if people say no. A dozen people may tell you no, but it only takes one person to say yes to take you in the direction you want to go.”

Determination and heart played a part in taking Eliasen to the Kids’ Fashion Rulz show in Boise last September; as a charity event, money raised was donated to a Boise girl suffering from the fatal Batten disease.

“It was her dream to be a supermodel, so the event was arranged to let her walk down the runway as a supermodel, all while raising money for her medical costs,” Eliasen said. “A ton of businesses, bloggers and designers got together to make the event a success. It was such a privilege to be part of such a great event and help someone’s dream come true.”

Regardless of whether or not fashion is the object of affection, Eliasen said it’s important for kids to celebrate their own interests. “You need to find and embrace your passion because it is your ticket to happiness in life. You shouldn’t pursue a career just because how it pays or because someone else wants you to,” she said. “You only have one life to live, so you should use it doing what you love.”


Want to be successful in your own skill set? Eliasen offers these suggestions for other kids:

1. Learn everything you possibly can. I’m constantly learning new things from a variety of different places. You always need to be improving and finding new ways to do things.

2. Market yourself. Get your talents out there for the world to see! You don’t need a lot of money to market yourself either. I use lots of social media to share photos of my dresses, and they have even been recognized by major brands, like Post-it and Seventeen Magazine.

3. Work, work, work. I work on my dresses every minute I possibly can. You have to be willing to put in large amounts of time and effort to reach your goals.

Catch glimpses of Eliasen’s latest work at her blog www.cartierandcompany.com. On the site you can also find contact information for collaborating on custom designs.

Photos by Jenny Losee

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