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LAURIE UNDERWOOD/FASHION DESIGNER

LAURIE UNDERWOOD/FASHION DESIGNER

Detroit’s own Laurie Underwood flaunted her roots on this past season of Project Runway, aired this past August.

Underwood graduated from Cass Technical High School in Midtown in 2003 and studied fashion illustration and design.

“That is definitely one of my proud attributes of who I am. I am a proud alumni,” she said.

Underwood has since moved to Chicago and that’s where she’s been for the past 10 years, working on her brand, marketing and raising her six-year-old daughter.

Wanda Grace, Underwood’s brand, got its name by way of confident creative collision.

“My middle name is Wanda. I never liked the name and I wanted a line that said Laurie Underwood without saying Laurie Underwood,” she said.

She decided to create her brand around the middle name she came to appreciate and another word she could describe herself and her brand embodiment by.

“Wanda is your edgy, stand-out while your Grace is your feminine, sophisticated fit-in,” said Underwood.

Underwood grew up in a single family home with two sisters and although her mom had her hands full and a smaller wardrobe, her shoe collection racked up into the 100s.

One day Underwood’s mother came home with tickets for her and her sisters to go see the Ebony Fashion Fair and it was an experience that still sticks with her to this day.

“As much as everybody wants to have their own style, they all want to look the same way,” she said. “A lot of us are not standing out so much and that was the basis of my line.”

From visits to New York City, Detroit and Chicago and a general view of fashion in media, Underwood realized many people grab on tight to fashion trends and not so much style itself.

“Fashion to me is just an accessory of your style,” she said.

“As a designer, I want people to get excited about dressing up again.”

Underwood wants to generate clothing that encompasses more than style- she wants to give her women confidence and the drive to be bold and daring.

“You should let your style be an extension of yourself,” she said.

Throughout her time designing and working with her line, friends and family of Underwood would always tell her she should be on Project Runway.

Underwood would receive emails from their casting quite often but she always pushed it to the back of her mind because of everything else she had on her plate. Plus, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go the reality TV route.

Along with Underwood’s design business, she also had a corporate job as a marketing coordinator.

One day this year, Underwood was sitting at her desk and wondered what she was doing there. Designing was her true calling and she decided passion was more important than what she was doing.

“I have this passion and what’s the point of having a passion if you can’t do it?,” she said.

Project Runway Casting sent her another email and she responded without even thinking about it.

“I definitely believe in speaking power into your life,” she said.

Underwood was back visiting in Detroit this May and helps her mother market for her nonprofit teen organization here, Me, Myself & I, a teen girl’s seminar.

“I am so proud of what the city is doing and I am still proud to say I’m from Detroit,” she said.

“Detroit produced me.”

Learn more about Underwood’s brand, Wanda Grace, at www.wandagrace.com and tune into Lifetime on Aug. 6 at 8/9 c to follow Underwood on her reality TV journey on Season 14 of Project Runway.

Written by Erica N. Rakowicz / Photo credit: Facebook