Design Connexion Takes Best Overall at FUSION+FASHION

IIDA Northland Chapter hosts 11th annual fashion show

(left) Callie Valtakis, runway model | Lori Balestri, lead designer | DCTC Design Connexion

Design Connexion, the Interior Design program’s student club at Dakota County Technical College, took Best Overall at the International Interior Design Association 11th Annual FUSION+FASHION fundraising event at The Depot in Minneapolis Friday, Oct. 15, 2010. Based on Project Runway, the  competition merges fashion with interior design with models showing off original-design dresses on a catwalk. Teams from such eminent firms and vendors as Perkins+Will, SmithGroup, Intereum and Prevolv competed against two teams from Design Connexion, which represented DCTC, the only college participating in the event.

Design Connexion’s teams each presented one of the two costumes that gave DCTC the Best Overall Award. Lori Balestri, 37, from Eden Prairie, Minn., was lead designer on one DCTC team, which included Kellin Cowles, Kate Stahler and Callie Valtakis, the latter the runway model who wore one of the winning costumes. Balestri started in the Interior Design program in fall semester 2010. She came to DCTC after experiencing firsthand the Haiti Earthquake in January the same year. The disaster changed the course of her life.

“I was in Port-au-Prince when it happened,” said Balestri, who had just left a hospital that was completely destroyed by the magnitude 7.0 quake. She was with her church group, staying at a home for special-needs children during the initial shock wave. Experts estimate that the earthquake killed  230,000 people while injuring 300,000 and leaving another 1 million homeless.

“We had been in Haiti for twelve days when the earthquake hit,” Balestri said. “It sounded like a big freight train coming and then all of sudden it was just like a bucking bronco.”

Balestri eventually evacuated the island nation on a C-130 Hercules cargo plane, landing in New Jersey. A mother with three kids at home, she had worked as an IT director for 15 years, but that summer she made the decision to change to a field with more options for creativity. With a rigorous curriculum covering the technical and creative aspects of both commercial and residential interior design, the DCTC program offered Balestri the ideal opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a professional designer.

Read “Designs for living” by Sara Glassman in the Star Tribune to learn more about FUSION+FASHION

The FUSION+FASHION event, which raised money for People Serving People, a local homeless shelter for families, gave her and her team members the chance to test their creative mettle against exceptionally talented people already established in the industry.

“We decided to go for a new award they added this year—the Zero Landfill Award,” Balestri said. “Basically, that entailed having twenty-five percent of your materials being reused. Each team has a theme and you have to somehow incorporate interior design into your dress. Our success in the event reaffirmed that I made the right choice to enter the field of interior design.”

IIDA FUSION+FASHION Best Overall Award Winner’s Design Statement

DCTC Interior Design Instructor Anne Farniok reported that FUSION+FASHION also featured a rewind competition this year with DCTC modeling costumes from 2007 and 2009. The Design Connexion 2009 dresses took the Best of the Rewind Award.

“This was a great team-building experience for our students,” said Farniok, whose summer design work will be featured Monday, Nov. 1, at 8 p.m. on Bath Crashers on the DIY Network. “Everyone had a wonderful time at an event that gives our students the chance to meet and build relationships with professionals in the industry.”

Design Connexion team members entering one of the Best Overall Award costumes

  • Michael Moody | Designer
  • Jessica Kidd | Model/Designer
  • Curtis Rottweiler
  • Gina Atkinson
  • Kimberly Scanlon
  • Shannon Ratey

Design Connexion @ IIDA FUSION+FASHION Gallery (courtesy of Lori Balestri)

For more of Lori Balestri’s photos from the event, visit: FUSION+FASHION

For more information about the Interior Design program at DCTC, please contact the following instructors: