By Cory L. Higgs

Dazzling dresses and gorgeous gowns are just a few examples of what you might find Henry County native and fashionista Talaya Millner working on in her free time, as well as sketching designs and ideas for future projects and potential businesses.

Millner is a recent graduate of Radford University, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in Fashion Design, an intense program full of blood, sweat, tears and bolts of fabric.

Even before she started sewing and sketching, she has a creative side and not lacking in determination. Millner said she really didn’t care about fashion until 2014 when she was shopping for back-to-school clothes.

“I realized that there wasn’t much to choose from for young, plus-size girls. That was the moment I knew I had to pursue a career in fashion design in some way,” Millner said.

But the road to her dream was full of challenges that included a seemingly never-ending lack of recourse and friends and family telling her to switch majors because she would never make it, she said. Millner said that knowing she proved them wrong gives her satisfaction, but she is also grateful for that criticism because it made her into the person she is today.

She said her clothing collections are for those “who want to feel confident, sophisticated, and empowered.”

Currently, she has one complete collection, which won her the ACHI Magazine 2018 Fashion Designer of the Year award. The collection is titled ‘Concentrated.’ It is a fall line designed and inspired by the 1970s and ’80s with a modern twist. Boasting fringe and retro colors, the collection is a 70s fever dream.

“This collection was inspired by Studio 54, a popular club in the 70s and 80s. I choose the colors orange and navy because it embodied the characteristics of the club itself: fun, risky, and daring. This collection consisted of five pieces and was photographed by Harold Martin,” said Millner.

Outside of her senior collection, she has created a plethora of eye-catching designs. One of her favorite creations is the ‘Infamous Red Dress,’ which has been featured in Radford University’s calendar of events and can still be seen on display in the university fashion adjunct.

Millner said she created the dress after her professors challenged the class to create a dress using a draping method. She said that the project pushed her to success, and because of that, ‘The Infamous Red Dress’ is by far her favorite design.

Before any of her creations are brought to fruition, Milliner sketches them using alcohol markers and marker paper. She uses this method because, as she sketches a design, she may think of a new idea, to further improve her design.

Her dream doesn’t just stop at the creation of clothing; she said she’s planning to become more involved in her community, she said she wants to hold fashion shows to drum up excitement in the county, to give people something to look forward too. She is already in the process of opening her own styling and personal shopper business and using local people for her modeling needs. Millner said she wants to give back to the community and show them what fashion can do for the soul.

“I’m hoping to change people’s perception of fashion and let them know that fashion is much more than just wearing clothes, it’s an art; a way to express yourself; a way to show how you truly feel,” she said.

Millner said she had a message for anyone wanting to pursue a path in fashion, “There may be people already doing what you want to do in life, but stick to your ideas, your thoughts, and your designs, and don’t let anyone talk you out of it. There is plenty of room for you and your ideas.”

Millner has lived in Henry County her entire life, and thanks God and her family for their support. She hopes to continue to showcase her gifts for her community and beyond.

“Having the opportunity to create clothing for people is truly a blessing. I still get nervous when someone asks for a design because I feel honored that I came across their mind. I thank God for this gift as well as others; he has blessed and entrusted me with,” Millner said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”