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On the November 18 episode of Project Runway, the contestants were each faced with a unique challenge: collaborate with a local accessory designer to create a brand new look. To make the project even more exciting, the winning pair was awarded $25,000 from Visa as part of the company’s efforts to unlock access for small businesses by giving them the tools and resources needed to thrive.
The winning team included Lauren Brinkers, a New York City-based shoemaker. "I do painted boots," Lauren explained in the video below. "They're very sort of organic, abstract shapes, very fluid, so our design was based on one of my shoes. It turned out beautifully."
Winning the prize money was "such a huge deal" for her business, Lauren explained. "Before COVID, before the city shut down, my business was much like it is now: small, it's run by me and me only. I do everything myself," she said. "I source my materials, I make my product, I ship it, and things are tough sometimes."
After working as a pediatric hospital nurse for 10 years, Lauren "retired from the bedside for five years" as she dedicated herself to her shoemaking company. However, amid the pandemic, she put her business aside to provide medical care for those in need. "I remember feeling this gut feeling and this sense that I was going to be needed in the city, which I was very quickly," she recalled. "So I completely shut my business down and the next day I was being deployed into one of the downtown hospitals."
"This particular challenge of highlighting creatives and New York designers that were impacted by the COVID pandemic was extra meaningful for me," she continued. "Just to sort of support and uplift independent designers in the city."
To learn more about Lauren and her incredible business, watch the video above!
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