"I started performing in the school’s theatre when I was eight-years-old,” reflects Hilton. “My sister was in the junior miss pageant on that very same stage, and I served as her escort. This school always had such a special place in my heart. It was unbelievable to me that they would let this beautiful building go to waste.”
Now a wildly successful fashion designer in New York City, Hilton spent his idyllic childhood years on a farm in Carthage. Creative, warm and gregarious, Hilton developed a passion for sewing at a young age. In 1997, Hilton moved to New York City, studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and trained under some of the world’s most renowned designers. Hilton now designs under his own label, Hilton Hollis, and creates beautiful, wearable pieces for the modern woman.
Hilton partnered with several people from his Carthage elementary class, and started The Local Fashion Advantage, a foundation dedicated to saving the beloved building. At the 2015 event, the evening began with a silent auction, and one lucky bidder snagged a luxurious package filled with shopping in Atlanta, clothing from Hilton Hollis, and high-end jewelry. Following the silent auction, Hilton previewed his Fall 2015 collection. During the incredible Runway Show, guests were treated to musical performances, dancing, singing and fashions by local designers and boutiques.
Over a few short years, The Local Fashion Advantage has raised thousands of dollars, and the charming building has come to life once again. The old elementary school now serves as a Community Center for special events, and thanks to Hilton and The Local Fashion Advantage, the auditorium finally has an air conditioner. Hilton laughs, “It took 80-plus years to get it air conditioned! It is pretty remarkable.” Little by little, the auditorium has been completely renovated, from the 600 seats to the magnificent velvet curtain. It has rightfully returned to its original grandeur.
Beyond the financial aspects of the event, The Local Fashion Advantage has given creative Mississippians an outlet to express themselves. Local designers, hair and makeup stylists, and even aspiring models are welcome to participate. “Last year we had people from Vicksburg all the way to Memphis. We even had a few from Birmingham. It is pretty awesome that a small town like Carthage can pull in that sort of crowd,” marvels Hilton.
A few young women have even acquired major modeling contracts after walking in the event! Hilton says, “Two years ago we were doing our first local model casting. I was flipping through the head shots and noticed a girl named ‘Hollis.’ I immediately wondered if we were kin! She came in to walk for me and was a complete natural. She was unbelievable and looked like she had been walking in Paris shows for years.” Today she has signed with a major model management company in New York City and models full-time!
“I think what we have been able to do has inspired people. Now that I am away from Mississippi, I love it even more,” smiles Hilton. "It is huge that we have made some sort of impact, and it goes beyond the financial impact on our elementary school building. It is really about promoting self-worth and being able to do something above and beyond what you dream you are capable of doing.”
This year's Local Fashion Advantage Event will be held tomorrow, Saturday, June 4th! We hope to see you there! For more information, please visit the Local Fashion Advantage Facebook page here!