This past May, Atlanta native Tracy Nicole Prather and three other clothing designers were selected as winners of Belk's fourth Southern Designer Showcase. The four were among more than 100 designers who applied and among 18 who were invited to present their lines to executives in North Carolina.
Although this was Prather's first showcase, her love for fashion started in high school. As creator and founder of Tracy Nicole Clothing, she uses her clothing line as a way to inspire women. However, before she was a clothing designer she was an occupational therapist for about nine years.
She received her bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from FAMU, but her passion for fashion never left her. So after a long day of working 10 hours as the director of Rehabilitation in Atlanta, she would focus on her real passion at night.
"My passion has always been with fashion," said Prather. "I taught myself how to sew in high school, and while I was practicing therapy by day I paid for myself to go to fashion school at night."
Her day job was not completely different from her night time passion. She was often creative with cutting patterns to make splints for patients which helped her later on when she altered her own clothing.
Prather had a difficult time finding clothing to wear when she was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago and would often alter clothing to fit her comfortably. This later served as a style for the designs in her clothing line.
Dr. Jackie Walters, from Bravo's "Married to Medicine," noticed her comfortable clothing and asked her to adapt clothing for her breast cancer patients.
"It was kind of like a full circle type of moment," said Prather.
That experience was very fulfilling for her and encouraged her to leave her occupational therapy position and go into fashion full time. She later opened a store in Smyrna called Tracy Nicole. After closing that store, she opened a design studio, which she had for five years before launching her clothing line in 2011.
She describes her clothes as relaxing and for every body type. It is for women going through a transition and women who just want to feel comfortable no matter what they are going through.
"I always think about how every woman wants to look good, but they want to feel good too, so there's that element of feeling comfortable and looking good, too," said Prather.
Something unique about the clothing is that each piece is named after a woman by whom Prather feels inspired -- some she has met and others she has never met. Some of those women include her friend Keisha Knight-Pulliam, Terri Vaughn and Lisa Price.
Actress Terri Vaughn grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. She later started her Take Wings foundation to help young girls in at-risk communities by organizing activities that will help inspire them to become role models in the community.
"That's really inspiring to me, when people focus on what they want to do, but they also think about 'how can I give back to help others'," said Prather.
Prather had teamed up with Vaughn for a reading of her novel "Who said Peaches were Perfect" in 2012. Vaughn allowed her The Green Room Actor's Lounge students in Atlanta to act out scenes from the book.
Another woman was Lisa Price, owner and founder of Carols Daughter, whom Prather has never met. Price reached out to Prather on Instagram saying she loved her clothing and ordered a gray long-sleeved angled sweater, which Prather later named after her. Price built her organization from the ground up and it is now international.
"There's like a really, really cool story behind all these women that a lot of people don't know, even if it's someone you've heard of you don't know all the things they do behind the scenes," said Prather.
So many of these women are giving back through a charity or donating to other nonprofit organizations, which Prather is doing as well.
She has been involved with an organization called Elite Sisterhood, which comprises four different high schools in Fulton County. She began making T-shirts with inspiring sayings on them and all the profits go to nonprofits that benefit young girls.
One shirt reads: "I woke up like this," a message about embracing your natural beauty. The other is "I AM ENOUGH," about self acceptance.
Prather says it's so important to give back and because she is blessed to have achieved her dreams, she often tries to help others do that as well.
"For me it's bigger than just having a clothing line," said Prather. "It's building a platform and being able to have an effect to make change."
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