At a young age, Kelly Druce, 21, knew she had a talent for drawing and creating and soon turned her interest to fashion design.

Druce, a senior at the University of Alabama and 2009 graduate of Harker Heights High School, is one of 16 semifinalists who will compete in the third annual Birmingham Fashion Week’s Emerging Designer competition.

The week kicks off Saturday in downtown Birmingham, Ala., and features runway shows, several featured designers, and model and design competitions. The winner of the Emerging Designer competition, chosen March 2, will receive a television appearance, and editorial and cash prizes. The winner also will be featured in next year’s fashion show.

This is the second consecutive year Druce will compete as an emerging designer. For this year’s show, she designed a new line she calls the Ivanhoe Collection.

Druce describes her design aesthetic as, “Kind of masculine elements that are still sexy and feminine,” admitting she draws a lot of inspiration for her designs from video games.

“I like heroines from video games because they’re strong and powerful but still sexy and beautiful,” she said.

Born in South Carolina, Druce moved to Harker Heights in 2004 when her parents, Army officers John and Marleane Druce, were assigned to Fort Hood. Though she spent much of her childhood moving around the world, she calls Harker Heights home.

While attending Harker Heights High School, she participated in a contest at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton and took first place in her division for design construction.

Druce also modeled in several fashion shows at the Killeen and Temple malls and credits those experiences for sparking her interest in fashion design.

Druce’s parents, now retired and living in Harker Heights, were not short on praises for their daughter, expressing great pride in her accomplishments.

“She’s mature, driven, strong minded and creative,” John Druce said. “She’s not afraid to be different. I think she’ll do very well for herself.”

Marlean Druce was initially surprised by her daughter’s flair for fashion because at an early age she rejected the idea, she said. “The funny thing is she was always adamant that she was not a girly-girl and hated having her hair fixed and all of that.”

Today, mom is in awe of her daughter’s natural talent and is “blown away” by her ability to make complicated pieces out of a simple pattern.

Next month, Kelly Druce heads to New Orleans to compete in that city’s fashion week event where she will present a collection of 10 new designs. Druce is not sure where the future will lead, but hopes for California or New York. But for now, she is grateful to be recognized by organizations like Birmingham Fashion Week.

“They give young and up-and-coming designers a chance to get their name out there, which is great, especially since there’s not a lot of [fashion] opportunities in the south,” she said.

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