Kelsy Zimba's dream of becoming a fashion designer began long before she graduated from Minnetonka High School in 2004. From her earliest years, she sought out opportunities that allowed her to expand her knowledge and gain real-world experience. Now, an established and respected name in the fashion world with her own custom design company, Kelsy's hard work has certainly paid off.
"I definitely knew at a very young age that fashion was what I wanted to do, and it hasn't ever changed," says Kelsy. "I love creating beautiful clothes and making people feel confident."
While attending MHS, Kelsy was every bit as ambitious and hard-working as she is today. At 15, she was hired for her first job working in fashion, and from there she interned at many local clothing boutiques and fashion shops. She also participated in the Mentor Connection program her senior year, spending part of the school day working at a custom athleticwear design company called The Line Up. While there, she was able to help with many aspects of the design process, an experience she calls invaluable.
Kelsy's first step toward becoming a professional fashion designer was her acceptance into her dream school, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a competitive design school in New York City. While there, Kelsy was honored with multiple awards, including Fashion Design Student of the Year. She also spent a year abroad in Italy, studying at a design school in Florence. Kelsy's business education through programs such as Design Entrepreneurs and 10,000 Small Businesses also played a huge part in the success of her career and industry.
Since graduating from FIT, Kelsy's career has exploded. She has worked alongside famous fashion companies such as Michael Kors, Salvatore Ferragamo, Jhane Barnes and Zac Posen, and has had the opportunity to create custom designs for celebrities such as Kylie Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, among many others. She also created an exclusive custom program for the department store Saks Fifth Avenue, where she designs gowns, cocktail dresses and suits for women. Kelsy is now the owner of her own custom design company, Zimba Collections.
One of her proudest moments came just one year after graduating from college when she was asked to design a gown for the Oscars. "Designing for the Academy Awards was amazing. A dream come true," says Kelsy. "It also gave me a lot of great exposure that allowed me to start my custom design business."
Looking forward, Kelsy is excited to take her business to the next level by expanding her custom uniform label, Z FORM, which supplies luxury hotels, casinos and restaurants. Z FORM has designed for clients such as Aria Resort and Casino, MGM Grand, and Hilton. Kelsy anticipates the new marketing campaign and website she has been working on will continue to help Z FORM gain more national and international exposure.
Kelsy would like to thank the Minnetonka School District and community for the opportunities and support she received. The valuable advice from parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors and employers are key components in the business she has created today. "I was in the Minnetonka Schools system from Kindergarten through twelfth grade," she says. "It was a really strong foundation, and there were so many fantastic teachers along the way. You could tell that [the teachers at Minnetonka] wanted you to grow and become the best that you can be."
Kelsy encourages current students to follow their dreams, and to never underestimate the value of dedication and focus. "Don't be afraid to work hard!" she adds. "Put in the extra hours, take that extra class, do that unpaid internship, continue your education. All of those things really set you apart from your peers, and I believe wholeheartedly that going that extra mile really does pay off in the end."