With bedroom walls are covered in Justin Bieber and One Direction posters, Puja Patel describes herself as a typical teenage girl.
But the sewing machine and mannequin in the corner of her room, along with a homemade sign that says “Big dreams, small world” tell a different story — one of an aspiring fashion designer.
Patel, 15, is a sophomore at Granite Hills High School and has been interested in fashion since elementary school, inspired by shirts her father designed while in high school and college in India.
After begging for a sewing machine for years, Patel says she was able to use her aunt’s sewing machine for the first time in ninth grade to design a dress she had sketched.
“I loved the process,” Patel explained. “I was drawing it one minute and then next the dress was there.”
Patel’s fashion designs took off from there, and she has now made six different pieces. Her latest project is a dress that merges Indian and American design, pairing an American dress style with traditional Indian sari material.
Patel’s pursuit of fashion has taken her outside of the High Desert. After making her first dress in ninth grade, Patel traveled to Paris with her family to visit her aunt and uncle. While she was in Paris, Patel was introduced to fashion designers who examined her work.
During winter break, Patel is traveling to India for a family wedding, and she hopes to meet designers there. From there, she has her sights set on an internship and eventually college in New York City, the United States’ fashion capital.
Patel explains that she has until the end of high school to make a name for herself in the fashion industry — otherwise her parents expect her to pursue a medical degree.
Patel says she is sometimes filled with anxiety and wonders if she will succeed, but in the end, she believes her determination will carry her through.
“With 100 percent effort, if you don’t give up, you’ll get there,” Patel says. “A lot of girls have dreams, but I’m super motivated.”