If you asked Rachel Marie Hurst a year ago if she would be showing at New York Fashion Week, she wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s not to say she never dreamed about it. The Denver designer has worked diligently on her craft for years, making a name for herself locally, but never experiencing that breakthrough moment so many designers yearn for. Then, in January,  Hurst received a career-changing call.

Hurst, whose brand is called Fashion House of Rae Marie, was one of four regional designers chosen by Diet Pepsi to showcase three outfits at New York Fashion Week’s kick-off event, ‘Style Studio’ fashion show presented by Simon Doonan. The other designers included Genoveva Christoff from Columbus, OH, Elise Bergman from Chicago, IL and Shirin Askari from Dallas, TX. Each designer portrayed their hometown perspective with Doonan (Barney’s Creative Ambassador-at-Large) serving as a mentor.

New York Fashion Week wrapped up last week, but Hurst’s dreams did not end at that stroke of midnight. She has returned home, but is more focused on fashion than ever. She took the time to answer some of 303’s questions about her experience, who made her starstruck and what’s next for the Fashion House of Rae Marie.

303: You were selected by Diet Pepsi to showcase three outfits during New York Fashion Week. How did it feel to be chosen out of hundreds around the country?
This opportunity was so surreal. It was such a dream come true! If you had asked me at the beginning of January if I thought I would be showing pieces at New York Fashion Week this year, I would have laughed and said only in my dreams! But, it was such a humbling learning experience. I feel so blessed and so excited!
Once you arrived in New York, what was your schedule like?
It was a little crazy since I still had some sewing to finish. All four of the Style Studio Fashion Show participants flew into New York on Tuesday night. We had fittings all day Wednesday with models from Wilhelmina New York. The models were stunning. On Thursday, we had dress rehearsal, hair and make-up and then the show was at 8pm sharp. Following the show, we had interviews. We also met Christian Cota on Thursday. Friday we had more interviews. Saturday we attended Christian Cota’s show. It was crazy, but so amazing!

303: Do you feel like you were able to communicate the “Colorado girl” in the designs you presented?
RH: I think the “Colorado girl” is a girl who takes risks and walks to her own tune, and who has clothing that is cross seasonal, fun, funky and colorful. I think I captured the essence and then put my own flare into it.
303: Tell us a little about your experience at New York Fashion Week. Who did you meet? Where did you go? What did you see?
RH: I met Simon Doonan and he was fantastic and so down to earth. I also met Christian Cota who was charming and his collection was inspirational and beautiful! The people at Harrison & Shriftman were amazing! Being in the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week tents was beyond what I was expecting. I saw Coco Rocha and was just star struck! She is beautiful in person!
303: There were several celebrities at the “Diet Pepsi Style Studio” fashion show where you presented, including Mary-Kate Olsen, Debra Messing and Kristin Chenowet. Were you starstruck by anyone in particular?
RH: I think I was most starstruck by Mary Kate Olsen! I remember growing up and watching her , so I was shocked that she was sitting front row at the show! But I also love Debra Messing, Kristin Chenowet and Kelly Rutherford from Gossip Girl. It was all was so awesome!
303: How do you think this entire experience will influence your designs and approach to the business?
RH: I came back thinking, man I have a lot of work to do! I love New York, but it is on a whole different level and the resources for designers there made me a little envious. I really took the advice that was given to me and will be working to further propel my career as a designer.
303: Simon Doonan is a New York fashion icon. How was it working with such a strong visionary?
RH: He is AMAZING – so down to earth, genuine and sweet. He really made time to talk to each designer individually and gave invaluable advice to help us further our careers. I am so grateful.
303: What did you take away from this experience?
RH: I took everything away that I could, but mostly to be true to who I am as a designer and stop trying to please everyone. Not everyone is going to like me or what I design and I have to accept that. I have to keep my voice clear and make sure it is what I believe in.
303: Tell us a bit about your aesthetic and the type of woman you design for.
RH: I design for a client that is sexy, edgy and chic. My girl isn’t afraid to stand out in the crowd and loves to take risks and be noticed for her fashion in a classy way. I would love to dress Blake Lively. I just think she would be my ideal customer.
303: What is next for the Fashion House of Rae Marie?
RH: Well, I am revamping my name, brand and image. I received a lot of great feedback, but I know I have a lot of work to do. I want to push my designs into more boutiques, work on my plus-size line and really design away! I am so excited to find out what is next.
*Images courtesy of Rachel Hurst and Diet Pepsi.