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In the 49 days after Myriam Marcela-Dyer found out she’d been selected for FashioNXT’s emerging designer competition, she spent more than 900 hours on her collection. Some math help: that’s nearly 23 full-time workweeks squeezed into seven actual weeks, all spent over a sewing machine, piecing together color-blocked jackets, carefully matching up complex prints, and drafting detailed patterns. It was worth it.

With Marcela-Dyer’s seemingly effortless blending of textiles—think coral floral skirts and neutral geometric blouses—plus a clear mastery of construction, the 32-year-old mother of three easily won over audience and judges alike at Portland’s annual fashion week runway show. “You find something new every time you look at one of her pieces,” marvels panel judge Tiffany Bean, owner of Mabel & Zora boutique, “from intricate piping to the most beautiful piece of fabric as the lining.” Travel inspired Marcela-Dyer: she crafted the winning 15-piece collection to fit in a single suitcase and to include every ensemble you’d need for a stylish trip. By day, a knit pullover pairs with a white circle skirt; by night, the skirt swaps out for a pair of tailored pegged pants.

Marcela-Dyer began sewing as a kid in Guadalajara, Mexico. By fourth grade, she was tearing apart the puffy-sleeved early-’90s monstrosities her mother bought for her and reimagining them as sleek wrap dresses. When she graduated high school, she had just one college on her list: the Institute of Fashion and Design in Guadalajara. In 2002, she moved to Portland and landed a fortuitous gig sewing proto types for Pendleton Woolen Mills. “Working at Pendleton was also like going to school,” she says. “I learned a lot, things like tailoring and all these wonderful techniques I am thankful for.”

Though she took a 10-year professional break from fashion to concentrate on raising her children, Marcela-Dyer could often be found in her home studio after her brood went to bed, sewing tailored jackets for custom requests. Now, with the youngest of her three sons in school and the FashioNXT title secured, she’s ready to relaunch her career. First, she’ll stock her limited-run collections at small boutiques in select cities like San Francisco and Guadalajara. But the big dream? “For my 40th birthday, I want to give myself a store—one supporting my product and emerging designers,” she says. Obviously, she’s willing to put in the time.

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