Three designers under 30 create success with their dress

At any major awards ceremony for film, television, theater or music, the clothes worn are nearly as important as the awards won. Who cares who won Best Actress, but did you see that hideous dress?

Well, if you know the fashion hoopla surrounding most award ceremonies, imagine the buzz after the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards -- commonly referred to as the Oscars of fashion -- presented the evening of June 7 in New York.

While Michael Kors nabbed top honors as the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Marc Jacobs earned Womenswear Designer of the Year. But what about the award for emerging talent award? This year's winners included Jason Wu for Womenswear, Alexander Wang for Accessories and Richard Chai for Menswear.

These awards got me thinking about all the achievements accomplished by young designers -- some either fresh out of school or still in college. So while for some college students its been summer for a month, others are struggling with finals. So how about a little inspiration?

Here's a look at what three designers did before the age of 30, earning big bucks and even bigger acclaim.

Jason Wu
He may have nabbed the emerging talent award for womenswear this year, but most people have already seen his designs. At only 26, Wu created a huge buzz last year when First Lady Michelle Obama selected his gown to worn at the Inaugural Ball, making him the youngest designer to ever outfit a First Lady for the event. According to the New York Times, Wu himself had no idea that his gown had been selected until he saw it on TV that evening. His gown now joins a line of inaugural gowns dating to 1912 in the Smithsonian.

But before any of this fame, Wu had already started his own label in 2006 and earned the respect of Vogue editor Anna Wintour as a finalist for the magazine's emerging talent award. Since 17, he's been the creative director of Integrity Toys, a high-end doll company with price tags ranging from $70 to $400. He attended Parsons The New School for Design but left after three years to complete an internship with Narciso Rodriguez.

Alexander Wang

At this point, what award hasn't Alexander Wang won? He nabbed this CFDA emerging talent award for accessories, but nothing about Wang is emerging; he's here. In the same year Wu was nominated for the Vogue and CFDA Fashion Fund emerging talent award, Wang took home the top prize of $200,000 to pursue a design plan. In 2009, he won CFDA's emerging talent award for ready-to-wear. And he just turned 26 this May.

At 18, Wang left his native San Francisco to attend Parsons in New York. After holding a variety of internships, in 2005, Wang created his own collection during his sophomore year. By 2007, he launched a full women's collection which sold in 200 boutiques and retail stores internationally. He says his collection reflects contrasts like "sexy versus androgyny."

Christian Siriano
Siriano may not have reached Vogue and CFDA's honors yet, but he became a household name after wining the fourth season of reality show, Project Runway. Taking the honor at the ripe age of 22, Siriano is the show's youngest winner. His final collection caught the eye of guest judge, style icon and Spice Girl Victoria Beckham. And he's shown at every New York Fashion Week since the show. On top of that, he's created a 15-piece collection for Puma, started an ongoing partnership with Payless ShoeSource, and published a book, Fierce Style: How to Be Your Most Fabulous Self.

But before any fame and fortune, Siriano was still working hard. He started designing at 13 and attended the Intercontinental University in London for his design education. Pre-graduation, he was learning from two of the U.K.'s top designers -- Siriano held internships with legendary punk designer, Vivienne Westwood and the late, great Alexander McQueen while across the pond.

So now that you've been faced with fashion greatness at a nearly prodigal level, maybe you can get back to studying for finals because really, who wants to be mediocre?

Clothes to Free, appearing Thursdays, is a weekly fashion-on-a-budget column by Money College blogger Alysse Dalessandro. Send Alysse column tips at
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