Hard Work, Self-Reliance And a Love of Style

Sunday, September 6, 2009

When Fresia Rodriguez's husband was deployed to Iraq in 2007 for the second time, she decided it was time for a change and enrolled in fashion courses.

"He was doing so much with his life, I wanted to feel like I was doing what I loved," said Rodriguez, 32, who graduated from George Washington University with a degree in international affairs in 1999. "I remembered how enthralled I was when I was a young child with fashion, making dresses out of bed sheets."

She didn't immediately tell her husband or her parents because she didn't want to worry them. Rodriguez took online classes through the Academy of Art's masters program, enrolled in business courses and began planning, while still working her day job as an editor at AARP. "I was scared, I was exhilarated, I had a little bit of trepidation, but also, I was finally at peace," she said.

Now she has her own clothing line, Kingley&Posh, and a mannequin named Mindy.

Her line is tailored for women who wear sizes 14 and up. The clothes are not designed for her but for curvy family members and friends who had trouble finding cute, chic clothing, Rodriguez said.

"I hated seeing their disappointed faces when they couldn't find items that would flatter their curves," she said.

Working 16-hour days and traveling around the country, Rodriguez said she's happier with her career than ever before. Kingley&Posh clothing is being shipped to more than a dozen boutiques in the fall; the online store launched last month.

And her husband, Oscar Villa, has since returned from his tour in Iraq with the Marines and serves as Rodriguez's biggest motivator, even helping with the layout of the company's design book.

-- Eric Athas

© 2009 The Washington Post Company