Looks like you might be wearing one of Hunter Bell’s dresses very soon. The 32-year-old southern belle (who says she’s inspired by designers like Diane von Furstenberg and Rebecca Taylor) has been crowned the winner of Fashion Star, trumping 12 other designers for the prize of launching their original collections in three of the nation’s largest fashion retailers — Express, Macy’s and Saks.
And Hunter may not have reached her goal without the help of mentor Jessica Simpson.
“I worked closely with Jessica, and she was always a sounding board for me to stay true to my own design aesthetic, but also very encouraging with the advice of making sure to show off a women’s curves with my designs and to be more sexy with them,” she tells PEOPLE at an Express breakfast showcasing her line (sample design above). “In this industry you need to be open to advice.”
From episode one, Bell was a frontrunner after her first fashion show resulted in a bidding war from the three major retailers. But for the N.Y.C. based-designer, one of the biggest highlights of the experience has been the resources the show’s platform has provided her.
“The most exciting moment was walking into the design studio and seeing your own desk with all of the necessary tools and resources provided for you from the network to be successful,” she says.
Turns out, Hunter’s passion and design prowess dates back to way before becoming a household name.
“What people definitely don’t know is that I didn’t just start out as a designer with Fashion Star,” she explains. “I have dedicated the past 10 years to making my passion become a successful career. I not only studied design in school and then at Parsons, but I also interned with Nanette Lepore, which was an amazing experience.”
And this is only the beginning for the dedicated designer. Her overall goal? “I hope to grow my clothing line to be a household name brand, expanding into department stores with an online presence, allowing me to create jobs and give back.”
Shop Bell’s capsule collection online at Express and in stores across the country tomorrow!