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Student Success

Daryn Wilkerson ’23 Launches Her Bridal Design Career at the Wilson College of Textiles

Daryn Wilkerson stands in front of a breezeway at the Wilson College of Textiles and smiles at the camera. She wears a red tshirt and a black sweatshirt with red letters spelling out "NC State" on it.

By Sarah Stone

When Daryn Wilkerson walks across the stage in her cap and gown and graduates from the Wilson College of Textiles’ fashion design program, she’ll be fulfilling a dream over a dozen years in the making. 

“I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer the day I turned seven. I’m not exaggerating. My godsister got me a Nintendo game; it was one of those career games, and she gave me a fashion designer game. I just fell in love with it immediately, and I told my family ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,’” Wilkerson, a Centennial and Park Scholar, says. “Of course, they thought I was joking.” 

When that same godsister got married a few years later, Wilkerson decided on her dream job: a fashion designer in the bridal industry. She’s already made significant steps toward that goal, first with an internship for bridal gown designer Sareh Nouri, and, most recently, with the debut of her first bridal collection. 

She created the collection for the FTD Emerging Designers Showcase, which is the culmination of the capstone course for students majoring in fashion and textile design. 

Daryn Wilkerson hand sews a detail onto a white piece of fabric. Mannequins are visible in the background.
Wilkerson working on her bridal collection in the Wilson College’s fashion studio.

“It’s really a full circle moment to see how you’ve progressed everything you’ve learned in the past four years evident in a collection,” she says. “I did sew before coming to NC State, but it was very much home sewing, not anywhere near industrial level sewing. To be able to make apparel that is very much professional quality – could really even qualify as luxury, honestly – is something I’m very proud of.”

What organizations have you been involved in on campus?

I’m a co-founder of the Black Artist Coalition at NC State. It was founded in 2020 essentially to create a space for Black artists on campus. There are already organizations on campus for Black artists in fashion, visual arts, music, etc., but we wanted to make a collective one and we also wanted to find networking opportunities for them to be able to get paid for their work. 

Daryn Wilkerson (second from left) and three other people pose for a picture. All of. them wear Delta Sigma Theta tshirts .

I’m also the treasurer of the African American Textile Society and the president of NC State’s Delta Sigma Theta chapter. 

Which person on campus has influenced you most during your time here? 

Dr. Kate Annett-Hitchcock, 100%. Park Scholars have to pick a faculty mentor before our first day of class. She’s the one I picked, and she has been helpful in God knows how many ways. 

She helped me get an internship with a fashion nonprofit in New York City called Custom Collaborative. She’s also connected me with a lot of people in the industry, including a past alumna that works in bridal. 

She also just gives great advice. She’s very, very sweet and I love her; she’s definitely helped make my college experience 10 times better.

What did you learn about during your semester abroad? 

I went to the Lorenzo De’Medici Institute in Florence, Italy, and I went there mainly to take my elective courses. I took the Anthropology of Fashion Design; so that’s thinking about how society views fashion. I think that anyone who’s pursuing any sort of design career should have an understanding of how society views your work, because that’s ultimately who decides honestly, if you’re going to make money or not, is the consumer.

Daryn Wilkerson (center) stands with her arms around two classmates, looking at the camera. Colorful buildings clustered tightly on the side of a cliff can be seen behind them.
Wilkerson (center) and her classmates explore Cinque Terre, Italy.

I also took an Italian language course and I really enjoyed it as well. It was helpful for me to learn outside of just studying abroad, because in bridal specifically we use Italian fabric a lot, so it was really helpful during my bridal internship when I had to interact with Italian suppliers.

And then I took Fashion Entrepreneurship, where we had to write a business plan and learn more about the business side. And while I do love the design aspect, understanding the business side is still really crucial. As someone who also wants to be an entrepreneur, it was really nice to go ahead and get a draft business plan written and able just to tweak it as time moves on.

What advice would you give to your first-year self?

Be more shameless about what you want, because you probably want it for a reason. That’s something that Dr. Kate has very much ingrained in me is to tell me, “Why don’t you just ask?” 

There’s no problem with sending a cold email. There’s no problem asking your professor a question that you may feel is dumb. You’re probably asking it for a good reason.