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Somerset native Vanessa Zahid has launched her own custom-made jewelry line composed of vintage pieces. The official launch party will take place during Minnesota's Fashion Week on Sept. 21 at 1226 Second St. N.E. in Minneapolis from 6:30-11:30 p.m

Somerset native exchanges modeling life for jewelry design

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Ever since she was little, she always was into fashion.

"I used to create different outfits out of pieces of cloth," said Vanessa Zahid, 26. "My dad always said that I should design clothing."

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She is well on her way now.

Although Zahid now lives in the Twin Cities, she was born and raised in Somerset. Her parents are Doug and Connie Plourde, and she has one brother, Brian.

As she attended Somerset High School, she worked in her aunt's jewelry shop during the summers, where she was surrounded by beads and beaded jewelry.

After graduating from high school in 2003, she suppressed her design instincts and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations.

"I couldn't really see myself going into the corporate life," confessed Zahid. "I had been modeling part-time during college, so I packed up my car and drove to Los Angeles to work as a model full-time."

Luckily for Zahid, she was able to work steadily for several years, including two years in Barcelona, Spain. She traveled to Miami and New York for modeling assignments, but she admits that something was nagging at her.

"I wanted to get married," said Zahid, "and I wanted to be near my family."

She had met her future husband while in Los Angeles, and they moved to the Twin Cities last year before marrying January 2011.

Acknowledging that modeling assignments weren't plentiful enough for a full-time job in Minnesota, she decided to embark on a new career.

"I wanted to do something by myself and be creative."

Going back to her lifelong love of creating outfits and dressing up, she began selling vintage jewelry. But she soon grew bored with selling other people's designs when she was aching to do her own.

A family friend helped start her inventory by selling her 3,000 pieces from his antique shop and his estate sale purchases.

"The bedroom is truly the jewelry room," laughed Zahid.

Using the components from the different pieces, she constructs one-of-kind original jewelry that she refers to as "wearable artwork."

"I look toward clothing designers for inspiration," she said. "I try to imagine what would look good with them, such as an Oscar de la Renta long chiffon dress."

Aside from her father doing the soldering work, she does all the work herself. She has been creating many choker necklaces, as well as beaded ropes.

Thanks to her traveling days, she has a fondness for mixing up components from different cultures.

"The African beads are black and very matte, while the westernized beads are bright and shiny," she explained. "I think it would be very interesting to put those two together."

Currently, the pieces from the VZahid collection are only available online. She said that since each piece is an original, she doesn't plan to mass produce them.

The official launch of the VZahid line is slated for Sept. 21 at the art studio at 1226 Second St. N.E. in Minneapolis from 6:30-11:30 p.m. There will be music, and a fashion show by Gina Marie Collections. The party is open to the public; tickets are available in advance by contacting Zahid at zahid.vanessa@gmail.com or at the door that day.

As for her future, Zahid plans to branch into clothing design within the next two years.

"I am an OK sewer, but not excellent," she said. "While working on the jewelry line, I'm taking courses in sewing so I can make my own samples."

As for turning her back on her modeling career, she said she has no regrets.

"Modeling is great and sounds glamorous -- and I really did love being in LA and New York -- but it is hard and involves a lot of traveling. I decided it was more important for me to be with my family.

"Now I spend a lot of time with my husband and family and I'm a lot happier."

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