BY NUHA ISLAM
High style fashionistas are more often than not accompanied by the imagery of a snotty, stiletto wielding, mocha Frappuccino drinking diva. Junior Gabriela “Gaby” Horenstein however, does not fit this narrative. She is kindhearted, hardworking, and dedicated to shattering stereotypes. Horenstein has sewn together her own vision of what the future holds, and stitch by stitch, she is making it a reality.
Watching her work in her element is incredible; designs bubble off the page and burst into visceral prints and delineations. A dress begins to emerge: first the silhouette, then a defined bodice, then the embellishments, until a detailed illustration appears.
“I take an idea in my head, put it on the page, then turn it into a tangible thing,” Horenstein said. “It is rewarding to see your pieces come to life.”
Working weekends in a Miami based studio, Horenstein has constructed pieces that have been presented at Miami Fashion Week 2017. The showcase was sponsored by the Master Class Presentation hosted by the Miami Institute of Design, she forged a dress made of melted plastic bags and other unconventional materials. In 2016 for Art Basel, Horenstein made a biology centered dress, dubbed “bio couture,” infusing science and high fashion.
It’s clear environmentally centered clothes is a big part of her work. For the future that she dreams, sustainability is a must.
“There isn’t a great deal of overlap between ethical fashion and wearability. It’s difficult to develop textiles that are functional and feel good to wear, it’s a challenge that I’ve been experimenting with,” Horenstein said. “Fast fashion, while making style accessible, is bad because consumers quickly cycle through it (throw it away), and it’s of bad quality. One of the goals I am continually working towards is fashion that is good quality, affordable and stylish, as well as ethically sourced.”
The tapestry she weaves is ambitious, yet remains personal. Ever since she was young, Horenstein has always displayed an interest in textiles and art, forgoing traditional extracurriculars.
“We put her in sports and other activities but she didn’t seem to want to continue that,” mother Diana Horenstein said. “However, she seemed to be interested in doing things with old jewelry and fabrics, and was always making something. Eventually this led to her desire to continue to learn and explore things about textiles and creating garments.”
Since her days exploring her mom’s pearl necklaces, fashion has evolved with her and evokes new meaning. As personal style is highly individualized, it has given Horenstein a medium to explore her own identity and beliefs. In the same way a journal is kept, clothing is a way to explore oneself.
And the great thing about fashion is you get to choose what inspires you.
“It’s not just about what you wear, but why you are wearing it and what you are trying to tell others,” Horenstein said. “There are many different things that go into design. I look at nature, history and technology to draw inspiration for my garments and projects.”
This multidisciplinary approach has served her well; aside from inspiring her designs, it has been the basis for endeavors in other areas of her life. She is currently doing a research project exploring how the trends of e-commerce affect local businesses within South Florida.
Still a young adult, Horenstein is only in the beginning of her career. And yet she is remarkably well developed as a person. Among her peer group, she is known for her kindness.
“There are not many people who are as genuinely lovely as Gaby,” close friend Lucia Tsai said. “She is always humble about her accomplishments and has a kind word for everyone.”
Inside the classroom, Horenstein has established herself as a dominant leader. She serves as co-president of the Fashion Design Team (FDT), is a DECA state competitor, involved with NHS, and takes a variety of challenging AP courses.
“Gaby is an amazing person to work with,” advisor Linda Snider said. “She has this way of getting things done efficiently; if she creates a checklist, everything will be marked off. When we do projects, I have complete trust in her abilities.”
Horenstein looks effortless as she leads FDT meetings with ease. And while she constantly remains courteous, the message is clear: this is a girl who knows what she wants, and exactly how to achieve it.
Her record shows it too, with consecutive years as the winner of the academic award for Fashion Essentials and Fashion Marketing and Management Applications respectively.
Just last year, Horenstein was the coordinator of the prestigious fashion show, along with new ventures such as the introduction of female empowerment seminars as the VP of Projects.
Well into 11th grade, she has won recognition for her photography in the Broward County Mayor’s Art Challenge as the district 5 winner and is set to head this year’s fashion show. As Horenstein continues her junior year, head teeming with unrestrained creativity, her scope only looks to broaden.
“Next week I will presenting two garments at Demand Innovation, an event taking place with the Miami Fashion Institute,” Horenstein said. “My garments/presentation will be about reusing what we already have and then looking for new types of textiles that are environmentally friendly when it comes to production or material source. I will be using plastics because they are readily available. Also, I will be using leftover denim material because it is stylish and wearable.”
Long term, she looks to major in business and fashion design, working for a popular fashion house.
“Throughout the rest of high school, college and after that, I will be focused on my career in the industry and I’m really looking forward to it,” Horenstein said. “As long I am able, I will continue to work to make my vision a reality.”
Photo by Nuha Islam