Albert Lea native is making headlines in the fashion world

Published 9:07 am Saturday, December 19, 2009

An Albert Lea native is making a name for herself in the New York fashion and music world.

When Hillary Blowers earned her degree in fine arts from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she realized that many of the contemporary artists she admired were based in New York City.

“My love for art and music was something I took seriously, so I began to understand that I really should follow my passions and pursue my creative career. New York City seemed the perfect place for an artist interested in multimedia,” Blowers said.

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The 1998 Albert Lea High School graduate admits that moving to the Big Apple was a bit of a culture shock.

“It was scary to be alone in such an overpopulated environment of strangers, but I am very interested in people with diverse backgrounds, so I found it intriguing.  After about two years, I realized that I could literally walk from East to West across Manhattan and I began to view the city as a smaller town that I could overcome and understand on a personal level,” she said.

When she first moved to New York, she started to work though a staffing agency and her first job was as a receptionist.

“About a year later, while performing out in the city as a singer, I met someone who got me a job as an executive assistant in a wholesale design company, and I was selling menswear, outerwear and sportswear to large urban retailers such as Burlington Coat Factory, Ragstock, Conway, Dr. Jays and VIM,” Blowers said.

She’s not known in New York as Hillary Blowers, however. That’s where something her mother had always said came into play.

“My mother always introduced us as the Blowers —  ‘Like Flowers with a B’ — and I thought this was really cute and lovely,” she recalled. “In college I began to become more serious about my performance art career and registered with ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) as a writer/ publisher and I decided that my professional name would be ‘Hillary Flowers.’ Upon moving to New York, I introduced myself as ‘Hillary Flowers’ and printed all business cards with the name ‘Hillary Flowers.’”

She had moved to New York with just two suitcases. “I became really bored with my wardrobe and began reconstructing and embellishing my clothes. I had walked into a really artistic shop one day in the lower east side called ‘Apollo Braun’ and was telling them how much I loved their designers and they told me to bring in my product. They loved it and bought a couple hundred dollars worth of my fashion. I was so thrilled, I took it to other boutiques and had a little side business for Hillary Flowers fashion.

One thing led to the next and her experience brought her to open up her own shop, “Hillary Flowers Designer Collective,” in 2007, at 40 Clinton St. on the lower east side of Manhattan.

The boutique is designed to allow emerging designers to directly test the retail market. Each designer has complete control over their inventory and products, plus he or she selects his or her own price points. Blowers directly consults with each designer and assists with public relations events and marketing strategies. She requires a short-term commitment to test a designer’s products in the retail market. There are about 20 designers currently selling women’s and men’s clothing, accessories and jewelry at the boutique.

“Shoppers are really impressed with the business motto of having different local designers selling their own creations in the boutique. Plus they have the opportunity to personally meet and greet the talent!” Blowers said.

New Yorkers love to socialize and have fun and she specializes in producing runway shows in well-known and established venues, including Bryant Park Hotel, Trump World Bar, Tavern On The Green, Empire Hotel and many more hot spots. She often models her own fashions, too.

“I have a large following and often women love to come shopping at my boutique for party dresses and for special events. Each show I produce attracts a lot of press and media and I have been featured in a lot of online publications, newspapers and magazines, including Time Out NY, Hampton Daze, Talent In Motion, The Insider, Capture and Create, Scene and Social Life Magazine.”

She is the spokeswoman for her brand, “Hillary Flowers,” and she interacts with all the press photographers and videographers as well as responds to all inquiries regarding her label and art.

She said designing has always been something she has fostered through creative endeavors.

“Since I was a child, I have been making art to sell such as jewelry, pillows and other little gifts. We used to set up lemonade stands and sell our handmade presents on the sidewalk.  In high school, I even organized an art sale where students sold paintings, jewelry, sculptures and other arts and crafts. Thus, since I was young, I’ve realized that my creations can move from a personal level, as a hobby and passion, to a public level, through commerce.” 

She said she considers her biggest accomplishment so far to be her designer collective and maintaining a retail storefront in Manhattan.

She said she’d like to build her brand, “Hillary Flowers” so it can be mass distributed so people could purchase her products in department stores.

Blowers said she is inspired by a hybrid of fashion, art and music.

Some of her influences and people she admires include: Betsy Johnson, Patricia Field, Oscar De La Renta, Chanel, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Marcel Duchamp, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, David Bowie and Prince. 

Blowers said her music falls into a pop genre and some of her influences include Madonna, Blondie, Kylie Minogue, David Bowie and Prince.

“I play guitar but don’t perform acoustic. As a songwriter, I will team up with a producer or musician. (They write the music and I  write the lyrics and vocals.) I sometimes perform at my runway shows or at rock clubs including CBGB, Crash Mansion, Delancy and The Annex. I have written and recorded close to 100 original songs,” she said.

Her music can be heard on her Web site,, or

She is the daughter of Brian and Debra Blowers of Albert Lea. She said her parents are proud of her success.

“They get really excited each time I get press!  It’s a bit hard for them to understand everything that I do, as an artist, but they accept me and encourage me to stay strong and to focus on my career,” she said.

Debra Blowers flew to New York for her first runway show, has taped a few of her performances and always checks her Web site for new press, events and updates.

“Hillary has always been extraordinarily creative,” Debra Blowers said. “When Hillary was in college I gave her an old coat of mine. It was a style from the ‘70s and I thought she’d like it. We attended Hillary’s art show in Madison and there was the coat stitched to a framed canvas and it was now part of her college thesis, as a multi-media art project. She choreographed and videotaped herself hatching from the canvas through undetectable slits in the coat. She emerged through the canvas like a chicken from an egg. Hence an artist was born. She sang and danced in this multi-media production. It was very creative.”

After college, Debra Blowers said her daughter told her parents she wanted to move to New York. “I was apprehensive. Nevertheless, I admired her courage and confidence to pursue her dreams,” she said.

Her mother said she was particularly excited when in 2007, Hillary’s fashion was featured on the front cover of Talent In Motion magazine. She was presented with the Best Designer Award at the 10th Annual Talent In Motion magazine awards ceremony. She’s also had several flattering articles written about her and her work in the fashion industry.

“New York has embraced her as an inspiring artist,” Debra Blowers said of her daughter.

Even though she’s made a life in the high fashion world of New York, and tends to only get back to Minnesota around the holidays to visit her family, Hillary Blowers still remembers where she comes from.

“Albert Lea is such a beautiful town and I am thankful to have been raised in a place that embodies ‘The Good Life’ in many ways.  I think Albert Lea is a place that embraces creativity, and I hope the art community in Albert Lea continues to develop,” she said. “I think art is important, offering opportunities for reflection and creation.”