Fashion Design Alumna Wears Her Heart on Her Sleeve

Kelsi McCafferty, ’16, was laid off from her full-time job at FOUNT Leather Goods in December 2020 because of the pandemic, but that didn’t stop her from doing what she loved.

Using her talents, Kelsi wanted to help the community and began making masks at home. Inspired by her innovation, Kelsi made a life-changing career move – starting her own business, KELMA Collection, a womenswear brand committed to "slowing down the fashion industry one floral dress at a time."

“I showed myself that I was able to work alone successfully and that gave me the confidence to start my own brand,” Kelsi said. “The idea had always been in the back of my mind, but I needed something to spur me into action.”

What’s unique about her collection is that she creates new fashion from sustainable fabrics found at local thrift stores and other vintage sources. KELMA Collection is a combination of her first and middle names, Kelsi Marie. She works out of her studio in Lakewood, Ohio.

“My main goals are to bring a thriving fashion industry back to Cleveland and to do my best to make an ethical and sustainable brand in today's fast fashion-focused industry,” Kelsi said. “There is a ton of potential in our city to be a great fashion hub again. We can grow small businesses here in a sustainable way.”

Fashion and entrepreneurial spirit have always been a part of Kelsi’s life. In middle school, she made jewelry and dresses in her room and sold her creations out of her locker. So it came naturally for Kelsi to study fashion design at Kent State.

“I chose Kent State because I felt that it was the right environment for me to succeed. There was a friendly and supportive air about it that drew me in from the beginning,” Kelsi said.

Kelsi made the most of her time at Kent State through meaningful, hands-on study abroad and away experiences in Florence and New York City.

“Studying in Florence and New York City were priceless experiences for me. Not only did I get to learn from industry professionals about fashion, but I also learned life lessons that I wouldn't have gotten if I stayed in Ohio. I’m incredibly lucky to have a well-rounded view of the industry from three completely different perspectives.”

In addition to these valuable experiences, she further crafted her skills and gained confidence by showcasing her senior collection at the Kent State Fashion Show.

“I worked incredibly hard on that collection and ultimately had five looks shown in the fashion show,” Kelsi said. “I think being rewarded for my hard work and determination with that collection set me up to have the confidence to pursue my own collection in the future.”

And that’s exactly what Kelsi is doing now: embracing creativity and making new collections to grow her brand online. Her summer collection was just released at and on Instagram @kelmacollection.

“I feel as though these designs have been sitting inside me for a while, and it feels great to have them realized before me,” Kelsi said. “They are complete representations of me, no holding back. I like to say they’re little pieces of my heart hanging in your closet.”

UPDATED: Friday, December 09, 2022 03:22 PM
Ashley Whaley, ’06, M.ED. ’12