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Melissa has won numerous top awards for her designs while attending the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Chicago.  She was the only one to win both top design awards in a single competition among 45 fashion design schools in the Midwest region: Best of Show and The Rita Johnston Award / Scholarship at Fashion Group Internationals 1998 design competition.  These awards presented her with the opportunity to study abroad and travel extensively throughout parts of Europe. 

She completed her internship alongside Manuel Cuevas - Couture Designer of The Entertainment World - at his couture house in Nashville, Tennessee.  There she assisted in creating stylish masterpieces for several high profile artists including Brooks and Dunn, Porter Wagner, and the late Johnny Cash.
While building her business in Chicago, Melissa was an Associate Professor of Fashion Design and Merchandising at International Academy of Design and Technology.  She later accepted an opportunity from O’More College of Design in Franklin, TN.  There she lead the expansion of the fashion design department through a four year growth phase which included overseeing all remodeling of the sewing lab in addition to constructing new class outlines and collaborating on re-construction of FD Curriculum.  She also assisted O’More president, Dr. K. Mark Hilliard in public relations and campus growth opportunities.  
During this time, she completed training in Atlanta GA and earned her computer-aided pattern drafting certification from Gerber Technology.  She was the only certified “Gerber Girl” in the state of TN.  
Finally making it to New Mexico, Melissa feels at home and resides in Albuquerque, a few blocks away from her beloved Route 66. Under her artist name “Melissa Lea”, she provides couture and custom clothing services and is creating her own clothing line.  Her other artistic endeavors, Melissa Lea fine art jewelry and photography, is available in select galleries throughout the state. 

She currently is owner of the Albuquerque Apparel Center, home of New Mexico Fashion Week and

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