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Designer Barbara Bates Gives Back, Inspires Teens With Tour Of Shop


Fashion designer Barbara Bates has dressed some of the most influential athletes and entertainers over the years.

Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Harvey and Whitney Houston are just a few examples.

Bates, who grew up in West Garfield Park, at Central Park and Jackson, came from “humble beginnings,” she says, so she always makes time to give back.

That’s exactly what she did Friday when she opened her shop at 2031 S. Indiana to a tour for 12 teen girls from Crane Medical Prep, 2245 W. Jackson Blvd. They are participants of the nonprofit Ladies of Virtue, which works with girls ages 9 to 18 from underserved communities on the South and West sides.

Bates shared her story of getting pregnant at 15 and having her son at 16. She discussed the challenges, but stressed to the young women how she sharpened her skills and continued to persevere.

In 1984, while working as a secretary at a local bank, Bates sold clothes during her lunch breaks. Two years later, a client made a $5,000 investment to help her launch her fashion career full time. She started out with a team of two to sew her designs, and in 1988 she opened a 700-square-foot showroom. This year marks 31 years in business.

If the girls remember nothing else from her talk, Bates said she hoped they got one message:

“That adversities can turn into positive things, and it’s not just a saying. I’ve showed them I had adversity in my life,” she said.

She’s also an eight-year breast cancer survivor. She launched the Barbara Bates Foundation in 1999 to help support and inspire inner-city high school students. Her charity has since expanded its mission to include breast cancer education and awareness.

MarShayla Funderburg, 18, said she was inspired by Bates' story.

“It makes me believe I can do anything,” she said. “There are people out here who been through way worse situations than I have, and they [made] it so I know I can make it.”

Kamissa Didibe, 15, said she’s more interested in a fashion designing career now. She was also touched by Bates' story, she said, because most people think that teen mothers don’t do anything with their lives.

“But she actually showed that she [had] a child when she was young ... and did something with her life in the end,” Didibe said.

Jamila Trimuel, founder and executive director of Ladies of Virtue, started the organization in 2009. She said that this trip for her girls was about much more than fashion and entrepreneurship.

“It’s also about overcoming obstacles, overcoming anything that may stand in their way,” she said, adding that by Bates coming from a similar background, they may feel more empowered to succeed in life.Read more at:purple prom dresses | orange prom dresses


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