#MadeInRVA: How a picture of Rihanna propelled prisoner into becoming fashion designer

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — During a nearly decade-long stay in prison, one Virginia man discovered his dream of becoming a fashion designer.

amir12David Amir used to sell guns and drugs. Now, he wants to sell his own line of shoes.

“I was doing so many things negative trying to get attention,” he said.

But it’s what caught his attention one day in “the hole” that sparked his passion. On the wall in that cell was a picture of singer Rihanna.

“It was just from her head to her hips,” said Amir. “And I would get so frustrated laying on my bunk just looking at it and I just wanted to know what the rest of the outfit was.”

So he started sketching what he though the rest of her outfit might look like and other designs that came to mind.

“That’s all I did. I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of wedding gowns…anything you can think of.”

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He still has those sketches. Most of them, scribbled on scrap paper made from prison documents.

“Some of the correctional female officers would come in and want to see what I created and loved it,” he said.

During the last six months of his sentence, he took an upholstery class to learn how to sew.

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It’s been exactly one year and one day since he was released. Now that he’s out, he’s learning even more at the Fashion Design Center at Supreme Flea Market.

“When I first met David it was amazing to know that he spent half his life incarcerted, but God still allowed him to exercise his gift,” said Michael Taylor, Fashion Design Center’s design director.

Taylor is from Richmond but spent decades in the fashion industry in New York.

“I never thought I would come back, but you know, life changes,” he said.

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Taylor says God gave him a vision to give back.

He describes the Fashion Design Center is an incubator of information to help people learn about the industry to start a business. There are also free sewing classes for students of all levels. That takes place Fridays from 2 to 7 p.m. in an open house format.

Taylor says Amir is an example of how one’s present shouldn’t be determined by their past.

“We’ve all been called with a gift. But once you come into knowledge of who you are — not what you’ve done, but who you are — you’re then positioned to accomplish what God has provided for you before you got here.” — Michael Taylor

Amir cites mentors, like Taylor, who’ve helped him along the way.

“I was out there selling guns and drugs and now, my mentor is the chief of police, Alfred Durham and I’m spending the night over at his house. It’s, like, surreal. It’s crazy.”

Taylor says he believes Amir could one day he a household name.

Right now, they’re focusing on developing a line of designer men’s shoes and looking for angel investors.

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Amir wants to call it 18th David Amir.

His ultimate goal? Seeing his work on the red carpet — perhaps on Rihanna herself.

“Then I could say, ah, I made it,” he said.

To learn more about Fashion Design Center, click HERE.

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