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Student runs his race to the runway
North Hall teen pushes himself to graduate early, start sportswear line
North Hall High student Zach Lurie placed second in The Art Institute’s Passion for Fashion competition under the Fashion Marketing and Merchandising and Fashion Retail Management category. Lurie created a concept for a Web-based store and a line of clothing for extreme sports enthusiasts called Fresh Co. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

At 17, most teens lose sleep over prom and the latest Facebook gossip. But Zach Lurie is well on his way to becoming a mini mogul in the fashion world.

The North Hall High School student’s collection of extreme sportswear recently garnered him first place in the Art Institute of California’s Passion for Fashion competition.

But expect to see his merchandise flying past on the backs of BMX and motocross riders rather than super skinny fashion models. Lurie’s collection, called Fresh Co., is a new take on standard sportswear including protective gear, helmets, boots and jerseys, he said.

“I do a lot of extreme sports,” Lurie said. “I’ve seen all the different companies and all of their stuff and I’ve always wanted to have my own.”

A year ago, Lurie’s sights were set on turning pro in motocross and BMX riding. But everything changed when an accident on the track landed him in the hospital.

While training in Athens on spring break, Lurie’s bike motor malfunctioned and he crashed to the ground, his body tucked into a ball. The impact bruised his lungs and heart and caused internal bleeding.

“After that, I pretty much stopped racing,” he said. “It took me about a month to get back off the couch and then after that it took months to get back to 100 percent.”

Though the memory of the crash still hangs over him at times, he said he still plans to get his pro license in the coming years.
With his goal of turning pro on the back burner during his recovery, Lurie threw himself into work on his line. It was his marketing and merchandising teacher Beth Pitts who encouraged his class to apply for the Passion for Fashion competition.

“He’s creative and he’s got an attention to detail,” Pitts said. “But the biggest thing is he has passion for it. He wants to do it.”

Lurie spent two months fine-tuning his business model and preparing designs to send off to California in December.

“I’m proud of him, I really am,” Pitts said. “A lot of guys wouldn’t have gone after (the competition) based on the title, but he looked at it and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’”

At 14, Lurie was already imagining himself at the helm of a successful business and started toiling away to realize his ambition one step at a time. With support from family, he designed simple pieces such as T-shirts and socks and sent them to be manufactured.
Either using computer software or regular sketching tools, he personally designs each item, sometimes spending weeks on a single concept, he said.

But free time is hard to come by. Lurie planned to graduate a year early to turn pro, but now he wants to work on a summer line.
“I started heading toward my fashion line,” he said. “I already had some classes done so I decided I’m gonna graduate early and get into college and get this going.”

After his classmates head home at the 3:30 p.m. bell, Lurie heads for evening classes at the Mountain Education Center until 7 p.m.. He also takes homeschooling courses from Faith Academy. All this work is packing two years of school into one and will meet his early graduation goal this May, freeing him up to start a summer line of sportswear just in time for fall classes at the Art Institute of California-Orange County in September.

The $3,000 prize from the competition will give him a boost with tuition. He also placed second at the Passion for Fashion nationals level, earning another $5,000 and narrowly missing the chance for a VIP trip to New York Fashion Week.

But he was not too troubled by the lost opportunity.  

“Most of the people have no clue what was going on in the extreme sports world,” he said. ”I will get into (high fashion) but I’m not heading toward fashion week and runway and all that. That’s not much of me.”

Despite a hectic schedule in which he still manages time to squeeze in motocross practice, he said he prefers his lifestyle.

“I’ve always had something going on,” he said. “I don’t like being bored.”