Hunter Lingle Bell, a 1999 graduate of West Florence High School, was honored as Florence School District One’s Distinguished Graduate at the 12th Annual School Foundation Celebration Gala on Oct. 10 at the SiMT.
At the end of the program the FSDT Teachers of the Year were presented followed by the announcement of the overall Teacher of the Year. Dr. Lucia Huang of Wilson High was selected at the winner.
“The School Foundation spotlights a success story each year during our gala. Our 2013 honoree is our youngest ever recipient,” stated Jean Leatherman, chairman of the Foundation’s Fund Development Committee. “We hope this celebration of public education will inspire our graduates to follow their passion and encourage them to achieve their goals! Hunter’s achievements prove students from Florence District One can ‘Reach for their Star.’”
Hunter, the designer behind Hunter Dixon, is a South Carolina native with the sensibility of a New Yorker. The contemporary designer was most recently named the winner of NBC’s hit show Fashion Star, where she competed with 13 other contestants to have her collection bought by Express, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
The daughter of Jay and Jan Lingle, Hunter was born and raised in Florence. She was fortunate to have parents who consistently encouraged their daughters to explore their passions. As a young girl she was involved in dance, art classes and theatre which carried over into her fascination of fashion. Determined to create unique clothes for her Barbie dolls, Hunter would sketch designs and use leftover fabric from her mother’s sewing room to create interesting pieces. Her early love of color, fashion and style would lead her toward the success she has achieved as a designer today.
“Hunter is a culmination of Barbie dolls, art lessons, Florence friends, cheerleading, sisters’ love, Roll Tide and New York!” stated her mom. “Her happy heart and love of others brought a sincerity and zeal to go after her goals with a determined perseverance. The underlying truth about her success is her passion and an unwavering faith; that God would see to it that her dream of fashion would unfold! We as parents have used this motto in our own lives and have engrained it in our daughters as well. ‘Don't ever spend time lingering on your failures in life but learn from them, and move on to what the future holds!”
While studying fashion design and studio art at the University of Alabama, Hunter yearned for the city life and left Tuscaloosa during the summers to intern for inspirational designers Nanette Lepore and Rebecca Taylor. Upon graduation in 2003, Bell was on the first plane back to New York City to further her design education at Parsons The New School of Design. She simultaneously worked as an assistant designer at Jones Apparel Group and then Vineyard Vines, while creating her own line on the side. Hunter married Paul Bell in 2009 and that same year was able to raise the capital to allow her to realize the dream of working full time on launching her own line.
The School Foundation promotes educational excellence in Florence School District One through grants for innovative learning and through high impact initiatives designed to prepare all students for success. They are currently leading a school readiness awareness campaign focusing on preparing all children to enter kindergarten with the skills needed to succeed.