MILWAUKEE — Andre Purdy is an up-and-coming Milwaukee fashion designer. He spent most of his life as a hair stylist. 

But at age 60, he decided to reinvent himself as a fashion designer.

Now, he’s a student at Milwaukee’s Edessa School of Fashion in Milwaukee’s Third Ward neighborhood.

One of his school projects was chosen by the Milwaukee Art Museum to be featured during its “Art in Bloom” spring fashion show.

Andre Purdy working on his design piece at Edessa School of Fashion, in Milwaukee's Third Ward neighborhood. (Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)

Purdy calls his design, “Black Lotus.” He said he hopes the fashion show audience will find meaning in his work.

“I want them (the audience) to feel artistic freedom, I want them to experience the joy of fashion, I ultimately want them to have whatever experience that comes to them from watching it,” said Purdy.

Purdy said when he was young, there was no support for his creative side. He said he hopes his story will motivate young people to chase their dreams earlier in life.

Andre Purdy's design called "Black Lotus," chosen by the Milwaukee Art Museum for its "Art In Bloom" fashion show. (Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)

“I come from humble beginnings, a very abusive childhood, so that is where my passion is at — inspiring children to step out into fields where they desire where their art and their creative abilities are taking them,” he said.

It was just five years ago that Purdy taught himself how to design and sew his own garments.

That’s when he won a scholarship to the Edessa School of Fashion during Milwaukee’s Fashion Week.

Edessa’s Academic Dean Lynne Dixon-Speller said education teaches people with raw talent what they can’t learn on their own.

“He is hungry, and that’s what we appreciate in design school. Some students come and think they’ve already got it. He kind of already had it, and came to learn more, and that’s what maturity does, and we really appreciate his presence here. He inspires everyone,” said Dixon-Speller.

From left to right: Andre Purdy and Lynne Dixon-Speller, academic dean and co-founder of Milwaukee's Edessa School of Fashion. (Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)

Dixon-Speller said Purdy is a great example for the younger students and is always excited to take risks in his work.

“I believe in leading first, so I need further education in the fashion industry… this is why I decided to go to school at 60 years old,” said Purdy.

Purdy said he hasn’t given up his hair-styling business. He plans to continue to do hair as he works on his fashion design education.