Watch Now: Normal U High Grad Goes From Baseball To Fashion Design | Go!

When the pandemic struck, Paul Africano, a college graduate, reexamined his goals and decided to pursue his passion for fashion design.

NORMAL – ‘Pivot’ has become one of the key words in the COVID-19 pandemic and that is certainly what happened to the career path of college high school graduate Paul Africano.

After graduating from U High in 2019, the star catcher for the Pioneer baseball team traveled to the University of Washington in Seattle, planning a career in health care.

But when the pandemic moved his classes online, Africano returned home.

Normal’s Paul Africano stands outside the building on Uptown Circle where he will have a pop-up store of his clothing collection from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. A silhouette in the window is based on a work of art by his father, Nicolas Africano.

Lenore Sobota

As much as he was interested in what he was studying, “I realized how obsessed I was getting with clothes.” He had started designing and making clothes in high school and decided to “take fashion more seriously.”

Usually he sells clothes on his website (ADS— but from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, he will have a pop-up shop on the first floor of the building. on the west side of Uptown Circle on Normal.

“I am often in upscale neighborhoods. My friends and I are skateboarding on the way. I skated so much and walked past this space, ”Africano said on Wednesday, as he took a break from installing his screen.


Shirts from Paul Africano’s fashion collection hang in a space at One Uptown Circle that will serve as a pop-up store on Friday and Saturday.

Lenore Sobota

One night he saw the lights on and decided that would be a good fit for an idea he had on a smaller scale, hanging clothes from the ceiling. He contacts the town of Normal which puts him in touch with the developer of the building.

“They really supported me,” Africano said.

He hopes his pop-up store will spark more ideas in others.

“This space has been vacant for so long that people forget it’s available for other events like this,” he said. “I want more of this happening in the upscale neighborhoods.”

Although fashion design is a relatively new activity for the 20-year-old, he has been around art all his life.

Our new digital subscription offer: $ 1 for your first six months. Activate today at

His father, Nicolas Africano, is an artist who molds sculptures of glass figures. His mother, Rebecca, is often the role model.

“My father and his work, but also who he is, influenced me more than I think,” Africano said.


Normal’s Paul Africano talks about the hand-dyed shirts from his fashion collection that will be part of a pop-up boutique at One Uptown Circle in Normal on Friday and Saturday.

Lenore Sobota

Its clothing line includes hand-dyed T-shirts and a collection of 20 individual, handmade garments.

“I consider these pieces to be individual works of art,” he said.

Many contain graphic designs that are silhouettes and they are deeply personal.


The silhouettes derived from the artwork of his father, Nicolas Africano, are a common motif in Paul Africano’s fashion line.

Lenore Sobota

“The silhouettes are derived from a lot of my dad’s artwork, actually. I use a lot of his artwork to generate these silhouettes and faces. The muse is actually my mother, ”Africano explained. “These have become a common motif in my work. “

Before he could realize his dream, Africano realized that he needed to know more about pattern making, tailoring and fabrics.

Last summer he was an assistant and intern at Vicki Tinervin, a dressmaker who runs 1016 Studios in Bloomington.

Tinervin said Africano “came in and had personal goals that he wanted to achieve. He did a great job in achieving those goals.

Africano said: “We have also become very close friends because of this.

Tinervin said: “I hope it’s a huge success.”

Although Africano did not continue to play baseball when he left U High, he said it “still played a big part in my lineage. … I am aware of the size of the clothes and how they perform. He describes some of his clothes as having a “tactical fit”.


Paul Africano of Normal explains the design elements that went into a vest that is part of his fashion collection.

Lenore Sobota

“I think there is a difference between simple and minimalist,” he said, describing a vest with basic lines, magnetic closures and a petite silhouette. “Everything is thought of in this design. “

Africano said, “I’m excited because I’m really focusing on a really unique and authentic aesthetic to my idea of ​​something beautiful. … I finally feel that this work is an expression of myself.

One of the goals of his project is “to influence people to be more honest and authentic with themselves,” he said.

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

Joseph E. Golightly