Alissa Evans was recognized for her innovative Home Free project

Evans, third from the left, at the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund gala

Alissa Evans, a senior Fashion and Retail Studies major at Ohio State, wanted her project to focus on two things: design for the home-and philanthropy.

So the 27-year-old created Home Free, a class presentation based on the Made in America campaign. Her company, staffed by local women in need, would craft beautiful décor, but it would also offer guidance, support and a paycheck for the women it employs.

Evans' idea won her a $30,000 Geoffrey Beene Scholarship, awarded to four outstanding fashion students nationwide each year. She accepted the award at a January YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund gala in New York City.

We talked with her about how she thought up Home Free and what she has her sights set on now.

-Taylor Starek, @taylorstarek

Photos courtesy of Alissa Evans

How did the Home Free project start?

It's an idea that I've had for a while. I really wanted to work on doing design for the home, but I also wanted it to be philanthropic in some way. Having this project that was focused on Made in America really gave me the idea that if we were manufacturing in America, and we were creating jobs, I could give those jobs to people who were at a disadvantage, and I could use my company to affect people's lives in a positive way. It really hit me that this could work when I figured out the name for it. All of a sudden "Home Free" came to my mind, and I was like, "Wait, that makes perfect sense."

Why is this issue so important to you?

Back when I was in Dayton, I did some volunteering for what was then Love146, which fights to eradicate sex slavery in Dayton. A lot of it happens in the U.S. It's happening right here, and that made me aware of it. But I wanted the project be broader than that. My idea was to partner with an organization that's already working to help these people. I'd work with them and figure out what women they have who are in abusive relationships who can't escape from them because they don't have the means to support themselves. I'd hire them but also give them the support they need make sure they have programs for childcare and career counseling, talk to them about what it is they want to do and how to get there. I'd just focus on helping these people turn their lives around.

And when did you find out that you had been nominated for the scholarship?

In order to apply for this, you had to have won a scholarship from this organization the year before, and I had. I submitted my application in October, and in the very beginning of November, I found out I was a finalist-one of eight. That was basically my goal. Then after that it was all the prep for doing the presentation in front of their board and CEOs of these different companies. That was definitely nerve-wracking. I found out that I won the scholarship in front of about 1,500 people at this awards dinner gala. Four of us won $30,000. And the rest won $10,000.

Did you get to meet any big names in the industry?

I met a lot of people. I think probably the coolest was Bill Cunningham. He rode his bike there, and he had his little jacket on. He photographed us. He posed all of the finalists just before the dinner started. That was really cool. Linda Fargo was there. She's the SVP of Bergdorf Goodman. I saw Karlie Kloss in passing.

What's next for you? Are you going to see Home Free through?

I think that would be amazing eventually, but it's going to be after I gain more business skills and after I'm in the industry for a lot longer, so I can make sure I'm doing it the right way. For now, nothing's official, but I'm going to stay in the fashion industry.