During the weekend of Fashion Week 2016, Cassandra Pintro found herself in Milan, Italy, attending an invite-only Gucci Luxury party, sipping champagne with an Italian designer and enveloped in the clothing of high-end models. Having launched her own fashion blog a few weeks prior, Cassandra had already bonded with a pair of German fashionistas in a nearby cafe and befriended a number of stylists within the three day period.
“When I say that weekend was like The Great Gatsby, I’m not lying,” she laughs. But Cassandra’s story did not begin in the midst of fashion paradise. It began 3,922 miles across the ocean, tucked away in the small town of Troy, New York.
“I never really belonged there,” she said. “Everybody in that town stays there forever, and I never liked that idea. I always knew there was so much more.”
Growing up with her four older brothers and single mother, and very much enchanted with life outside of Troy, Cassandra always jumped at the opportunity to expand her horizons. She studied French, Italian and Spanish, despite the fact that foreign language was not a requirement. She learned Creole, a dialect of French and native language of Haiti, through her family. During her sophomore year of high school, she ventured to Haiti and volunteered at the medical practice that her uncle ran. But while Cassandra caught small glimpses of the world beyond her borders, her “great escape” came after her senior year of high school—in the form of Florence, Italy.
Cassandra did not originally plan to pursue her first year abroad through Marist’s Freshman Florence Experience. But, like many other opportunities in her life, she filled out the application anyway. By the time fall of 2015 approached, Cassandra became one of the few Troy natives to leave home. Showered with Facebook messages and “Good luck!” texts from her inspired town, she journeyed to Italy with 50 other Marist freshman.
As a fashion major, Cassandra had always maintained a clear vision of the life she wants to live. She aims to work in fashion merchandising to eventually become the creative director for a luxury brand. However, residing in Italy, she was, for the first time directly exposed to her aspirations. Visits to private runway shows and chats with foreign designers became the norm for Cassandra, as she found herself submerged in the world of fashion.
“I can’t bring myself to say no to things, because you never know where it’s going to take you.”
“Being there made me realize that everything I wanted was completely real and completely doable,” she says. But even as she boarded the flight back to the U.S. after quite possibly the most eventful year of her life, Cassandra’s extraordinary opportunities were not yet depleted.
On Sept. 6, 2016, she made her way to New York City to see her lifelong idol, Kanye West, perform in concert. She was prancing through the arena and belting out Kanye songs hours before he took the stage, when a woman approached her in the VIP section of the crowd.
The next day, Kanye West was watching Cassandra model in his Yeezy Season 4 New York Fashion Week Show on Roosevelt Island.
“The whole thing happened sort of by chance,” Cassandra said. “This woman told me her boss really wanted me to be a part of Kanye’s Fashion show. It’s just weird to know that people are always watching you even when you don’t realize.”
Cassandra had never modeled before. She was 5’3” and, as she described “not a model.” She had classes the day of and the day after the show. But on Wednesday morning on Sept. 7, she joined the 106 other models in taking the stage for Kanye and a number of other celebrities.
“I always go for things,” Cassandra grins. “I can’t bring myself to say no to things, because you never know where it’s going to take you.” It is with this mentality which Cassandra conducts her life.
Currently, she is working on her own clothing line, featuring high-end street-clothes, which she plans on launching in January with her friend from New York. She is also redirecting her blog to account for a more creative range of interests.
As for the practicality of her vision, Cassandra pays little mind. “A lot of people will love something, but they don’t do it because they don’t find it to be practical,” she said. “But once you find your passion, you have to go for it, because the opportunities are limitless.”