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FASHION FORWARD: Five years ago, Holbrook resident Michael Tornato walked the streets of Boston taking photos of fashionable folks for his blog, “The Trendy Dwarf.” Now at age 20 and living in New York City, he’s a catwalk closer to realizing his dream of becoming a designer of menswear.

Tornato, a student at the Art Institute of New York City, was picked as one of the finalists to show their designs Tuesday during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. He is the youngest designer to present a complete menswear collection there.

“I’ve yet to feel the excitement,” Tornato said by phone from New York last week. “There’s a lot to do to prepare for the show, but it’s actually one of the most exciting experiences of my life.”

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When he was a teen, he walked into an H&M clothing store, picked up a magazine article about “street style photography,” and was smitten, he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is so cool, I can do the same thing,’ ” Tornato said.

So he did. Tornato had his mom take him to the MBTA station in Braintree, and he went to Boston to snap away, armed with a camera and the growing courage needed to approach nattily dressed people and ask to take their pictures.

“I don’t think there’s a street in Boston I didn’t walk,” he said, adding he also attended many store openings, visited others to check out fabrics and styles, and became “a decently active part of the small fashion community in Boston.”

His fashion blog, www.thetrendydwarf.blogspot.com, was created by Tornato and a cousin, who no longer works on it.

“It came about organically,” Tornato said of the name, adding with a laugh, “trendy seemed a good word, and my cousin, well, he’s slightly short.”

While snapping street photos, Tornato would hand out cards to people, and found blog visits mounting by the thousands. As his desire to create fashion developed, he sought out the mentorship of Hanover designer-tailor Antonio Ayala , spending three days a week working with him after classes at Weymouth High School.

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“He taught me how to mostly hand sew, because he’s a tailor and most of his suits are hand sewn,” Tornato said. “He has been so valuable to me, without a doubt, I will always be indebted to him.”

He is being recognized at Fashion Week for his cutting-edge trends and futuristic menswear collection, which, according to his bio on the event’s website, is named “Ayala” in honor of his mentor.

As to exactly what “futuristic” means, Tornato said, it varies. He has long shirts that hang to the knees and zipper rather than button, making them easier to get on and off. He also has a jacket and a blazer with buckles, fashioned from backpack straps, and pants with knit ribbing at the end like sweat pants, which he said makes them more comfortable.

“Whatever I design, I push certain limits, but not too far, because if I do, I lose the customer,” he said. “I would never design something I wouldn’t wear.”

Tornato made the look spare, he said, owing to the needs of the tech-driven man, who carries only a cellphone, computer, and other digital devices. He is always “looking at what I think men are going to wear in the future.”

He is among 11 Art Institute students chosen from among the hundreds vying to show their designs at Fashion Week.

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The eldest of four siblings, Tornato was born in Louisville, Ky., to a Dominican mother and Argentine father. He grew up mostly in Holbrook and Abington, and will complete his schooling at the Art Institute in December.

When he’s done at the institute, he plans to stay in New York and work on his dream.

“I want to work at different places and build upon my experiences. And then establish my own brand of men’s clothing.”

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Leo Vercollone, president of Duxbury-based VERC Enterprises, was named president of the New England Convenience Store Association. Prior to his appointment, he was vice president of the association. Vercollone is a Duxbury resident and has served on boards for a number of industry, civic, and community organizations, including the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, Holy Family Catholic Church, and Trinity Catholic Academy in Brockton.

Emily Pina of East Bridgewater was named the new chief financial officer at Sacred Heart School in Kingston. Most recently, Pina was an accountant and audit manager for Lynch, Malloy & Marini in Norwell.


Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at pkandarian@ aol.com.