WESTPORT — For 22-year-old Ariel Cavallini, fashion and design have always been key parts of her life.

So much so that she still makes time to sharpen her fashion skills while also caring for four children as an au pair in Westport.

“I found a good balance,” Cavallini said. “After I put them in bed I would go to the basement, get my sewing machine out, and start cutting patterns and sewing.”

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From May to October, she continued this balancing act while completing an online course called “Fashion Industry Essentials.” Her passion and drive for the fashion industry stemmed from a dream she said she’s had since growing up in Jundiai, Brazil.

“I’ve always loved art and fashion,” Cavallini said, adding both her parents were artists.

As a youth, she created her own clothing for her dolls using rubber balloons. Cavallini’s grandmother taught her how to sew outfits for her Barbie collection, which led to crafting an assortment of bikinis and skirts for the dolls. Support also came from Cavallini’s parents, who enrolled her in a professional sewing class.

However, due to the family being unable to afford fashion schools in Brazil, Cavallini temporarily parted ways with her fashion dreams. Initially, she considered studying English at college and was even accepted to two universities in Brazil.

“It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted something else,” Cavallini recalled. “I decided to step back and give that space to someone else who really wanted it.”

Instead she came to the United States in 2018 to work as an au pair, an opportunity she said allowed her to experience a new culture and ultimately reinvigorated her drive to pursue fashion.

But it wasn’t until Cavallini was eating dinner at Little Barn with her host mother Ewa Abrams that she got the push she needed to make her goals a reality.

Abrams had asked Cavallini if she ever had a lifelong dream.

“Suddenly I couldn’t stop thinking about being a fashion designer,” Cavallini said.

After revealing this, Cavallini said she was encouraged to chase her goal and signed up for online courses while still continuing the au pair job.

She also discovered Westport provided a world of opportunities in the industry. Cavallini soon connected with Ellen Gang, founder of Ellen Gang Design Studio in town, and helped her with a fashion show. It didn’t take long for Gang to ask Cavallini to return.

“I ended up helping her with her fashion camp throughout the summer,” she said. “She’s a really great person. I owe so much to her.”

Cavallini continued sharpening her skills by doing clothing repairs for other au pairs in the area.

“I started making repairs because I really want the experience,” Cavallini said. “I really try to push myself to do this kind of work to gain experience.”

She said she hopes to one day establish her own brand, for which she already has a name — NOX New York.

“Nox in Latin means goddess of the night,” she said. “I thought it was a name that would go really well with my sophistiated style of clothing.”

While she has only just begun her journey in fashion, Cavallini stressed the importance for other people her age to pursue their dreams.

“I know sometimes we feel lost and there can be so many choices. ... My advice is everyone should follow what they truly want and what makes their heart beat faster,” she said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com