Stop and Wear the Flowers
Alli Heyden was a bubbly, energetic blonde who illuminated the world around her. At 24 years old, she was living in New York City designing a clothing line with her name on it. She had worked for Monique Leshman, been featured in Sally Congdon-Martin’s book Emerging Designers of 2009 and had a collaboration with Betsy Johnson in the works. Her future was as bright as her smile, which no one could seem to wipe off of her face.
Behind that smile, however, Alli lived with chronic knee pain from the time she was rear-ended on Linglestown Road six years ago. She was often in and out of the hospital to help control her pain.
“Even with the bulky braces and the crutches and the canes, she was still going out in New York and calling the shops and meeting with the buyers,” says Renee Heyden, Alli’s mother. “She didn’t let anything stop her. She smiled no matter what.”
All of that promise was cut violently short when Alli went into the hospital for a routine pain-management procedure in July 2011. She never came back out.
“It wasn’t even surgery. It was never supposed to happen,” explains Heyden, her eyes glazing over as she stares far, far away.
Suddenly, bags upon bags of Alli’s old fabric filled the Heyden family’s Lower Paxton home, serving as a constant reminder of their loss. Satins, leathers, cottons and silks sat patiently waiting for a new life.
Heyden knew she couldn’t let the fabric go to waste, so she started making simple floral arrangements out of the textiles. As her talent steadily improved, she expanded her offering to also include an array of accessories for women and children.
Alli’s Everlasting Floral Arrangements was born. And every piece was – and still is – created with fabric once used by Alli herself.
“She actually kept samples of every single fabric in a big folder. It has the number, the lot number and where she got it from. So far, I can trace it back to where she purchased it originally and have already gotten some more of the fabrics because she kept such good records,” says Heyden. “I was really surprised because Alli was so artsy and creative and was not one to be very organized. But she made it all very easy for me.”
Heyden donates a percentage of her proceeds to the Alli Heyden Passion for Fashion Scholarship fund at the Savannah College of Art and Design, her daughter’s alma mater. So far, she has raised about $15,000 so that other promising fashion-design students may follow in Alli’s chic footsteps.
“Some days you have good days, and some days you have bad days,” explains Heyden. “When I am really feeling down, I go downstairs – I have basically turned our entire basement into my little work area – and that helps me. I may cry when I am doing an arrangement, but Alli is right there. It really does help me quite a bit.”
Renee, her husband, David, and her 21-year-old daughter, Stephanie, continue their ongoing grieving process, surrounded by the beauty of Alli’s fabrics.
Even as the pain subsides, it never truly disappears. Throughout the painful litigation between themselves and the New York hospital tied to Alli’s death, their unyielding love for one another keeps them chugging forward.
“I know if Alli could see all this, she would say, ‘Go mama,’” says Heyden as a wide smile spreads across her face. “She always called me mama.”
For more information, visit alliseverlastingfloralarrangements.com. All pins are $35. The arrangements range from $65 to $100. The baby hats are $30, and the baby headbands are $25.