Eventually, Graham parted ways with the modeling agency and focused on selling her designs, though she had initial success elsewhere.

"Baltimore wasn't having it," she said with a laugh. "I mostly sold my clothes to boutiques on South Street in Philadelphia."

After cultivating a following there, Graham's designs caught on in Baltimore. In 2004, she opened her current boutique, The Doll House, which is located in a second-story row house just south of the Washington Monument. The boutique has a playful, youthful feel. Graham playfully refers to her customers as "dolls."

She said: "It feels like a girlfriend's closet. It is a welcoming place that feels like girls playing dress-up and then realizing that they can wear outrageous clothing."

The boutique is brightly lit with chandeliers, and filled with eclectic, monochromatic duds, including crinoline skirts, beaded tops and leather accented dresses. The walls are covered with cutouts from high-fashion glossy magazines.

Graham expanded her empire to Los Angeles last year after several of her model clients urged her to move west, setting up styling jobs for her in L.A. upon her arrival. In addition, she worked closely with Nicki Schwan, formerly the fashion director for Vibe, now the head stylist for rapper Nicki Minaj.

In Winter, Graham has found the closest thing she has to family in Los Angeles.

"I try to keep my business and personal separate, but this relationship blossomed," Graham said of the pair going to movies and spending time at each other's homes. "They are definitely family. Baltimore is so different from California. You need that. They are my family. I love them. They are not the typical Hollywood family at all."

Winter also gushes about their relationship.

"I'm a Ragdoll, and I love her," she said.

Graham hopes to build upon the recent momentum she has with Winter. This past week, she headed up to New York City to meet with a potential celebrity client, a musician. She met with her again in D.C. before learning that she would be dressing her for the coming Soul Train Music Awards — a major event for the urban music industry.

Graham said she was excited about her newest Ragdoll.

"I can't tell you who she is right now," said Graham, who was planning shopping trips in New York, Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia to pull together four clothing options for her celebrity client. "But you'll definitely notice her on the red carpet."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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