By Michelle Diaz
I grew up surrounded by talented women in my neighborhood who offered alterations and tailoring from their home to their community. I was always impressed by their work ethic and I continue to cherish the craftsmanship of Latina designers. I believe that the tricks we learn as young girls from the crafty women in our life can be turned into a well-known name in the fashion industry.
With the tendency to be underrepresented or stereotyped in U.S. industries, Latin American women here in the States can take it into our own hands by representing ourselves using our unique tastes and art forms – including fashion design.
By uplifting fellow women artists and innovators in our community, we can help spread the word and inspire others who wish to pursue their passion.
Isabel Toledo was a Cuban-American fashion designer who prioritized the technicality and craftsmanship of fashion design. She and her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was eight. She enjoyed working with her hands and learned to sew as a young girl. As an established designer, she never forgot her roots and always paid close attention to fabric choice and sewing finesse in her collections.
She won various design awards throughout her career and she showcased her designs in museums and exhibits. It was her opportunity to design an outfit for Michelle Obama for the inauguration of Barack Obama that caught the attention of the whole nation.
Toledo passed away in 2019 from breast cancer, but she is remembered for her passion for the process of creating fashion pieces and the intricate techniques that make them special.
Karen Perez is a Latina designer based in New York who started her journey in fashion as a stylist before creating her brand, Second Wind.
At the height of the pandemic in the U.S., her innovative mask design turned an ugly necessity into a statement piece of art. It incorporated a gold chain, which grabbed the attention of many on social media.
Her mask designs have been worn by celebrities and public figures, including Becky G, Jennifer Lopez, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Second Wind is a women-owned business that Perez created to inspire confidence and style during these times of uncertainty.
Wasi Clothing is a Latina-owned, Bolivian-American brand based in Los Angeles, California, and founded by Vanessa Acosta. Acosta was inspired by her Latin American roots and her upbringing.
“Wasi” means “home” in the Quechuan language spoken by the Indigenous of various Latin American countries, including Bolivia. “Wasi” became the name of her brand because it was one of the last words her grandfather translated to her before passing away.
Her abstract designs that feature cultural elements, including icons like Frida Kahlo and the Spanish language, are what make her brand special. Her goal is to provide a space that embodies “home” for those who shop Wasi.