With Fashion Week Here, Let’s Honor 10 Iconic Latin Fashion Designers

Johana Hernandez
Photo Credit fdmi.edu

Fashion Week is one of the most recognized celebrations of the year. A week’s worth of posh events that take place during the month of September in the meccas of fashion, New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Fashion designers, brands or “houses” show off their best of the seasons’ collection on the runway to buyers and all of the media outlets including influencers such as celebrities. The fashions displayed help influence trends for the seasons to come, as well as, the ones already in play giving audiences a taste of the new “it” style. Industry insiders hold their breath waiting to see who will be the star of Fashion Week on and off the fabulous runway.

“Press Week” as it was initially labeled in 1943 New York is a hot ticket in the industry. Its history goes back decades to couture shows in Paris 1945, Milan 1958 and London 1984. The “big four” of Fashion Week happens each year in February and September. The who’s who of mainstream fashion is prized with front row seats to the extravaganza. Models headlining the runway are aware the whole world is watching. Designers are under the microscope of the fashion community, awaiting to take a peek at the masterpieces. Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Nina Ricci are among fashion royalty’s in Paris while Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Badgley Mischka, and Tory Burch are in New York. These are the kind of moments that dreams are made of, a major highlight in the lives of up and coming designers looking forward to getting a chance in the spotlight.

During a time when the talents of Latinos across the globe are being recognized, it is important for the new Latinx generation to know the designers that paved the way for them to have the opportunities they do today. There are many on this impressive list, however, a handful of designers stand out for the contributions that help put Latinos on fashion’s global map.

Isabel Toledo RIP

Isabel Toledo (1960-2019) was born in Cuba, arriving in the US during her teenage years. Ms.Toledo began sewing her own garments at the age of 8 years old giving her the know-how to learn construction and textile. The Cuban-American designer leaped into worldwide recognition when First Lady, Michelle Obama wore her 2-piece lemongrass-colored elegant design to the 2009 inaugural parade of President Barack Obama. Although her achievements were not limited to dressing then the first lady, she will always be remembered for her poised and distinguished designs. Style without the hype, she clearly understood women’s fashion when she said, “Fashion is every woman’s language, every woman’s tool.” The crafted and award-winning fashion and costume designer, wife, and fellow New Yorker passed away at the age of 59 from breast cancer on August 25, 2019, in New York City.

Oscar de la Renta Fashion
Photo courtesy of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) unless otherwise noted.

Oscar De La Renta (1932-2014) was a gift to the fashion community. He was born in the Dominican Republic but his creativity took him to Spain at the age of 18. The desire to study painting was short-lived when he fell in love with fashion. He went on to work in Paris then New York for the likes of Elizabeth Arden. Mr. De La Renta’s world-renowned designs were as modern as they were feminine and stylish. His popular line of haute couture was gracefully worn by a few of the first lady Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush. Fashion had a place for him in the line of elite designers but he was also a man of kindness and good-will. Lending his philanthropy efforts to cultural institutions such as The Metropolitan Opera and Channel 13/WNET New York offered a human side to this brilliant star in his own right.

Narciso Rodriguez fall2018
Narciso Rodriguez Fall 2018

Narciso Rodriguez son of Cuban immigrants, born and raised in Newark, NJ made a splash in 1996 for his beautiful design of Carolyn Bessett’s wedding gown which she wore during her nuptials to John F. Kennedy Jr. Between 2008-2016. Michelle Obama chose his designs several times bringing his style to America’s forefront of fashion. Mr. Rodriguez’ highly-acclaimed designs have been sought after by celebs around the globe. His collaborations in the world of dance in the United States and abroad are well regarded as the choreographic community. The fashion designs have also been part of displays in several museum exhibitions such as Design Triennial Exhibition Cooper Hewitt.

Maria Cornejo
Maria Cornejo photographed for the FT by Mark C O’Flaherty at her archive space in Brooklyn, New York, in May

Maria Cornejo born in Chile was relocated to England as a child. Her fashions are praised by women all over Japan and London where she studied fashion. Simple, modern sophistication displaying a luxurious style. Cornejo’s atelier in New York City’s Nolita, Zero+Maria Cornejo is visited by fans of her designs. 

Carolina Herrera Michelle Obama
Photo AFP Getty Images / Michelle Obama chose Venezuelan-American designer, Carolina Herrera, for the gown she wore Tuesday to the state dinner honoring French President Francois Hollande

Carolina Herrera is a Venezuelan an award-winning designer known all over the globe for her stylish gowns. Her exquisite luxury brand goes beyond bridal, ball or evening gowns worn by first ladies and celebrities. She has created a label that resonates with elegance in not only fashion but fragrance, eyewear, and menswear, as well. 

stella nolasco
Puerto Rican designer Stella Nolasco took the NYFW runway to highlight the new wave of women’s rights movement. Getty Images

Stella Nolasco’s styles have been work by the likes of Eva Longoria and Beyonce and other high profile figures. The vivid colors combined with delicate ornate and intricate beading reflect the spirit and life of her Puerto Rican roots. 

Gabriela Cadena
STEPHEN LOVEKIN/GETTY IMAGES FOR GABRIELA CADENA

Gabriella Cadena is the Ecuadorian designer who has a client list that includes names like Blake Lively and Miranda Lambert. Women wearing her designs can feel empowered by the designer’s use of the female silhouette and bold colors.

Angel Sanchez

Angel Sanchez, Venezuelan designer has a worldwide recognized brand of evening wear and bridal gowns. The member of the prestigious CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) has a club of celebrity fans that include Taylor Swift and Giselle Bundchen.

Johana Hernandez
Photo Credit fdmi.edu

Johana Hernandez is the superstar haute couture and bridal designer of the Glaudi Collection and Couture XV. The custom designs are created for women who are not afraid to own their curves. Her hand made daring and rich works have been seen at the Latin Grammys and Oscars, neither ever disappoint. The Los Angeles based designer has come a long way from her first job at head designer at the ripe age of 19 years-old. Her parents moved to the US from El Salvador to work at sweatshops giving her an appreciation not only for fashion but hard work, as well.

Carlos Miele
Photo Credit azureazure.com

Carlos Miele, the Brazilian fashion designer has been able to accomplish his design goals while making a mark in society with his work on a project with The Rainforest Foundation-US. His modern work combines fashion and the visual arts which have been seen in museums, art centers, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His VOGUE page is a testament to the influence he has had on the modern fashion world.

Photo Credit Michel Roberts

My love for everything fashion began during my teen years with designers like Mr. De La Renta and Mrs. Herrera, notable designers recognized by the fashion world. It has been eye-opening and refreshing to research the new names added to the list of iconic fashion designers of modern society. Although not defined as a Latino, it was inspiring to read that my favorite shoe designer Manolo Blahnik is Spanish born from the Canary Islands. It helped remind me of the importance of ongoing self-education. To this point, Latinos have had an impact in areas of society that we have not even begun to uncover making it essential for everyone in the Latino community to be inquisitive enough to dig deeper into the history of not only art and culture but history, too.