The Mexican dress designer who finds inspiration in his homeland.0
Rolando Santana knows dresses. He grew up surrounded by fabric (his mother was a dressmaker) and moved to New York City in 1991 to fulfill his fashion industry dream. After twenty years in the fashion capital of the world, Santana still finds inspiration for both color and structure in his homeland.
Do you have a theme in mind when you start a new collection?
Yes. So for Spring 2011, it’s Modern Mexican Architecture. Then finding pieces that help me translate that onto a dress, whether it’s a color story or structure. For instance, we have one print that looks like cement. It’s very textured and printed on linen fabric. So seeing a cement wall and translating it onto a dress.
What inspired Modern Mexican Architecture?
My first collection launched in the height of the recession, so I really wanted my next collection to be bright, vibrant and inspiring. Being from Mexico, there are always such bright colors: yellows, reds, stripes. Previously, we played a lot with fabrics and draping. People reacted really well to it but were also inspired by the more sophisticated pieces – the blacks, neutrals, pieces that were classic but with a modern twist.
For 2011, I sought to combine those two elements. There is an architect named Luis Barragan, and he uses bright colors but his architecture is incredibly simple. I liked the combination. The main concept of the line is simple shapes with a lot of play on fabrics – pleating, draping, sequins, but sequins used for texture. Not bling all over.
Your first job when you graduated from FIT was for Spenser Jeremy. I read they “recognized your talent.” How so?
Since it was a small family-owned company, I was exposed to the business end – production, merchandising, working with the design team. They had a private label and never a designer who really catered to the account. They wanted me to design a few dresses, and I made a presentation. I was assigned to the account. It was my first design job, and it opened the door creatively for me.
Dresses are the ultimate feminine expression. The ability to create something special that is very easy to wear. With a dress, it’s just one piece. After so many years in the fashion world, you see pieces come and go, but the dress always remains. If a woman has a choice to buy separates or a dress, a dress is the way they will go. For everything.
Do you have a fashion design who inspires you?
Not a big name designer like Dior, but I’m inspired my contemporaries. More so by just traveling, people watching. Last weekend I was walking on the beach and started picking up stones. I was inspired by the sand, neutral colors. I started sketching some designs then in the studio, see if the fabrics works for them.
So if you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Somewhere in Mexico. I would like to find a city that brings inspiration for fall. A city I haven’t been to where I could look at textiles and fabrics. Being remote from everything. I wouldn’t choose a glamorous spot, but rather explore within my roots and translate that into a more universal, cosmopolitan taste.
Santana and I spoke a bit about on the need to be remote and alone to find inspiration and work out designs. Creating space to be inspired is even harder for a designer launching their own line, their own business. Santana continually works to achieve this balance. When he left his studio last night, he sent me an email thanking me for my time. It was almost midnight.
To sample Rolando Santana’s dresses, visit his sale this week.
Know something we don't? Email us
at [email protected]