Interview Part 2: Carolina's Transition from College Student to Founder of Clothing Line Descalz
Abigail (me): The next question is how did the idea to start your own clothing line Descalza come about and what were the steps that you took to actually make it happen?
Carolina Arias: After I graduated college in 2015 I had these textiles and the women from the Guatemala in my mind but I just didn’t know how I was going to go back to them. So here I am freshly out of college, and for everybody who thinks that as soon as you graduate from college you get a great job and everything is going to go well, yea JK that doesn’t happen haha. Nobody tells you this but the transition from college to the real world sucks! I hate it, I want to go back, same school haha.
Me: PREACH haha
Caro: Yes! so at first I was thinking about whether I could start my own business or whether I should join an organization or company that was already doing this stuff. Everybody around me told me that I needed to get design experience so I moved to New York and lived there for a year. I loved the city but I hated the industry. I just didn’t feel like I fit in. On the other hand, one thing that New York did for me is that it validated me as a designer. I realized that I was actually good at what I was doing but it also made me realize that I wanted to share my talents with the people that I felt close to. I started to notice how often we try to incorporate a part of who we are and our culture into our clothing. I feel like this is especially true for the Latino community. I started thinking about how we have these textiles from Latin American countries, made by Latinos, that are exceptionally beautiful. However, these textiles are being represented by these big retail brands and the faces of the models wearing them don’t look like us. That was really bothering me and so I started thinking about what I could do. That’s when the idea of creating Descalza hit me. I had a lot of down time because I had lost my job and so I started to realize what if this is it, what if this is the way that I can bridge my two passions. What if this is the way that I can work with the artisans in Latin America and be here in the US. To be present and at the same time serve my latino community living here in the US who are yearning for a piece of home. Fashion is the skin that you choose to put on and if put on the right skin and you start getting those compliments you can create conversations right there that we need to be having about representation that are not coming from a place of anger but from a place of love. So yea that’s how the idea of creating Descalza started.
Then I moved back to Raleigh in 2016 and I started reconnecting with some of my former professors and other people to share my idea. My mentor from the college of textiles told me to start by creating the product. I told her “but I don’t have this and that” and he told me to just go ahead and make it. Which is super great advice that when you have an idea just make it happen, don’t worry about the details, it’s not going to be perfect, you just need to have out there so people can see it. From there I created my portfolio for Descalza which was not anything concrete, I was just sharing it with a friend and she ended up sharing it on Facebook and then everybody started sharing! I was not ready for that at all. On that day I got 100 people to subscribe to my emails. Which is what gave me the push that I needed to realize that Descalza was something that needed to happen. Now I just needed money.
So on August 2017 I launched a Kickstarter which was fully fundraised by the community and people who shared our video and our website. Shout out to my white friends because they taught me about kick-starters haha. Fast-forward to 2018 and I have just transitioned the project to an actual clothing brand so we now have a fully stablished e-commerce for Descalza which is super exciting. I am now in full-time business mode.
Right now, I’m at the beginning, I’m not in a place where I can talk about my successes or how Descalza has this amount of money or that. Right now I’m still growing the company and I’m still trying to figure out what it looks like. I have the concept and I have the vision but I’m still figuring the execution. It's a giant learning curve that I have to go through and it’s really scary when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing but I have google and I have God.
Me: For sure, you’re preaching to me right now. Having the vision but trying to figure out the execution is where I’m at in my career. It’s very important what you mentioned about how you’re experiencing a learning curve since you studied fashion and now you have to learn about business management and entrepreneurship.
Caro: Oh yes, to a certain extent being an entrepreneur is just like being an immigrant. Everything is new; you have to learn a completely new language and new environment. At times I have no idea what to do and all I can do is listen to what my heart is telling me, what my gut is telling me and that’s the best direction I have.
Me: That’s amazing how everything came together! We must do what we can to survive and thrive just like an immigrant for sure.
In June 2018 you launched your second collection for Descalza, what was your inspiration behind your clothes in both of your collections?
Caro: I wanted to keep the clothing simple and I just added more pieces to compliment what I already had. I wanted more variety and so I added tops and bottoms to go with the skirts that I already had. I created the collection so that you can mix and match everything.
Also, I created this collection for the people who for example if you have an event you need to go to and you want all eyes on you, I have the perfect skirt for that. The Lucero skirt.
It’s amazing and I love it, it’s beautiful and it took forever to make it but it was worth it. You can pair with a simple shirt from your closet or if you want to go full out Descalza, I have blouses and tops to pair it with it. I named the skirt after one of my closest friends, since the idea of the skirt came after a conversation I was having with her. In fact all of my collection pieces stem from the names they’re named after. The Avimilex Wrap shirt is named after my best friend and I created this shirt having her body type in mind. She and I have the opposite problems in the industry and a lot of times there aren’t many clothing in her size and for me most times clothes don’t fit right because I’m so small. It’s a wrap shirt, which means that you can control how tight you want it and you’re able to create the silhouette to surround your body in a flattering way. I created that shirt so that it could suit my body type and hers as well. It’s very important to me for the clothing in my collections to compliment all shapes and sizes. I feel like the fashion industry has the wrong idea that everybody should look super skinny and tall. Yes there are people who look like that but the reality is that the average American woman is a size 14-16 and so our clothing needs to represent that as well.
The fabric in my collection is all from Guatemala but during the fall I will be introducing pieces from El Salvador.
Me: That’s pretty cool I’m looking forward for the future collections.
Lastly, please continue to Part 3: Carolina's Insights on Owning a Clothing Line and Future Plans