We’re not sure what we expected to see when we walked into the new studio of Mexican fashion designer Paola Hernández on the Lower East Side. Perhaps rows of women diligently sewing away, giant rolls of materials scattered about, or models trying on clothes. Instead we entered a quaint room, saw two racks of clothes with shoes neatly organized underneath them, a mannequin that doubled as a lamp, and a couple of Macs helmed by two members of Paola’s team. The cramped and bustling space suits Paola just fine.
Her modest studio hardly does justice to her brilliance, but it does fit the quiet and unassuming designer very well. Paola came to New York mainly to be inspired, to live in our fast paced city around other creative thinkers and creators. Lavishness need not apply.
If her last Fall/Winter collection is any indication, Paola saves all that glam for her line. Her pieces are striking in dark tones and always perfectly tailored, though not with traditional hem lines. All garments are unconventional and unconfined. Hernández, who began her fashion studies at the Central Saint Martin’s in London, also designs all of her own shoes and accessories (which, like her clothes, mostly come in black and silver).
We sat down with the Latina designer to discuss her recent move to the Big Apple, and the bold turn for her Fall collection.
What first made you get into fashion?
I was at a party and I wanted to wear a particular style of dress but I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I made it. While I was at the party, a couple of women came up to me and asked me where I got that ballerina skirt. When I told them that I had made it myself, they asked if I could make it for them.
You started studying philosophy and then shifted into fashion. How did your family take it?
They didn’t understand it at first. But when they came to my first show, and they saw all the models, and that it was a real fashion show, they were proud.
Tell me about your transition from Mexico to New York
The pace is slower in Mexico, and if you’d like to work faster, then you have to work on your own patience. Fashion in Mexico has a system, and it’s still developing, and you can trace the path where fashion will go. The sales aspect isn’t the same. Buyers in Mexico don’t buy clothes made in Mexico because they feel it won’t sell. So they buy elsewhere.
The clients that I design for are attracted to art, fashion, music,
and like to express themselves
What kind of environment do you find it best to work in?
Silence works best. I don’t listen to any music because I need to listen to my thoughts. Meditation helps too. Then I start thinking about ideas and symbols. But yes, it needs to be very quiet.
What fashion designers inspire you? Whose career would you like to have?
I admire the careers of Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, Vivienne Westwood, Dior, Chanel. These are designers that have a major brand, and I would like to have the same.
Last season you debuted a collection that was very tailored, very chic, and very dark. You like to use lots of black. We hear that your next collection is the complete opposite, very colorful. Can you tell me about this shift?
I thought about the physical world and the deep connection with the world. To me it all looks like geometrical shapes. So I considered that, and the flow of life, and the organic way the fabric falls. I always thought about the Earth and the sky, so this collection has a lot of blues and whites. I wanted to experiment with color, and I found that I really liked it.
How do the ideas for a look come to you?
It starts from what I like. It could be a piece of a jewelry like a ring or something. So a piece of the look comes first, and it sort of serves as a gateway to the entire look.
Who do you design for?
The clients that I design for are attracted to art, fashion, music, and like to express themselves. They are young like 20 to 32 years old. They have a lifestyle based on music, graphic design, something in the creative field.
Are there any celebrities that you could see wearing your clothes?
I think celebrities like Natalie Portman. I really like her style. Johnny Depp. People dedicated to their work and passionate about it.
How would you describe the essence of your line?
It would be finding the union between two perspectives and where they meet.
You can learn more about Paola’s collections on her site.