INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDERS
Posted on 13 February 2016
Interview conducted by The Style Line. Photographs by Bridget Badore.
Placing their emphasis on creating contemporary cocktail pieces, the brand's co-founders Louisa Rechter and Alessandra Perez-Rubio have brought a fresh approach to design with their unique insight and genuine excitement around this particular category. We'll be the first to admit that as each work day comes to a close, it's hard not to walk by their nook and swoon over the lavish (but still wearable) collection of gowns, jumpsuits and party dresses. With considerable care and quality, the duo behind MESTIZA have been able to position the brand as a leading authority when it comes to all things eveningwear. We wanted to learn more about what led them to focus on this aspect of fashion and are thrilled to share our conversation below.
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELVES!
Louisa: I am the co-founder and CEO of MESTIZA NEW YORK. Originally a buyer and merchant at Milly and Coach, Alessandra and I launched this line in March of 2015 as huge labor of love and an opportunity to fill a white space in the market. When I’m not working on MESTIZA, I love hanging out with my fiancé, decorating my apartment with items that inspire me, painting, cooking, having drinks with friends and planning my wedding… we are designing my dress, bridesmaids dresses and the mother-of-the bride dress!
Alessandra: I am the co-founder and creative director of MESTIZA NEW YORK. I call MESTIZA my second baby because while Louisa and I were working hard to get the line off the ground, I was pregnant with my first baby. What’s funny is that I went into labor and gave birth to Carlos on the very same day we launched our online store! It has been a juggling act, balancing being a mother and an entrepreneur, and I am lucky to have a business partner who has been so supportive throughout this journey!
WE HEAR A LOT ABOUT “DAY TO NIGHT” DRESSING, BUT LET’S FOCUS ON THE “NIGHT/EVENING” ASPECT OF STYLE. DO YOU THINK THIS APPROACH TO DESIGN DIFFERS FROM TRADITIONAL RTW? WHAT ABOUT COCKTAIL ATTIRE RESONATES WITH YOU THE MOST?
Alessandra: Designing the perfect garment is an art form whether it’s casual basics or couture eveningwear. We decided to hone in on formal-wear because it excites us the most. When designing, I like to focus on how each and every piece needs to be special and stand out. When browsing the MESTIZA site you will never find anything basic or practical. I’ll go even further and say that practicality is not in our brand DNA! We don’t want people to come to us because we are the safe choice, we want people to come to MESTIZA because they want something original that sparks a conversation.
BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE, HOW DO YOU THINK THE CONTEMPORARY FASHION COMMUNITY/MARKET FOSTERS THOSE FOCUSING SPECIFICALLY ON EVENINGWEAR?
Louisa: We think there is an absence of unique cocktail dresses and gowns in the market. One of our intentions of launching MESTIZA NEW YORK was to fill this void. When Alessandra was planning her black tie wedding a few years ago, I scoured the Internet for the perfect formal dress. The options were either out-of-budget couture brands or they were replicas of stereotypical red carpet gowns (that didn’t look flattering). We want our line to provide women with tasteful options that bring out their personality.
WHAT TYPICALLY COMES FIRST, BUSINESS OR DESIGN AND HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN TO PRIORITIZE BETWEEN THE TWO?
Alessandra: They’re equally important and you can’t have one without the other. Luckily, we have divided up the work so that Louisa spearheads the business aspect and I handle the creative. We both flex in our positions but on a daily basis, all angles are covered at all times.
SINCE THE BRAND’S INCEPTION CAN YOU THINK OF ANY ONE DESIGN MILESTONE THAT’S REALLY CAPTURED THE ESSENCE OF WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO DO AS DESIGNER?
Alessandra: We try to bring designs of the past to life in a way that fits in with our New York lifestyle. We modernized the Terno which is a traditional form of dress in the Philippines. Criticized as being something your grandmother would wear, we crafted it in a sleek, tailored silhouette in a modern fabrication with unique embellishments. It looked fresh and cool with a nod to our heritage. Our new trumpet gown also has sleeves that are inspired by the Maria Clara, another traditional form of dress in the Philippines that we re-imagined.
WHAT IS ONE QUESTION YOU WISH YOU WERE ASKED MORE OFTEN?
Louisa: “Can you customize a dress for me?!” We would love for people to ask us to design custom gowns! We just started offering customization services after being asked by a few clients to design their wedding gowns.
This service has been under the radar but we really want to get the word out. It is an amazing opportunity to get creative!
DO YOU HAVE ANY UNEXPECTED SOURCES OF CREATIVE INSPIRATION?
Alessandra: There is this a beautiful black and white photograph of my mother from the late 1960s on a beach in Ipanema. She is modeling an embellished one-shoulder dress by Filipino fashion designer Pitoy Moreno. That image of her standing confident in the sun was the foundation for the MESTIZA brand.
Louisa: Vintage photographs of my family in the Philippines circa 1960 also inspire me. I have photographs of my mother in a printed shift dress playing with her pet monkey! I love the carefree elegance of these photos.