Alicia ReinaSummer may be on its way out but you can take a journey to the tropics any day when you wear one of our first designers, Alicia Reina. Puerto Rican-born and RISD-educated, Alicia’s designs are known for soft color palettes, refined fabrics, and delicate embellishments, whether she is designing custom gowns, unique accessories, or seasonal lines. From the studio to the beach, we spoke to Alicia about staying close to the craft and staying true to you.

1. How and why did you start designing?

I would say I started designing a very young age.  Whether it was the Christmas decor at my house (I love Christmas) or my ballet recital costumes, I was always making weekly trips to the craft store with my mom to gather supplies for what ever project I was working on at the moment.

I am a very visual person and get a thrill out of seeing a vision come to life.  There is no greater satisfaction for me (besides the beach and palm trees). It is hard to express exactly how or why I started designing it was/is something I do and have chosen to dedicate my life to doing it.

2. What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?

Being noticed.  Establishing an identity.  Getting the sales.  There is so much competition out there that it is easy to get lost in the shuffle or discouraged but persistence can get you places.

As an independent designer, there is also the challenge of consignment. No money up front.  This has proven to be difficult for a small business as it requires the designer to front the money to produce the products with no safety net.  It is like the saying “entering at your own risk.” This has proven to be difficult as the designer needs to have the funds to produce an order at no risk to the store.

3. What do you think about fashion today?

I think there is a lot happening out there in regards to fashion.  It seems as if almost every other person wants to be a fashion designer and, with the funds, team, and social media, it is doable.  In a way, fashion has lost its luster as designers tend not to be as connected with their product and the product is not as unique. There is a stronger focus on profitability and global expansion instead of the craft itself.

But with social media, we have seen more self-expression – in the way consumers interpret the pieces, not just how they are presented in fashion magazines or shows.  There is more of a personal quality that has come through with styling and fashion bloggers.

4. What is your fashion philosophy?

Be yourself.  Be unique.  Trends come and go but you will always be you. Shop local.

5. Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?

Travel, books, a walk down the street, the inner workings of my mind.

6. Any tips and tricks of the trade?

Slow and steady wins the race.  Find people that want to work with you, that believe in you.  Be strong and persistent. Believe in yourself.

See Alicia’s first line at Nineteenth Amendment.