When you’re suddenly displaced from your beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico studio to Maryland by massive category 4 hurricane, it can be difficult to regroup. But such was not the case for Alejandra Fuentes, the cofounder of Ángulo PR who resiliently picked up her work and kept working on her brand Ángulo while finding a new creative niche. Every one of Alejandra’s pieces is made by combining new technologies (laser cutters) and traditional hand methods (origami-like folding) to create the perfect blend for radically simple and elegant design. With function and fashion combined, Alejandra tell us about her dream studio, hand dying, and where she gets inspiration.
Why did you start designing?
I studied architecture at the University of Puerto Rico. While in college, I also studied fashion design at the Lisa Thon Design School. My fiancé and I always dreamed about having our own design studio and, when we finished college, we got our very own space to create. We specialize in digital manufacturing and having all these tools and knowledge, I wanted to us it all to create something unique. That’s when I decided to give leather a try.
It’s so rare to find a designer who is also trained with CAD (computer aided design) capabilities. Aside from the technical chops, where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
I do a lot of research on geometries and most of the time I research stuff not related to fashion like origami, architecture and construction methods.
What is your brand aesthetic and what makes your brand unique?
My products are simple, minimalist and I always aim to create timeless pieces that will age beautifully with you. It takes a lot of thought and time to solve each design. It involves a lot of prototyping and trial and error to make the perfect fold. Each wallet is made out of a single piece of leather that is precisely cut with a laser cutter, then dyed by hand using natural vegetable dyes, folded and finished.
What is your fashion philosophy?
Fashion should be timeless.
What inspired your latest collection?
The Ángulo ensemble collection was mainly inspired by construction methods used in wood joints. These wood joints are strong and they don’t require any other material or mechanical objects like nails, screws or glue to be held in place. The names of the wallets are different types of wood joints.
Old woodworking techniques – that’s pretty timeless. What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
My biggest obstacle is probably sourcing materials and finding the right quality leather. Leather is a natural material and it is difficult to have consistency without using chemically treated materials.
What’s the creative scene in Puerto Rico like?
There’s a lot of great designers that share the same idea of what good design is in Puerto Rico. The makers’ movement has been a great thing to happen in Puerto Rico and it has created an interest in the customer who wants to know who makes their clothes and accessories.
How has your design changed over time?
In the beginning I started researching different ways of working with leather but I wanted to do something a bit different. I started to explore a technique where no stitching was involved. I fell in love with it and over time, I have perfected this method. After the hurricane, our business was affected due to not having power and we were not able to go to work. It was frustrating and after some time we decided to move to the mainland with the hope to establish and set up again our studio.
What do you think about fashion and the way people shop today?
I think fast fashion has made people forget about quality and good design. Trying to stand out in an industry where cheaply made, overpriced products with no soul are everywhere is hard. People sometimes just think about the price and how fast can they get it.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
Be persistent, when you believe in your design or ideas, you have to execute them.
Shop all of Alejandra’s leather pieces to last: