Often you have to journey to discover yourself and your brand. Such is the story of our latest designer, Jeilyné Marrero Santana of the brand Jeilyné Santana, who has wandered a path to find home from Ponce, Puerto Rico, to New York City, to the Florida Keys. Elegant and bold, her background in couture has inspired a new journey into ready-to-wear with themes of self-discovery. Today we chat with Jeilyné about her design and personal evolution.
How and why did you start designing?
Long story short, 6 years ago I traveled to New York City alone, without knowing anyone. I only had $100 in my pocket, I arrived in New York and things did not go well. I felt that something was missing, so I went back Puerto Rico, with $70 dollars in my pocket knowing I wanted to do something different with my life. I started to remember that I always liked fashion. One day I saw a banner with information about a Fashion Design School. A week later I enrolled in that school using the same $70 dollars with which I had returned. My journey began as a fashion designer in Academia Serrant in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
What is your fashion philosophy?
My design philosophy is that haute couture and elegance should be timeless as haute couture is a beautiful way to express and create a wonderful piece of art.
What inspired your latest collection?
After a terrible loss, I went almost a year without designing but I found peace in nature and design. I became obsessed with the sunsets in Puerto Rico and, one day, I read a Bible verse that said, “you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:13, NIV). I associated this verse with sunflowers which always face towards the sun. I found this beautiful fabric with a sunflower print and I decided to explore resort wear.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
I like to drive to inspire myself. I like to be alone. It helps me think better. I drive somewhere like a beach and start to draw in my mind. It sounds strange but I can file a design mentally and then, when I find a paper or a napkin, I draw it. Sometimes I also spend hours watching videos of great designers and their collections in Paris and read about fashion history.
What is your creative space like where you are designing?
My “design room” is my favorite room. It’s small but I love it. In it I have two sewing machines, my sofa to rest, my wall of achievements, a bureau with my threads and materials, a little closet with some dresses and fabrics from past collections, and my dress form. The cutting table is a convertible table, as the room is so small.
How has your design changed over time?
It has changed a lot in 5 years. Before, I did not have a good hand sewing technique or know how to combine textiles. When hurricane Irma happened in Puerto Rico, I was in the United States, but the hurricane also affected Florida Keys where I live now. My moving process had to be postponed for a while and I had to go for months without designing. When I finally moved I had to start from the bottom – looking for photographers, potential clients, exploring the Florida Keys and what people wear.
Key West is like a different world. When I moved here, I had to start thinking more about resort wear. It’s something new for me as I typically like appliques, lace, rhinestones, and hand work. I had to explore other areas of design because here people dress more “relaxed” since it is a vacation area and also we don’t have fabric stores so everything has to be imported.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
I believe that we create our own limitations. I have also found that one of the greatest hurdle is the lack of support and exposure for the new designers. The fashion industry focuses so much on the “old school” that they are not able to see new talents who want an opportunity in the market. Also there’s a lack of information for new brands. I was lucky to find Nineteenth Amendment!
What do you think about fashion and the way people shop today?
Fashion is my passion, but unfortunately some people like to buy low quality, fast fashion. People sometimes only see the price and that’s it. They do not stop to look at every detail of the design. They do not think about the hours of work that are needed to create a piece and that is worrying.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
Good marketing is your best friend. Do not be afraid to send proposals for collaborations and get information. Always read about what’s new in fashion. Write down everything, and see compare who you were as a designer before and who you are now and you will see that you are one step closer to your goal!
Shop Jeilyné Santana’s latest collection: