Interview with Designer Carolina Hernandez a.k.a. Veteran Couture
“I would describe it as wearable, functional and creative artwork.”
To begin, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how did you get into fashion designing? I was born and raised in Mexico, and when I was about 16 years old, I remember staring at my mom’s sewing machine and thinking to myself, “How hard can it be that I can’t do it?” Little by little, I started making uniform skirts, dresses and anything that I could think of; it wasn’t until 2010 when I actually attended a Fashion Design school in San Diego, CA. Upon graduation in 2014, I moved to Los Angeles, California, where now I live and work.
What was the inspiration for your fashion label, “Veteran Couture”? Since I served on active duty for 4 years in the US Navy, I named my brand Veteran Couture. It symbolizes that I am a veteran, and I am a fashion designer. I describe it as the yin and yang: the analytical and structured side of the military service is the counterbalance to the creative and artistic side of fashion.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work? I enjoy visiting other places, especially other countries: their landscapes, their food, and especially their people, since they intrigue me a lot. Their cultural traditions inspire me, which I incorporate into my design aesthetics.
What is your vision for your brand? How would you describe “Veteran Couture” concept? The vision of my brand is to design masterpieces for film or some sort of funky and crazy designs for television, but also represent the US as a fashion designer in other countries.
I would describe it as wearable, functional and creative artwork.
How do you want wearers to feel when they put on your clothes? What sort of person wears your clothes? I would like my wearers to feel very exclusive because they will be wearing a one of a kind design made by a very passionate artist. The type of person who wears my clothes is the one that likes to be different, thinks outside the box, and loves art, innovation, and technology.
Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection? What elements of design are included in each collection? It varies per project; for example, I start with a theme, and then an inspirational board. After that I select a color palette, a season, and fabric selections based on the designs I will be creating. I tend to incorporate texture, form, shape, symmetry and asymmetry, as well as scale. You will notice in most of my designs that the sleeves have some of these elements in them.
Carolina, can you describe your design process from mood boards to picking out fabrics to production? Do you have any fashion rules or guidelines when putting an outfit together? My design process starts with a theme. Next, I create an inspirational board with my vision, and start to collect make up and hair ideas. Based on the collection, I brainstorm on the type of fabrics that would be needed to accomplish the desired look. Once I have my fabrics, then I start patternmaking and eventually cutting and sewing. Usually at this stage I become very creative, and it’s when I add my creative touch to my designs, always remembering my theme. My guidelines are: “Be Fast but Efficient.” When I am sewing or patternmaking, all my attention is concentrated on the project and to avoid distractions. The overall goal is to finish the task with the best craftsmanship possible.
What captures your attention when looking for the materials you use in your designs? What kind of materials do you use to make the clothes? When I am selecting materials, the qualities that capture my attention are: the hand of it; how does the fabric feel; what can I do with it; and of course, the pattern, the colors, if it’s a knit or a woven, plastic, paper, etc.
The materials I choose depend on the project. For example, when I designed my Apollo collection (Space craft Inspired), I used upholstery fabrics and vinyl because I wanted to give a heavy, dimensional look to my designs.
Do you have a supporting team/staff or do you work solo? As of right now, I do everything myself. This includes everything from gathering inspiration and sourcing materials, to actually producing the finished garments: pattern making, cutting, sewing, fittings, alterations, and final looks. I look forward to working with other people in the future.
Could you tell us about something completely extravagant you have had to do for your job? Every design and every project is a challenge, but I avoid saying, “I can not do it.” So, I took an upholstery gig–it was a nightmare. After long nights and weekends, my arms were sore from sewing, but I continued until I finished 180 vinyl cushions. The great thing about that project was that it made sewing all other fabrics super easy.
Which item of all your collections/designs is your favorite and most significant for you? Why? There is a black gown named “The Crow” that I designed and made when I was in fashion school. I remember after I finished hand sewing the last beads to it, I took a step back and looked at it. It was a joyful moment, and tears came out of my eyes. It was a clear statement of how much I have learned and improved throughout the years. It’s not a perfect design, but it’s very elegant, has beautiful sleeves, a stunning silhouette and sparkly texture. It represents me!
What do you enjoy the most about working on your designs? What is most rewarding? The part that I enjoy the most when I am working on my designs is that I get to be creative and transform fabric into masterpieces.
It is very rewarding when people look at my designs and say, “Wow, I love your work!” That makes all of those late nights sewing very worth it.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a designer? Some of my biggest accomplishments as a designer are that I graduated from The Art Institute of CA- SD with highest honors, and won a scholarship and The Most Creative Award during the annual school’s fashion show. It means a lot to me because I moved to California when I was 19 years old, and I didn’t speak English. This was my first official school in the US.
Is there someone in the fashion industry who inspires you? Yes, my muse of inspiration is Coco Channel, first of all because she was an intelligent woman and because she was known for her determination, ambition and energy that she applied to her professional career and also her social life.
What is the most important thing you want potential clients to know about you? The most important thing that I want clients to know is that I want to maximize my full potential with the gifts that God has given me to fulfill my life purpose.
What’s next for you? What can we expect from your next collection? What is next for me is to keep designing and creating artistic masterpieces by constantly improving what I already know and continually growing.
From my next collection, I would like to design more Avant Garde creations with elaborated headpieces. A remarkable collection that will be something quite extravagant.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when starting a fashion label? If I could go back in time, I would remind myself that patience is everything; I kind of learned it the hard way.
Carolina, do you think you have experienced anything differently, artistically or business, because you are a woman? No, I’ve never felt like I was treated differently because I am woman. I must say that I don’t take “no” for an answer, and I believe that there are opportunities out there for whoever is willing to take the risk — regardless of gender.
What are your feelings about eco-fashion? I am positive about it and am fully on board with anything that helps the environment, including creating new fabrics or materials that can help sustainability and don’t contaminate as much.
How important is social media in your business? What roles does it play in getting yourself known? I love social media. I use it to my advantage to network, to advertise my work, to meet people, and to connect with family and friends from other countries.
The main role social media plays for me is to promote what I do and who I am, and where I am coming from, with the goal to motivate others to strive for more. Hopefully they will be inspired, and will invest their time in their careers and passions.
What is your vision of your perfect working day? My perfect work day would be to be working at a loft surrounded by creative artists, observing colorful fabrics in front of me that are ready to be transformed, drinking green tea, and smelling some Indian incense while listening to some Middle Eastern music.
Tell one surprising fact about yourself. I am a proud Mexican-American who is honored to continue serving in the US Navy Reserves. Nothing compares to the love and the brotherhood of my military family.