You can take the man out of Mexico, but Mexico, it seems, will always be in the man.
Rolando Santana grew up in Cuernavaca, where his mother was a dress-maker. As her business flourished, he became enraptured by all its details, from the colors and textures of different fabrics to the intricacies of pattern-making.
“Little did I realize that her sewing room would serve as the inspiration for my love of fashion, and nurture my dream to become a designer,” he has said.
By age 13, he was spending all his time in her factory.
Santana moved to New York City for school in 1991, attending Mercer College and then the Fashion Institute of Technology. He worked as a designer for a series of established brands, including Spenser Jeremy, Donna Morgan (where he served as creative Director) and Kellwood Company’s Designer Alliance. He developed a signature: Very feminine, but also forgiving and innovative.
In 2009, right in the middle of a recession, he launched his own label. His first collection, he told Fox News Latino (see video), was heavily inspired by his home country, featuring bright sundresses in blues, pinks, reds and yellows. Mexico also made an appearance in his Spring 2011 collection, which he has said was “deeply inspired by Luis Barragan, a prominent Mexican Architect who is recognized for his ability fuse Mexican architecture, nature and modernism.”
When the website LookBooks asked him who he’d like to dress, he answered wryly, “ I would love to help elevate the first lady of Mexico’s black tie options.”
His most recent Fall 2011 collection, which he showed as part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in February, leaned a little more towards his new home in New York, with darker colors, lots of models in opaque tights and strikingly dark lips.
Santana is known for the diversity of both his runway and his fans. This past Fashion Week, however, he was disappointed that, because visas were so tight, he was unable to get Latin American models for his show.
“We had a model from Mexico last season, but we couldn’t get Latin American models this year,” Santana told Fox News Latino. “Latin America certainly influences my collection. Representation from those models makes the collection more interesting.”
See our pre-show interview with the designer here.