When it came to achieving his lifelong dream, fashion designer Raul Peñaranda didn’t think twice about moving to New York to become the next IT designer. The Colombo-Venezuelan clothing artist knew it would be years before he’d be placed next to big names such as Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta, but ten years since launching his namesake label, the fashion creative says this is just the beginning.
“Since I started I knew it was going to be years of training and lessons. Learn the good, learn the bad because I knew that I needed to build these wings for when I’m ready to fly,” he said speaking to HOLA! USA. After getting his start with fashion giants such as Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan and Zac Posen, the Latino designer decided to do fashion his own way by launching his clothing label.
Aside from his biggest challenges, Raul spoke of the personal struggles he faced for being Latino and not looking a certain way. “So many comments touched my heart but never broke my spirit. Today, those have made me who I am so I’m grateful for that,” he expressed. Opening up about his greatest endeavors, Raul talked of his humble beginnings, how he’s made it this far, and what to expect for his biggest runway show yet. Hint: it’s likely to be the most fashionable music event of the season. Keep reading to find out!
How did you decide to venture out on your own?
“Growing up in this beautiful Latin family where I see my mom making three dresses for my sister and one t-shirt for me from a curtain of flowers, that’s when I start thinking I wanna do that but I don’t want to do that with my sisters and my mom who are my biggest muses, but i want to do that with every single woman in the world. Since day one I remember seeing commercials on TV of Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and I was telling my mom that I would be one of those and my mom said absolutely, just make sure that your dreams become a vision and make sure that it happens as a reality because you don’t want to be one of those that tried and never made it.”
What did you learn from your time working with the big fashion houses?
"From Tommy I learned how three colors, red white and blue can be a trademark of your brand. At Donna Karan I understand that you have to have an emotion to say something which inspired all her empire in New York. It’s almost like for me saying, all I got is my Latin roots I just have to go back and discover something to become something. With Oscar de la Renta I get goosebumps because my mom used to say ‘You can be one of the biggest power fashion houses of the world but you need to treat the CEO and perhaps Jennifer Lopez the same way that you treat the cleaning lady.’ And when I met him it was almost like listening to everything that my mom used to tell me but in reality because Oscar de la Renta was so powerful yet so humble and he was such an inspiration. At Zac Posen I learned to not be afraid to fail.”
What were some of the biggest challenges?
"There are three I feel are important. One is knowing who you are and I knew, I just didn’t know how to verbalize or visualize it. Number two will be the business part. I knew from day one at my Donna Karan job that I needed to save because I didn’t want my dream to depend on whether or not I would find an investor. I think that’s the biggest mistake that new brands make. I saved so much money that I financed 11 collections on my own and that’s what’s kept my longevity. The other challenge is more personal. You know, my skin color, the fact that I was Latino, the fact that I didn’t look aristocratic. The fact that I might resemble more the messenger or delivery guy and I think that was one of the harder things for me as well."
What can you tell us about your new collection, Colombia?
"This collection is dedicated to Colombia, my country where I was born, but I proclaim myself Colombo-Venezuelan because I was born in Colombia, grew up in Venezuela and I love both countries, but it’s dedicated to Colombia because I want to change the new chapter in fashion which is basically go back to where we come from and make those elements trendy. This collection is inspired by the Palanqueras in Cartagena that wear bright colors and fruits on their head. It’s inspired on the most amazing, humble places in Colombia and I want to make that super trendy and chic with the aesthetic of New York."
“Because the concept has such an important place in my heart, I couldn’t just celebrate a season so we’re doing a two part Celebration of Colombia, first is the presentation and the second is the biggest runway show we’ve ever done. It will be on the same venue of the Victoria’s Secret show and we’re bringing el Grupo Niche from Colombia, which is one of the oldest Latin orchestras to play at my show with the models. I want to show you can have luxury but at the same time you can have a humble heart. You can have kindness and compassion and I’m so excited because this is what I love doing. I think authenticity is what has opened the doors for me.”
At HOLA! USA, we believe in highlighting fashion brands, designers, and creatives who are breaking boundaries in the fashion industry. Within the weekly segment of #HolaCouture we’re spotlighting Latinx talent and entrepreneurs who are firm believers that their Hispanic roots and culture are worthy of being shared with the world through fashion and style. Not only are we spotlighting their unique and artistic skills, but we're also continuing their conversations.