Day Two: Teaching Taste with Fashion
Today we are officially kicking off our Teaching Taste series by chatting with the very gracious and most talented fashion designer, Marialexandra. I could go on and on about how fabulous she is (inside and out), but I will let her candid and inspiring interview speak for itself.
Were you inspired by design as a child?
I have always been fascinated by clothing, especially colors. I would go through color phases, purple lasted a while, where everything I owned had to be purple or have some purple in it. I went through an orange phase I still don’t know how my mom tolerated that one. I did always have a fascination for fashion magazines, especially ones with the European designers my mom showed me, and movies, what people wore in movies was a big deal in my eyes. I still remember the dress Demi Moore wore in Indecent Proposal, the long black dress with the cut outs in the front. I didn’t really realize the connection or fascination I had for clothes and designing until I was about 12 when I found myself almost forced to design a dress for a school event. I was at the age where you aren’t a little girl, but not a teen yet, so it is difficult to find a happy medium regarding wardrobe. I was part of the student council at my school and we decided to put together an event to raise funds, and I managed to convince everyone to make it a formal event. Then I realized I didn’t have anything to wear, so I designed something for myself. That is when I realized fashion and design was part of me in a more significant way than I had ever thought and it all came together with that first design.
When did you know you wanted to go into fashion?
Even when I designed my first dress I didn’t really see it as a future, as a career choice, it was just something I discovered I could do and do well. I realized I wanted to design for the rest of my life was when I was 14, my mother’s little brother was going to get married and I designed a gown for my future aunt. At first my mother told me to not even show her the design because a wedding gown was something too personal and too important for a 14 year old to be involved with, but in my true nature, I didn’t listen and showed it to my aunt anyway. She loved it and had my mom and I make it for her. I remember making that dress, it was like I was bringing something to life, I was having my own child, and I had created this child out of my imagination. That is when I knew this is what I wanted and needed to do for the rest of my life.
So many parents experience wardrobe battles with their children. What advice can you give parents about the delicate dance of teaching taste and approperiate dress without squelching a child’s personal style?
I have 2 children, a 10 year old boy and a 6 year old daughter. My son is so easy, he will wear almost anything I say. My daughter, on the other hand, is a whole other ball game. I am such a girly girl and my daughter is not as much. She is a rock star, a cool, Harley riding rocker chick (in her eyes). It causes problems when we are going to formal events, birthday parties, weddings, even my own fashion shows. As an artist, I know how important it is to let creativity flow, I don’t believe we should stifle a child’s imagination, creative feelings or thoughts — but it can be a very fine line sometimes. I have had to take deep breaths sometimes and just let it go, and then there have been times when we have had to negotiate something so everyone is happy. But I have tried to guide my daughter towards what I believe is proper dressing, in my eyes. We look through magazines and we share comments and our opinions on what we see and we talk about it. I’ve “taught” her there are things I just find offensive or not tasteful no matter when or where you wear them. A big thing for me is showing the belly button. I get it if you’re on stage, I get it if its a show, if you’re at the beach, but out in the street, at the mall, no, and much less at age 6. I think what has worked best for me has been to talk about our clothes a lot. Like it or not, what we wear and how we wear it has a lot to do with how others perceive us, and how we perceive ourselves, so I think it is important for us to talk to our children and guide them on how to dress just as much as we show them how to hold a fork and a knife. And like most of the responsibilities that come with being a parent, you are the example they see, and they learn from example more that they learn from what you say.
How did your parents foster your love and taste for design?
Oh, my mother was a big influence! My mom was big on showing me what matched, what was appropriate and what wasn’t. She drilled some things into my head, like never wear white shoes with a dark outfit or never wear patent shoes at night. My mother and I talked about our clothes and clothes we saw around us in stores and in magazines a lot, but she never tried to change my personal style as I grew older, she just guided me towards what she considered to be of good taste and appropriate. My mother would take me to fabric stores and she would make me touch fabric after fabric and gradually she taught me to recognize what each fabric was made of, how it would fall or drape, how it would react depending on how it was cut and what time of day it would be appropriate for. At the time I hated it, and dreaded going to fabric stores with her, but my mother collects fabrics like I collect shoes now a days, so we went pretty often. Today I consider those fabric store trips to be fundamental to any success I may have as a designer.
I’ve always heard it’s important to have a few simple pieces in one’s wardrobe. What are those pieces to you?
Definitely important to have simple pieces in your wardrobe you can wear in many different ways with several different options. A pair of black pants & beige pants and a black skirt, these can be pair up with almost anything. A good white blouse, a total must in every closet. And, or course, a little black dress that can take you from your office to a cocktail party with just a simple accessories change. Those are the most basic pieces, but color should play a role in any and every closet. Be fun and express yourself with color, and if you’re scared of color, pair it up with basic colors like black, beige, or brown, to tone it down and give you a little more security.
Is that true for children? Why or Why not?
Oh yes, even more for children. Kids grow up so fast, you usually don’t even have time to have them wear everything they have in their closets, so basics are essential for children. Events come up and essentials in their closets can save you from a run to the store to look for something new to wear just for one day. My son has a blazer, neutral color so it can be worn at night for a rehearsal dinner as well as a christening in the middle of the day. When he outgrows the one he has, we get a new one, but its one jacket, not several he will wear once and quickly outgrow.
How do you challenge your children’s artistic taste?
My children are both very artistic people. My son is into comics and making his own comic books and my daughter is into drawing basically anything, but she loves to draw clothes (wonder where she gets that?) and they are both really into acting and directing. I love to encourage them by getting books on the subject they are interested in, reading about other people who have done what they want to do and have been successful at it. I love going to art supply stores and getting what they need to work on their next project. I challenge them by having critiques of their work. When they work on something bigger than doodles, we have mini informal critiques, where we will talk about what is good, what is great, and where they need to learn more and practice more. I celebrate all their work, but also teach them there is also room for improvement and room to learn more. I am honest with them, not brutally honest, but I won’t lie to them. If the work they have done isn’t their best, I will let them know and I will do what I can to teach them or guide them towards someone or something that can teach them something new that can help fuel their artistic appetite.
How do you foster your children’s individuality through art?
Art is essential in childhood, it develops creativity, imagination, and helps a child’s self esteem. Art also opens communication between parents and children, something that can help create great bonds for life. Of course, all children are different, even siblings from the same parents. So it is fundamental to foster and encourage children individually, and let them grow at their own pace. Encourage them with in their own chosen artistic field, be it in music, painting, drawing, acting, dance, what ever it may be. And remember it is not always important to color with in the lines, meaning, there are no rules. Art is something to experiment and grow with.
My children are both very different, not only because of their age and genders, but because they see things through different eyes. Even though they do work together on some of their projects and ideas, their styles, interests, and abilities are different. It is important for me encourage both of them in their own individual ways, never comparing one another, and allowing them to grow and learn with in their own art.
What do your children think about what you do?
My children find what I do intriguing but I think they don’t pay much attention to my work until I come home and tell them I am dressing a celebrity they recognize. Then they are really into the whole thing for a bit. They know I don’t have a regular job like most of their friends’ parents, something that has its good sides and its not-so-good sides, in their eyes. I travel a bit, something they don’t love, especially since my husband works with me and always travels with me for business, so both of us are gone every time we have to travel for business. They love the notoriety, when they can tell their friends that their mom is in a magazine or that their mom dresses so and so, but most of all, my children know I’m a business woman, an entrepreneur, and they know dreams do come true because they see first hand how mine have.
Thank you Marialexandra for sharing your taste for fashion with us!
Come back tomorrow as we continue our series with the fabulous artist/illustrator Patricia van Essche (pve).
More on the fabulous Marialexandra…
Born in Caracas, Venezuela Marialexandra’s love for fashion and haute couture began at an early age. Growing up in a world of classic style, Marialexandra quickly developed a taste for beautiful clothing. Learning about fabrics, couture, and the fashion greats from her mother, she began designing at the age of twelve and by the age of fourteen had designed and created her first bridal gown. At the age of eighteen she was offered acceptance and a merit-based scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design. Upon graduating in 1997 with a BFA in Fashion Design she moved to Venezuela, where she quickly became a favorite among the women of Caracas society. Her designs soon began appearing regularly in society columns and magazines. After a few short years Marialexandra moved to Miami, Florida where in 2004 she set up her atelier with husband and business partner Christian Lisogorsky.
Her first full collection, Spring 2006, was presented under the tents of Miami Fashion Week 2005. Soon after, as an invitee of Harper’s Bazaar, she presented her collection at their re-launch even. Her next collection, Fall 2006, earned her the “Perrier Bubbling Under Best Emerging Designer” award when it was unveiled on the runways of Funkshion: Fashion Week Miami Beach. A few months later beauty bible Vanidades awrarded her in the Arts for the Tributo a la Mujer Hispana. Increased press attention soon followed with articles in popular magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Ocean Drive, and Cosmopolitan, which selected her as the designer for their “Wedding of the Year” event. Her clothing has even been featured in InStyle ‘s the “Look of the Day”, worn by Ivanka Trump, as well as People’s Look of the Day, with Gabriella Spanic wearing Marialexandra. In 2008 SCAD added Marialexandra to their Wall of Fame and in 2009 recognized her achievements with the Distinguished Alumna Award.
Grateful for her success, Marialexandra continues to make charity a top priority, regularly participating in events to raise money for organizations such as Make-A-Wish Foundation, Humane Society of Greater Miami, American Nicaraguan Foundation, and La Ventanas de los Cielo Foundation .
After many years Marialexandra continues to be inspired and driven by that woman that is both classic and modern, a strong and independent woman who knows who she is and what she wants. Through elegant design, attention to detail, and the highest standards of quality she continues to dress that woman.