(NEW YORK) Burgeoning designer Paola Hernandez hails from Mexico City, and found her way to fashion in a decidedly deep way: while studying philosophy! Her first piece was a tutu, and since then, she’s even designed her own wedding dress, plus chic, clean-lined coed collections. Hernandez dished to The Daily about her aesthetic and her industry ambitions.
BY JULIE ZIGOS
What’s your backstory?
I’m originally from Mexico City and I studied philosophy there. In that process, where I was in the search to understand what was the meaning of life and my own purpose, I realized that fashion was my language.
So you’re fluent in fashion!
What I like about fashion is that it keeps on expressing itself even after the creator decided how the piece would go. I like that fashion is always changing, The final product is not the end of creation; it’s just the beginning of another type of cycle.
What made you realize you wanted to design?
The first piece I made was a big, puffy tutu skirt that I wanted to wear for a party. I had a vision of how I wanted to look for this party but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I thought, ‘I should be able to make this.’ The day that I wore the skirt, two different girls approached me asking where I had bought it. That experience, which happened before I studied fashion, really helped me realize how an idea could become a real, tangible product that can be shared with other people.
Any other key early pieces you’ve whipped up?
My wedding dress—I got married last year. I still have the dress in my studio. I thought it was a cute dress, and that maybe I should keep it as a sample!
What inspires your designs?
I like Heidegger, the [German] philosopher, and his book Being and Time. I also really like yoga because I feel consciousness is everywhere and you can access it through yourself. The more introspective I become, the more answers I find.
What’s it like designing for men and women?
Femininity is something that contains and allows for things to happen; masculinity is more like the action and direction for things to happen. Designing for both helps me explore that balance.
What brought you to New York?
In 2011, I started working with a rep in New York City. That’s when I feel like I fell in love with the city and felt there was so much potential for my brand to explore here. In Mexico City, [fashion] still very local and small.
What’s fashion like in Mexico City?
Mexicans like a lot of color! Younger people tend to like more clean looks, but still with lots of color. Others mix and match Mexican textiles, trends, and vintage. It’s a little bit eclectic.
Sounds like you travel a lot. What’s your favorite place?
I really like the beach. That’s my favorite setting. If I were not in Mexico City, I would be in Tulum or St Barts. I go there once a year, at least.
Any beaches on your bucket list?
I want to go to the Maldives. I’ve seen photos and it looks beautiful.
What are your travel essentials?
Black jeans and black oxford flats.
How much of your wardrobe is your own designs?
A lot of it—its all my style! Maybe 25 percent of my wardrobe is my own designs.
What are some of your favorite things to do in New York?
I like to go to galleries and museums; I like art. And then I usually go to other more experimental music concerts that my friends invite me to as well.
Where can we find you at brunch?
I have my favorite spots! I really like Café Mogador in Williamsburg; there is also one in the East Village. I used to live in Soho and there I really like Café Gitane, their waffles are really great.
How do you stay connected to Mexico now that you’re based in New York?
I usually celebrate all the traditions. Like Mexico Independence Day, I celebrate that. We recently had a celebration with special bread that’s called Rosca de Reyes, which means the King’s Bread, and has a baby Jesus hidden inside. If you find it, you’re responsible for hosting a dinner of tamales.
What are some memories from your first fashion week in New York?
It was a presentation at the Irving Inn, where I had my models arranged throughout the space, posed as intellectuals reading, writing, playing chess. I wanted it to feel like you were coming to these people’s house and this is what they do when they’re at home. I wasn’t going to do a runway show, but I didn’t want to do models standing in a room either because that wouldn’t be the same idea that I’m trying to get to when I design. So I thought maybe we can do an installation. It was shocking to see how people reacted to that way of showing, they had never seen anything like that in New York.
Tell us about your Spring 2014 collection, entitled “Singularity”.
The idea behind “Singularity” was to show how consciousness unfolds. It’s never something that’s direct and in front of you. The more time you spend with an idea the more meaning and deepness you will find, and the more you spend time on that experience the more understanding you will get from it.
How’d you pick the hues in your latest collection?
These colors were chosen based on my husband, who is a painter—usually gray, white, and black are really my main colors. But I was really inspired by the way he uses his color palette of orange and blue.
Does your husband like to wear your collections?
Yes, but I would say it’s more feminine; my husband is a little bit more masculine. My ultimate would be to create a collection that’s unisex. I usually have a piece or two in my collection that is unisex, like the poncho for Spring 2014.
Tell us about your flagship store in Mexico City.
It’s in a neighborhood called Polanco, which is a mix between Tribeca and Soho. I like clean and simple, so my store is also really clean. The idea behind that store is a gallery, so the lighting is bright and everything has its own space. We created a table: all my philosophy books that inspire me, topped with glass. We also have paintings by artists from New York that have made portraits of me.
What’s next for you?
I’m showing my Fall 2014 collection at New York Fashion Week and Mexico Fashion Week. I also have a collaborative project in the works. This year I made silk scarves, so I had the idea of asking 11 artists to create paintings, then print scarves with those paintings and show them at galleries. I’ve been talking to galleries here in New York, in Mexico, and in St. Barths.
Do you plan to open a store in NYC?
Yes, it’s my dream!