Fierce

After Making A Name For Herself In New York’s Fashion Scene, Salvadoran Designer Ariela Suster Is Giving Back To Her Own Country

Sequence

Growing up in El Salvador, one of the most dangerous countries in the world, Ariela Suster witnessed gang rivalry-driven violence firsthand. It’s partly why she decided to move to the US to study and build a career for herself in New York’s fashion industry. But as she climbed the ladder in women’s magazines, she still couldn’t shake the grisly memories and current conditions back home. Suster felt compelled to do something about it, so she founded Sequence, a handcrafted accessories company that employs young Salvadorans who are vulnerable to gang recruitment.

The brand, which Suster created in 2011 with the help of local artisans Oscar Bautista and Natali Orellana, aims to disrupt the cycle that breeds violence in her native land by providing young men with design training, tools and paid working opportunities.

“I didn’t want to just be in New York living my life and not making a difference in my own country. Even if it’s a small difference, I wanted to create something,” Suster told FIERCE.

Credit: @sequencecollection / Instagram

Currently, Sequence employs 40 men between the ages of 18 and early-20s. After engaging in lengthy handcrafting, screen printing and sewing training, the men produce knotted and beaded bracelets, necklaces and tote bags for worldwide consumers. Each bracelet is made-to-order, and customers can customize their jewelry, choosing which colors they want their threads and tie to be, or they can purchase items from collaborative collections with high-end designers like Diane Von Frustenberg and Jonathan Simkhai. Last year, their handcrafted earrings, necklaces, belts, handbag straps and handbag charms were on the catwalk of the Furstenberg’s spring 2018 runway show during New York Fashion Week.

Sequence also frequently teams up with big brands like Universal Pictures and Microsoft to create corporate products for events and conferences. In 2015, for instance, during a partnership with Microsoft, the men added NFC chips to their creations that when tapped against the back of smartphones played a short video that shows how the bracelet was made.

For Suster, who continues to work and live in New York while running her business in El Salvador, these opportunities don’t just help sustain her company but also allows the young men to witness their own potential.

“It’s been amazing watching people not know their own talent until someone shows it to them. One of the things that is unreal was to see the level of the product design and everything,” she said.

Credit: @sequencecollection / Instagram

According to the Sequence website, every purchase made has a social impact. For instance, for every 1,000 additional products sold, the company is able to employ, train and empower another at-risk youth. With paid work, employees have been able to build homes for their families, attend or finish school, or create small businesses of their own.

For Suster, though, Sequence’s mission goes beyond employment. She wants to instill bigger visions in the minds of marginalized young people. Through the Sequence Academy, a project for children and adolescents in Tepecoyo, El Salvador, the company offers free workshops in the arts and technology, hoping that the skills these young people gain will allow them to become agents of change in their own communities and country in the future.

“We don’t just want to affect the lives of the men that work with us but the communities overall,” Suster said. “To do that, we need to provide young people with role models, with workshops, with programs.”

Being a female entrepreneur comes with challenges, especially for women of color, but the work is uniquely difficult in violent environments. While Suster brainstorms ways her business can thrive, she also has to consider the ever-changing conditions in El Salvador and the welfare of her employees.

Credit: @sequencecollection / Instagram

“One of the most challenging things I continue to battle with is pace of growth, which is different when you’re in an environment that doesn’t foster growth, when the ecosystem doesn’t support you, especially as a woman entrepreneur inside a community tackling the issue of violence,” she said.

But she remains determined, seeing changes, even small ones with vast possibilities, as potential to disrupt the cycle of violence in El Salvador and create a new reality for her country and its people for tomorrow. Suster’s confronting it through fashion design and technology, but she wants others, both in the Central American country and beyond, to know that progress and transformation can be made through almost any means.

“You can create change with any skillset you have. For me, it’s fashion, making bracelets and necklaces, but this can be applied to any industry and can be tailored to make a difference in your own communities,” she said.

Read: Why This Latina Started The Bloomi, The First Digital Marketplace For Clean Intimate Care

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Converse Is Putting Dominican Art On Their Shoes And Here’s How People Are Feeling About The Decision

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Converse Is Putting Dominican Art On Their Shoes And Here’s How People Are Feeling About The Decision

Influencer Ray Polanco Jr. and Converse have collaborated again for Latinx Heritage Month as a part of the “Converse by LatinX” collection. Polanco Jr. recruited artist Eric Narváez to hand draw and create a Chuck Taylor that featured coloring book style art of Dominican iconography. 

The collection also features work from tattoo artist Don Rimx, and Mexican and Colombian artist Paloma Montoya. Each of Polanco Jr.’s shoes will have a unique pattern of the cultural iconography — that means every pair is one of a kind. 

Ray Polanco Jr. Uses Dominican Upbringing As Inspiration

“Inspired by Ray Polanco Jr.’s experience growing up Dominican in New York City, the hand-drawn images encourage wearers to bring the design to life with color transforming the Chuck Taylor into a cultural coloring book for your feet. Make the “Puro Platano” story your own. Shout to Uptown,” the Converse description reads.

Puto Plátano

“What a feeling… meet my new @converse the “puro plátano 2”  — a cultural coloring book for your feet inspired by my experience growing up Dominican in NYC. I want the world to get to know us beyond flag colors, so I designed a visual story of pride. I left the hand-drawn images blank so YOU can collab with me. the reality is us LatinX come in all colors, so I want u to make these ur own,” Polanco Jr. wrote on Instagram. 

This isn’t the first time Polanco Jr. has brought Dominican pride to Chuck Taylors

Polanco Jr. collaborated with Converse on the Puro Plátano last year. It was a simple plátano green shoe with the words “puro platano” on the side in gold letters. 

“As a storyteller, I believe sneakers are the perfect canvas to communicate a message because we all wear some kind of footwear. Last year, I wanted to get the world to know more about Dominicans beyond just the colors of our flag and I thought food was the best way to do that, which led to transforming the Chuck Taylor into a Platano. This year, I wanted to connect on a deeper level with the ‘Puro Platano’ story by collaging distinct images from my experience growing up Dominican in New York City,” Polanco Jr. told Footwear News

This year he really amped up the Dominican iconography. There’s rolos, plátanos, bachata dancersandbottles of rum among other familiar images to anyone who grew up in The Bronx.

“A lot of the shoe is inspired by family: my dad playing dominoes at the bodega with his friends, my mom wearing rolos in her hair after the beauty salon, and things like that.” he said. “Shout out to my sister who would cop Chucks in every color on Fordham Road in the Bronx back in the day. Beyond my story, I feel like anyone who grew up in NYC will connect with at least one thing on the shoe and hopefully, other people in different cities can relate, too.” 

Polanco Jr. is not the only artist included in Converse’s LatinX collection.

Paloma Montoya

Mexican and Colombian artist Paloma Montoya’s artwork was inspired by Colombian culture, like its cafes, people, and vallenato musicians and singers.

“I was born from my father, a Mexican and my mother from #medellincolombia, but I was raised by my mother and maternal grandparents. All #antioqueños. I grew up on arepas, tamales and empanadas #colombianos , sancocho and natilla. I listened to Carlos Vives and know the lyrics (in Spanish) to Jaime R. Echavarría’s Serenata de Amor – Thanks Mamita,” Paloma wrote in her Instagram caption. 

“My grandparents bought the house in South Gate. I’ve been here all my life, I didn’t embrace my Mexican side from my father, I embraced it here with my friends who are Mexican and Mexican-American. Mexico and South Gate run through my blood, but I have generations and generations of Colombian blood in me. Maybe that’s why I think about going back often? Maybe that’s why when I went and met my relatives high up in the mountains of #antioquia – it felt like home. This pair is for you Mom, Mamita and Papito.” 

Don Rimx

Puerto Rican muralist and tattoo artist, Don Rimx also got a chance to make his own custom sneaker. The unique pattern mimics rosary beads and colorful feathers. 

“Muy honrado de poder colaborar con @converse en este proyecto para diseñar un patron para el Chuck Taylor dandole un giro personalizado con el estilo original de Don Rimx inspirado en su cultura y el camino por andar,” Rimx wrote on Instagram. 

The Converse by LatinX collection is available now. Shout out to Converse for hiring these independent Latinx artists as well! 

Fashion Nova Debuted A Halloween Collection Inspired by Iconic Fashion Moments — Including Selena’s Purple Jumper And J.Lo’s Versace Gown

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Fashion Nova Debuted A Halloween Collection Inspired by Iconic Fashion Moments — Including Selena’s Purple Jumper And J.Lo’s Versace Gown

Fashion Nova dropped it’s Halloween collection and it is massive. However, there’s one particular section that is causing a stir: celebrity dupes. While Fashion Nova has had multiple run-ins with celebrities over copying their looks and the looks of independent designers, that hasn’t stopped them one bit. This time around they want you to dress up in your favorite celebrities’ most iconic outfits — with slightly more skin showing. 

Some people like to make their own costumes, others like to buy their own costumes. If you fall into the latter group and don’t mind baring it all, you might want to check out the internet retailer’s Cardi B, Selena Quintanilla, Jennifer Lopez, Aaliyah, and Lil Kim costumes.

Fashion Nova launches Celebrity Halloween Costume Collection

Fashion Nova has launched its new season of Halloween costumes. They’re claiming they have the “sexiest” costumes on the internet. Because you know, that’s the most important thing, being sexy. I personally, couldn’t care less how women dress on Halloween, but I do think we should have options other than essentially walking around naked during one of the colder months of the year. 

All your faves are available

This time around, Fashion Nova has continued to dupe celebrity outfits. Although Kara Nesvig of Teen Vogue makes an important point, “As fun as these costumes may be, Fashion Nova has landed in hot water after being accused of knocking off clothing designs from both independent designers and big names, like a look-alike of the Mugler dress worn by Kim Kardashian West that was made the brand and sold just days after she wore it, causing Kardashian West to speak out. While these Halloween designs are ‘celebrity-inspired,’ it’s worth remembering where each came from and honoring the designers and inspiration behind each look as you rake in the Halloween candy come October 31.”

Jennifer Lopez

https://www.instagram.com/wwd/?utm_source=ig_embed

This look is so iconic — and you may not know this – it is the reason Google image search exists. When J. Lo wore this super-duper low-cut Versace dress to the 2000 Grammy Awards so many people were searching for it that Google came up with the idea for a way to search for specific images. Her impact! 

“People wanted more than just text. This first became apparent after the 2000 Grammy Awards, where Jennifer Lopez wore a green dress that, well, caught the world’s attention,” Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt said. “At the time, it was the most popular search query we had ever seen. But we had no sure-fire way of getting users exactly what they wanted: JLo wearing that dress. Google Image Search was born.”

Lil Kim

When Lil Kim wore her purple one-armed (and one-boobed) jumpsuit and matching wig to the 1999 VMAs, it caused quite a stir. While announcing an award with Diana Ross, Ross grabbed Lil Kim’s boob. It’s hard to believe that Janet Jackson was ostracized from Hollywood years later for exposing her pasty-covered nipple at the Super Bowl, but life makes no sense.

Selena

This controversial reinterpretation of Selena’s iconic disco outfit had some fans last Halloween clutching their pearls on social media. “What would Selena’s father think?” Many asked. Who cares? He was always controlling of her body in the most sexist way with regard to how she dressed. Or are we blinded by machismo here? Selena herself never agreed with him, so why do we care what he thinks? 

Saying her dad would have abused her if he saw this makes the argument kind of null. We don’t know if Selena would have liked or hated this. Sometimes that’s just how it be.

Aaliyah

The “One in a Million” costume pays homage to Aaliyah’s “Try Again” music video outfit. This is probably the most accurate of the bunch. 

Cardi B

Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy album cover comes to life here. I am assuming that because the cover only features the top of Cardi’s body, Fashion Nova just assumed she wasn’t wearing pants? The rapper has had multiple collections with Fashion Nova so it is no surprise to see her included here. 

“You’re going to see a lot of skin,” the rapper said. “A lot of cleavage. But yet it’s so pretty and so elegant. I made sure it was sexy but also beautiful,” Cardi said of her second Fashion Nova collection, which sold a $1 million worth of product within 24 hours of its launch. 

Fashion Nova refuses to acknowledge that sometimes the weather is cold, but anyone who is going to buy one of these costumes probably doesn’t care either. Check out Fashion Nova’s Halloween collection here