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Mariana Alvarez Zubillaga’s Collection Expresses a Love Story

After an amazing SCAD FASHWKND, we got to chat with Mariana Alvarez Zubillaga, senior fashion design major from Caracas, Venezuela. Her classic palette of red and white was a head turner and definitely had that special runway impact while being an homage to her great-grandparents’ love that her great-grandfather describes as a “happy incompatibility.” We talked with the designer about motivation, struggles, and what she sees for herself post-college.

What got you interested in fashion design?

Honestly, my great-grandmother has always been my greatest fashion icon. She’s super tiny and I’m super tall so I would always go to her closet and try all of her stuff on and she was so into it. I remember the first time that I designed a dress was when I did my first communion, I inherited my grandmother’s dress. I remember it was a very old school, very conservative dress with long sleeves and a turtleneck and I made it short sleeved. I remember telling my mom that I wanted to add some lace to the sleeves and I think that was my first fashion moment.

Mariana drew inspiration from her great-grandmother.

How would you describe your collection, aesthetics, and motivating factors for your collection?

So, in the beginning, I wasn’t attempting on doing anything evening wear or ready-to-wear. I just didn’t know where my stuff was going. I think this collection helped me really find my style and I think I would describe my collection as a little sporty but kind of evening and ready-to-wear, because I have classic silhouettes that I altered just by being oversized like the leather jacket. I also have the tailored pants, but I add details on it to make it pop and to make it different. I would say that it’s very detail driven. I have many fabric manipulations that are so meticulous that it can be appreciated in either small or big scale, but I’m just very detail oriented.

Where did your color palette come into play? Why choose red and white?

So apart from red and white, red, especially being the color of love, my collection is a romantic story of my great-grandparents. I pictured the white being the canvas and then the red was the emotion that you feel when you’re in a relationship. Also, the country that I come from, red is directly associated with the government and I wanted to break away from that stigma. When I was a kid, I was always fighting against that color in a way, but I always loved it, so it’s kind of like that freedom from having to disconnect from something that I loved. Those are the only colors you’ll see in my collection; but also, since I have so many embellishments, I wanted them to shine on their own, so I didn’t want to get too distracted with color.

What fashion designers do you look up to the most that might have influenced some of the silhouettes that are in your collection?

Definitely Alexander McQueen. I love how Sarah Burton, the designer, has made everything so form fitting and I love all the corsets and think that she’s very detail oriented. Also, I love the designer Mary Katrantzou. She does these amazing fabric manipulations with beading mixed with fabric and acrylic. In my leather jacket, you can see that I laser cut leather, acrylic, and all these beads because I wanted to create this applique that not only included beads and sequins but also add something more personal and something that made it one of a kind.

How much preparation did it take for your senior collection?

I kind of started developing the concept during the summer, but I was incredibly busy, since I had 3 internships, so I didn’t have much time to pay attention to it. Also, it was so hard coming up with something.

You weren’t inspired?

I wasn’t. I was having such a hard time. First, I wanted to do a love story about how love changes all the time and all the feelings and emotions that go into it. In my Senior I class my professor, Stephanie Foy, told me that I should tie it to a personal story and kind of fall in love with my concept since I was going to be working on it for an entire year. I was inspired by my great-grandparents.

What was it like watching your designs walk down the runway?

It was so exciting, especially since my dad came and my best friend was there as well as my friends from class and my professors. It was, overall, such a great way to provide closure to this journey because it’s been incredibly amazing and long and it’s just so rewarding to have gotten something out of it.

In those times where you were feeling uninspired or felt like you couldn’t go through with your collection, what did you do to keep pushing?

I kept telling myself to trust the process. During the first critique, I was so bummed out after I saw everyone’s stuff coming to life and they were so happy and I was just there in this awkward, stuck situation where I had a top and it wasn’t finished or I had the pants, but I didn’t have the rest of the look. Nothing was done for the first critique and I had been working so hard that I told myself that I couldn’t get frustrated and that I had to keep going. For the second critique, when I presented my first looks and everything was finished, I was so happy. It’s this thing of seeing stuff separate; it’s so different from seeing everything all together and it makes a huge difference and I’m so happy with it now.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to be in fashion design and isn’t sure or for people who are in fashion design, but are doubting themselves?

For people who want to get into fashion design, but are not sure, if you have the chance to try it I would encourage everybody to try it. It’s not only the sewing and the construction, which is the part that I think is the scariest, it’s about the concept development, the stories, the colors and overall studying something that inspires you so much to where you create something beautiful from it. I would say give it a shot and if you’re passionate about it, you’ll definitely be able to express yourself. For those who are studying fashion design, I would encourage them to try everything. Try evening wear, ready-to-wear, weird jackets, weird shapes, weird fabrics,  everything before they get out of school. SCAD is so resourceful if you meet the right people and seek help to learn every day. I think that’s something that will always pay off in the end.

Last question: what are your plans post-college?

I would love to work in a small company or a small brand so I could learn the process of choosing a customer, finding your niche in the market, and being involved in the design development. It’s a hard question because I don’t know. After the show, I’ve had so many people come up to me and ask me when I’m going to sell my clothes and it’s very rewarding to know that there are people who would want to wear my designs. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make more clothes and be selling them in the next few months.

Written by Morgan Daniel
Photography by Coco Hubbeling