Leather motorcycle jackets adorned with buckled straps bind the arms like a straightjacket. Braided rope trim drapes the neckline like a noose. Strong, structured silhouettes accentuate the power of the female form… Dark and complex, yet brave and fiercely feminine, Carolina Sarria’s newest collection is very much like the designer herself.

I sat down with Colombian-born, New York-based Carolina Sarria to learn more about the enigmatic designer and artistic director, her fashion films and eponymous clothing line. Already familiar with Sarria’s designs, I expected a confident, bad-ass chick with an attitude to match. But I was surprised by the designer’s vulnerability, revealed alongside a genuine, deep-rooted passion for her craft. With her charming Colombian accent and infectious laughter, Carolina Sarria accounts for me the melancholic past that inspired her present collection, as well as the flourishing future she’s presently creating.

To connect with Sarria, head over to her official website.

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Beautiful Savage: Your fashion video for your Spring/Summer 2014 collection is very intriguing. Tell me a bit about what’s going there. And who are the women? Are they bad, rebellious or misunderstood? Are they you?

Carolina Sarria: The heroine in the film had murdered her abusive husband, so the police put her away. She’s sentenced to death by electric chair. She can barely breathe due to the overwhelming anxiety of her surroundings. As a means of escape, she starts drawing and eventually creates a clothing line. She mails sketches to people on the outside, the designs get produced, she eventually becomes famous. So, she finds freedom in captivity through her creative outlet and her perspective begins to change. And just before the execution, the prison guard who’s about to throw the switch and kill her, realizes who she is and he falls in love with her and saves her life by giving her a pill that only “simulates” death.

You’ve had experience in jail?

Sarria: No, I have never been in jail, but I have always been intrigued and curious about what goes on there. How there are probably so many creative minds making art everyday and their daily frustrations of being trapped inside.
What they feel and what they go through.

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When did you start designing?
Sarria:
I designed since I was little but I started my business 2 years ago.

Was it always so dark and edgy? How did you decide to go in that direction?
Sarria:I don’t decide. I just go to work and start drawing. And for some reason it’s always what comes out of my hand, or comes out of me, and it’s always black and it’s always edgy and it’s always dark. A lot of my inspiration comes from darkness and from feelings that are not like, the happiest feelings. I get inspired by depression and I don’t think of my art being inspired by like, butterflies. I like to see butterflies and beautiful things, but that’s not what comes out of me. One day maybe I’ll wake up and go to the studio and something pink and yellow will come out of my hands!

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Do you link your collection completely to your personality or do you ever design things more to keep in line with trends or because it may sell better?
Sarria:My collection is all inspired by my personal life—it’s me. It’s my art. This is me and what comes out of me and I love sharing it because I love beautiful things. Every designer is different, so I don’t look at someone else or at magazines and think: “Oh, I’m going to design this too!”

What is your priority when designing? Is it aesthetic, fit, the person who will wear it?
Sarria: My priority is the fit. I’m a perfectionist. I don’t care how many times I have to do it. It has to come out perfect. I know I’m done when the workers show me my design and I like it right away. I need to think “I would wear this.” My fabrics have to be the best. I get very happy when a client comes to me and they love what I’ve made. I’m like “oh my god!” To me that’s the best.

How do you feel that your spring/summer 2014 collection is different than your others?

Sarria:This is my 3rd collection and I feel they’re all a family. Each one belongs to the other. There is something in all my collections where you know that it comes from me. And I think it is not a big difference—different designs, yes, but they’re all the same aesthetic. Yes, I use a lot of leather, but even if I don’t use it in some pieces, my designs still look strong and badass and different, like they all belong to the same brand.

Do you involve yourself with any other artistic endeavors, such as photography or painting?
Sarria:Yes, I usually am the art director of my videos. I love filming and I love making movies, I’m also into photography and I love sketching.

What do you do in your spare time besides design?

Sarria:I love traveling and exploring new cities to find inspiration. I like yoga. It calms me down. I like dancing and partying and concerts and Broadway shoes. I like having fun – I’m a fun person!

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When you design do you listen to music? Who are your favorite artists?
Sarria: When I design I play rock music really loud, because when I design I have lots of energy and anxiety inside of me. When I play hard rock, like metal, the music, for some reason, goes faster than my anxiety, so it calms me down. I feel very calm and it’s loud and I don’t know, it makes me so inspired. I love listening to Marilyn Manson and Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and like, all old-school rock… Some new, but yea… but that’s what I like.

When did you move here?
Sarria: I moved here 14 years ago. I grew up in Columbia and I moved here when I was 17. I’m 30 now.

Do you have family here?
Sarria: No. They are in Florida. I moved here alone. My whole life I wanted to be a designer, and one time in school in Columbia and I told my teacher: “I don’t belong here. This is nothing to me. I can’t come to school anymore because this isn’t for me.” I dropped out of school and came to New York. No design colleges would take me without a diploma, so I looked online how to graduate high school from home and they sent me the books and I graduated in like, 4 months. I don’t even know what I said to my parents. I just left and said something like: “I want to go and be a designer!”

Why did you choose to run your own fashion brand instead of working for another label?
Sarria: The truth is that I don’t like working for anyone because I don’t like rules and I don’t like anybody telling me what to do. I creative, so I need my space and I need to do things my way. My schedule is like, I get creative at night, and sometimes I want to design and some other times I don’t feel like it. My personality is kind of hippie in a way. I don’t know what’s going to happen the next day. I started my own company so it would be mine and I can be myself. And I don’t want to disappoint anyone… And just do things like I want.

Did you ever work for someone else in fashion?
Sarria: Honestly, when I moved to New York I was 17 and the first job I worked was at Armani, and after 3 weeks I was like, I don’t think I can do this. It’s so boring! And then I just left. After I graduated from school I met someone at a party and he invited me to intern for him and I was like, OK, cool, I’ll see how it is… I went and I started designing for him… I’m not going to tell you his name, but I was sitting in his office and I was like, “What the fuck? If this dude can be successful, I can be!”

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Did you ever sew and make patterns or did you just design and then have someone construct your designs from the beginning?
Sarria: They taught me everything from patternmaking to sewing in school. And I can do whatever. If I decide to make a dress from scratch, I can do that, and I get busy. I started with a jacket, and that jacket became two and that became two hundred. So it was never fast; it was always like, from one jacket to what I am right now. When I started making money and getting clients, I hired workers. So now I draw, direct, buy the fabrics, I cut, but I have someone that sews for me and I have a patternmaker.

Do you make everything here?
Sarria: Yes, because I like to have control of my babies, you know? Each piece I make has so much detail and I’m such a perfectionist, it will be very complicated to send it someplace else. Like, I would never get the results that I want.

When you first started out did you get investors?
Sarria: To be honest with you I don’t have an investor because I don’t want one. When I first started and I had a runway show, for me it was art. I didn’t know the business side, so I thought: oh let’s have a runway show! And after I had my first runway show business just started coming out of nowhere. People started calling me… It became a business. But I didn’t know anything about the business.

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You did a runway show before you were prepared to sell?

Sarria: Yes. I knew a girl who helped me set up my first show. It was really cool at first, but things got crazy. I felt like people were using me because I was inexperienced and vulnerable. I got lost and had to consider what my goals were. I embraced my journey. Life is all about experiences, and each day I get stronger and my collection grows and I’m doing it on my own. I have big dreams, but there’s a pace for everything. I’d rather build something brick by brick than build a wall without a strong foundation.

Which designers do you admire?
Sarria: I love Givenchy and Ungaro, Rick Owens, Alexander Wang… those are the ones I like, but the one I really admire is McQueen.

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Any idols outside of fashion?
Sarria: My idol was always Michael Jackson. But he’s dead now… I feel like all my idols died! When I say that people ask me why because he supposedly abused children. But you know, I was never friends with him, so I don’t know what happened. I can’t judge. But if you’re asking about an idol who do I admire? As an artist? He was a genius. I love everything about him—his music, his videos, his dancing… He was so amazing.

What’s your favorite part about working in fashion and what do you dislike about it?
Sarria: Every day I meet great people; people with so much talent. Some don’t have a lot of money, but they have drive and personality. I collaborate with these people, because I can relate, and I love to surround myself with people who are as passionate I am.

Fashion is beautiful. The outfits, the garments, the models; everything just looks like a fairy tale… What I don’t like is that it’s very competitive. Working in the industry is like going into dark waters full of alligators, and you need to cross to the other side… It’s the truth. In New York City we all wear masks. We live double lives. I guess there’s some beauty behind that. Because you have to be that way sometimes to get what you want. I don’t like when it becomes too fake. It can become so materialistic without any feeling behind it and no compassion about it and everything is money, money, money… That’s the only thing I don’t really like and I protect myself very much from that.


Besides your fashion line, are you currently collaborating with anyone on any projects?

Sarria: I’m filming a documentary about my life and fashion career. I’m also designing handbags and shoes. I’m collaborating with my girlfriend, Bianca Allen, who is a very talented designer.

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What are your ultimate career goals?
Sarria: My goal is to build this company brick by brick. I know what I want and that’s why I need to take care of my brand. I want to be all over the United States and Europe, but now I’m really just focusing on selling to exclusive, high-end boutiques.

What do you want your legacy to be?
Sarria: To the people who’ve collaborated with me, or knew me, or bought my clothes, or anything… I want to leave them something special. I want to be remembered as a wild, strong girl, who looked like she really didn’t care, but who understood and had compassion and made people happy. You know what I mean? I want to leave good memories.

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