By Margarita Hirapetian
Fashion rules our lives, whether we like to admit it or not. In fact, you’ve most likely heard the saying, “The clothes make the (wo)man,” and there’s no denying the truth in that. Whether you’re a casual dresser who feels like you don’t give much consideration to what you’re wearing, or you have a passion for fashion, the reality is that we are all influenced by fashion and what we choose to put on our bodies. And it’s the fashion designers who help us decide (consciously or subconsciously) what type of style we’ll embrace.
Artist Carolina Hernandez is such a designer. She may not be a household name yet, but her designs stand out with their flair, and would give any fashionista serious heart palpitations. All of her pieces are full-on glamorous, and the craftsmanship that’s been put into them is impossible to miss. Among her creations is a gorgeous black lace and pale bronze satin gown featuring an intricate knotted, puffed-up neckline. Another exquisite number is a navy gown with a glittering high-neck bodice with mutton sleeves and high-slit skirt. Yet another piece made entirely of white lace gives off seductive bridal vibes. The people choosing to don her creations can’t be skittish, because wearing a Carolina Hernandez piece will absolutely get you noticed.
Carolina’s journey into fashion began with her fascination in seeing both of her grandmothers and her mother making clothes for her family in Mexico. This motivated her to start experimenting with fabrics and basically creating her own clothes at age 16. After finishing high school, she moved to LA with her sights set on becoming a fashion designer. However, it wasn’t until 2010 that she was able to enroll in school. In 2014, she graduated from The Art Institute of CA-SD with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design.
Prior to all this, however, Carolina enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2005 and served on active duty for four years. In 2007 and 2008, she was involved in the partnership of the global Americas, and Maritime Security Operations in the Arabian Gulf. Carolina also served her country in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012. Even today, with all the work she has on her plate as a successful designer, she continues to serve in the U.S. Navy Reserves. Carolina’s service has certainly influenced and inspired her designs, and her label is called Veteran Couture as a result. Carolina describes that her time in the Navy helped her see the world, which ended up being a great source for her art. She says, “During my time serving in the U.S. Navy, I had the opportunity to sail all over the world and visit different countries. Dubai UAE in particular, changed my design aesthetic. I was extremely inspired by the intricate art displayed everywhere from walls, streets, floors, jewelry, food, buildings to landscapes. This experience has motivated me to incorporate distinct patterns, textures, shapes, repetition and asymmetry reflecting the drama transformed into an exotic design.”
Carolina has immense pride in her work, and with good reason. She has won several awards, including the “Most Creative” prize during her time at The Art Institute of California San Diego. She also won “Best Designer” during a fashion designer competition in 2018, where she was among six designers vying for the award. Naturally, she was ecstatic to win. She says, “This was special to me because a lot of hard work and dedication went into this project. Being rewarded and recognized for the amount of effort and detailing made me exceptionally proud of my designs.”
All that said, of course Carolina deals with some challenges as well. She explains, “One of the challenges that I face as a designer is the simple fact that I am surrounded by hundreds of other designers. I also do everything myself from the fabric sourcing, pattern making, cutting, sewing, styling, social media marketing to model casting calls and make up crew for all my fashion events which is also a challenge. However, because of the fact that this industry is saturated with many great artists making it more challenging to stand out, it has allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, become more creative, and has made me great at multitasking.” Despite the competition, she has been able to hold her own and continue making beautiful art. (And if you think fashion isn’t art, one look at Carolina’s work should convince you otherwise).
As a figure in the fashion world, Carolina also acknowledges some of the industry’s limitations. When asked what she’d like to see change or evolve in the fashion industry, she says, “What I would like to see change in the fashion industry is to be able to have team oriented collaborations amongst designers. Being able to collaborate and work as a team will not only help develop great designs, but it will inspire others to enter the fashion world. I am sure that this change would make a positive impact upon new generations, making it more inspiring for others to help one another.” Helping others is definitely a goal of Carolina’s. As she looks to the future, she wants to not only travel the world and provide creative workshops, but also guide aspiring designs to discover their full potential.
Her advice for newbies in the business is: “Absorb as much information as possible from different individuals, learn new skills even if they do not relate to fashion, and take risks when the opportunities arise. No one is ever ready, but one can become surprised when things one did not think they were capable of, occur.” Very well said.
Immerse yourself in Carolina’s world by following her on Instagram (@veteran_couture) where you’ll get a look at her process and be delighted by something beautiful every day.