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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Puerto Rico shines on the New York catwalk

By Javier Muñiz

Special to The Star

A select group of designers from Puerto Rico presented their collections at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) last Thursday. A joyous atmosphere filled with music and an audience that was ready to sing popular songs like ‘Yo soy boricua pa’ que tú lo sepas’ marked a new chapter that began when 16 designers accepted an invitation to showcase at “Made in Puerto Rico.”

The group of designers earned the well deserved spot at the NYFW since the three blocks of fashion shows hosted by Runway 7 at the Paramount Hotel’s Sony Hall in Manhattan attracted influencers, celebrities and fashion lovers. Although it was the first time that a delegation from the island was represented at NYFW, they conquered the scene like veterans as they managed to sell out everybody’s block of shows. Alexandra Lúgaro, Nicole Chacón, Guaynaa and his wife Lele Pons are some of the public personalities who were among the audience.

The vibrant energy that characterizes La Isla del Encanto could easily be used to describe the way people were vibing at a catwalk that was far from ordinary. That was mainly because there were several musical interventions designed to make the audience dance to the beat of bomba y plena. One of the most memorable moments of the night happened when in the middle of his show, Reynaldo José demonstrated he’s a skilled tenor as he sang the famous song “O Sole Mio.”

Another special moment that brought many to tears was when living legend Carlota Alfaro addressed the audience as she received an homage for her career and contributions to the development of the fashion business in Puerto Rico. During her speech, she said it was a historic moment that will be remembered for years to come. The work of Alfaro is very respected because she was an educator who followed the vocational call, but also as she is celebrated as a fashion pillar for all Puerto Ricans.

That is what we saw in New York, an interest in starting to collect the pieces of a missing past to prove how styling is linked to history.

In the article “Fierce Fashion from 19th Century Puerto Rico,” Tashima Thomas examines a picture of a woman in Old San Juan and concludes that a fashion sense has been present since colonial times.

“Through a brief study of her self-fashioning we can learn so many things about the complexities of social exchanges, global economies, ethnicity, literature, and history,” Thomas writes. “From the artistry of her stance to her multicultural couture -- the subject in the photograph is a nineteenth century fierce fashionista.”

With this the researcher is able to show how fine clothing was part of the items traded on the archipelago.

Although fashion in the Caribbean could be underestimated, since the beginning the first settlers and the population that was born in the New World had a wide-ranging multicultural knowledge. Because of that unique environment of migration and assimilation, lots of fashion trends were born. A few centuries later, the influence of Puerto Ricans in urban music has positioned the island as a one of the meccas of the urban style. Meanwhile, the island is well known for the unmatched work of the boricua dresses at beauty pageants.

The works of Gax Company, Marissa Santiago, Rosa Mercedes, Mythik, Reynaldo José, Mateo Manuel, The Only One, Norma Nazario, Monarch, Soleata, Carlotta Alfaro, Rudeth León, A Pereira, Lorraine Ortiz and Carlos Alberto exemplify the complexity of the fashion industry and the capacity of local talent to export couture to the world.

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