The fashion industry is one of the most competitive industries and one of the hardest to break into, says fashion designer Aria Garcia, for whom persistence and hard work has paid off. Last month, Garcia unveiled the 2019 fall-winter collection of her women’s couture line AREGA at New York Fashion Week, an international event showcasing the latest from the hottest global designers.
It’s been a long time coming. Born and raised on St. Croix, Garcia knew she wanted to be a fashion designer since the age of 8, when her grandmother, seeing her potential, gave her a sewing machine. It wasn’t until her teen years that Garcia realized that she could actually turn this natural talent into something more than just making things for friends.
“My favorite part is taking nothing and making it into something, letting the fabric speak to me,” she said in a recent Daily News interview.
Over the years, Garcia honed her skills in both design and business. After graduating from the West Indies Heritage Institute in Sion Farm, St. Croix, Garcia went on to study business management at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla., and St. Leo University near Tampa while she worked on her skills to take her designs to the next level.
Ultimately, the Florida fashion scene wasn’t big enough to interest Garcia.
“Fashion just wasn’t alive there in Florida,” she said. “What changed my aesthetic forever was New York City. There, I realized how serious fashion was and saw all the people surrounding me taking it seriously. I wanted to be a part of that fashion community.”
A big fan of Project Runway, Garcia set her sights on working with one of the designers on the show, particularly Zach Posen, one of the judges. She found his studio and convinced them to take her on as an intern to work with the sewers and pattern makers to further master her craft.
After her internship, Garcia had no sense of direction. She just knew she had to get her pieces seen. Fate intervened one day while walking through New York’s garment district. She saw a store called Cut Fabric, Inc. and immediately knew she wanted to revamp their window, thinking that at least that way her designs would be seen in the garment district. She convinced the owner to give her a chance and the two designs she put in the window both sold within days.
Much to Garcia’s surprise, one of those buyers happened to be Japanese pop star Mika Nakashima, who wore the design 29 times during her 2014 tour.
“At the time I didn’t realize the magnitude of what was happening, until I realized that I sold a dress right off the mannequin to replace a Roberto Cavelli gown. That’s when I felt like this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.” Cavelli is a leading designer in the fashion world.
Garcia has gone on to design for notable clients such as YouTube beauty expert and makeup artist Patrick Starrr, radio and TV personality Melyssa Ford, model Diva Davanna and Sports Illustrated supermodel Jessica White.
In 2016, Garcia met Albania Rosario, founder and creative director of Uptown Fashion Week and creative director for Fashion Designers of Latin America, who convinced her she was ready to take part in Uptown Fashion Week as a rising star.
With AREGA, Garcia’s specialty is eveningwear that emphasizes a woman’s body and aims to enhance her confidence.
“The AREGA woman is fearless and extremely confident,” she said. “You have to take into consideration the event and the type of reaction they want, but each piece has to have its own soul, its own identity. I want people to see it as an amazing piece of art. It’s all about the glamour for me.”
Garcia’s collection for the 2019 New York Fashion Week, held in February, focused on romanticism and versatility, showcasing her signature seamless gowns, for which she received a standing ovation.
“Nobody wants to spend $5,000 on a dress and only wear it one time. I like the idea of interchangeable pieces, with lingerie turned into eveningwear and eveningwear turned into lingerie.”
Living her dream, Garcia wants to send a message to all young Virgin Islanders with a dream of their own.
“Hard work really does pay off. You have to fight for what you want and work for it,” she said. “To every youth in the Virgin Islands, I want them to know that they can make their dream into a reality, and no matter what, don’t stop fighting for what you believe in.”