Jose Salazar: Repurpose, Reclaim, Reuse
How did you first get into the arts?
JS: I feel like I have always been an artistic kid, ever since I was a toddler. My grandparents used to buy me coloring books and books to learn how to draw. I didn’t really start to take it seriously until I went on a trip to Europe when I was 14. I actually saw fashion and was intrigued by everything it could be. That’s when I started fashion illustration, I illustrated everyday and learned on my own. I had a background with drawing and I had technically been doing fashion illustration my whole life without really noticing it. I looked for resources on youtube and social media. I was able to learn from watching other people and a lot of practice. I didn’t have the most interesting social life in high school so I spent my nights drawing and drawing. My grandmother noticed what I was doing and asked if I would be interested in fashion as a career. That’s when I had the realization that I could turn my drawings into reality and into a career.
When did you start taking your drawing and turning them into a physical representation?
JS: Around 2014-2015 I started drawing and around 2016 my senior year in high school I actually started designing . I started working with youtubers and doing their merch. It wasn’t fashion design, it was creating a product. I left that behind to focus on fashion and I didn’t finish a product until 2017 when I started taking sewing classes.
So when you actually started sewing and realized that some drawings weren’t able to be made physically, did that change how you went about the drawing process?
JS: Definitely, it’s kinda like when you draw you don’t have to think about the technical parts of it as much. It’s like when people say an architect's dream is an engineer's nightmare. My creative dream is my sewing nightmare. Sometimes I’ll think of crazy stuff and when I have to produce it I have to change it. My finished product is 100% my creativity, but it is limited on what I can actually make. When I am drawing I can get as crazy as I want. When I produce myself, that’s when I have certain limits. I don’t plan on being a seamstress so hopefully I have someone else in production, so I don’t have to limit myself to my sewing abilities. The really big difference is that sometimes you would draw something on the body and there is no way to make it fit or hang like that. That’s why we drape and make prototypes before so we don’t waste fabric. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into the various stages.
So when you are designing to you like designing for a line and creating multiples or something that is more for one offs?
JS: When I started fashion I was really inspired by pop culture, stage outfits and Lady Gaga. It would be one of a kind outfits and that’s what I started off doing, a specific muse or event. I feel like I am opening my horizons and I have entered into the new world of reworking. It is also one of a kind outfits and I have been doing a lot in quarantine. I don’t have enough material to mass produce it. Even though I really don't know much about my future in the industry, I don’t really see myself being a big brand like H&M and in fast fashion. I think it makes it a little more special if it is something that not everyone owns and I don’t want to lose that aspect. Even though I don’t want to mass produce I do eventually want to have a line and sell things. I don’t do couture though, even though I respect it, I just am not the best at making wedding and gala dresses.
So is there a specific type of buyer that you want to attract for your clothes. Do you want a certain body type or category of fashion?
JS: When I create my prototype it has to fit my mannequin because I usually drape it and fit it to the mannequin size. I don’t really think of any specific size or specific person, just whoever likes my stuff and who is fun and risky and daring. Someone who wants to take a risk and fashion and try something different. Usually it is geared towards a younger audience, but not specifically.
Do you think the Pratt curriculum encourages you to take those risks and to try new things?
JS: Right now, the one issue is we have a class called drape and construct. We are taught to dress it on the mannequin and fit it on that specific body type. There’s a limit with the size, but I’m not really sure if we will eventually be able to get more creative with that. When it comes down to creativity I don’t think there’s much of a limit. You have to limit yourself for time and deadlines, but they will allow you to make whatever you want as long as you do it correctly and the result looks clean. Different teachers have different opinions so I can’t speak for all of Pratt.
So many people are moving away from fast fashion as you mentioned before and moving towards more eco friendly brands. The Rihanna Fenty show had models that had a lot of diversity that wasn’t really seen on such a monumental scale before in fashion at least to my knowledge. Do you think that show was more of a one off or is it the direction of fashion?
JS: I feel like it is the direction fashion is moving, but a lot of established brands are taking a really long time to do it. A lot of brands don’t want to take the leap. I am all for the inclusive and am definitely not a fan of what fast fashion does not only to the environment, but also the people in the sweatshops. Since I have the opportunity to not support it, I don’t. Alot of my stuff is reworked so there’s no waste. The fabric already exists so there is not a need to create any new fabric.
How is the process of a rework different than starting from scratch? Is it the same?
JS: It is a lot different. When you start from scratch you can decide how much fabric you need, with reworks you are limited to what you have with the garment. It limits your creativity, but I think creative minds can think and think. I think that limits stop creative minds from over thinking. I like doing reworks a lot. It isn’t necessarily easier, but I can be depending on how much you rework it. For example, I got this really tiny jacket from my grandmother and cut it up and reworked it so that it would fit me oversized. You have to get super creative with what you are cutting up and your patterns and fitting certain pieces.
So going back to when you said you are doing merch, do you feel like that audience transferred over to your personal or do you try to keep it more separate?
JS: I try to keep it more separate, I opened my art instagram page in 2016 and that was doing really well for a while. By branding myself with other people and doing illustrations of other people I was gaining a following and audience from those people specifically. When I posted my own work it wasn’t the same reaction, so i decided to start from scratch and chose the audience that I share my work with. So with Tik Tok they have such a crazy algorithm in getting your work out there, I was fortunate enough to share my work and get a video with 6 million people. I got a bunch of really nice comments and dms and people asking where they can buy my work and when I am opening up a brand. It was a little bit overwhelming because I haven't begun to think about opening a brand before. But it is crazy that there are so many people that are enjoying my work, it interests me that people are interested in me with DMs and my work.
It is crazy that five years ago you didn’t have the same reach as social media, with Tik Tok and Instagram you can reach pretty much anyone. How do you feel like being in NY has shaped your fashion identity?
JS: I have always admired NY because I feel like it is years above the average city when it comes to fashion. There is so much raw talent because I feel like everyone that was the major talent in their hometown goes to NY in order to search for their dream. There is new talent coming in every month basically, it is really inspiring. NY doesn’t take much of a rest and you are always going and working. It can be overwhelming sometimes, but it can also be motivating and being able to thrive around people doing the same thing as you. When it comes to my final projects, I can collaborate with friends that do video and do makeup. It is great, but it can also be a disaster.
Did you have an easy adjustment going from Peru to NY?
JS: I didn’t think it would be hard because I didn’t have many friends in Peru, but I did have a lot of online friends from America. I was aware of American culture and the American way of thinking, however, it was still harder than I thought to adapt to living in the US. It took me more than I realized to adapt myself and find a good group of people to surround myself with and be positive. It is very necessary to find and establish that especially in a city like NY.
I think when people see how successful you are people would want to leech off of you so having friends to steer you is very important. Have you been to New York fashion week?
JS: Yes, so I actually found all my fashion week opportunities outside of what Pratt offered. Surprisingly, the first time I weeked for fashion week was from this guy through a mutual friend at a party. He kept saying, “oh you’re a fashion major? I work in fashion PR, I’ll get you a gig for fashion week”. I was like yeah whatever he’s probably drunk, he’s all talk. Next morning I got a message from him saying that I could work for the brand Gypsy Sport. It was a great experience, the brand is very new and innovative and risky. They rented this abandoned warehouse situation and put benches and made a zero waste fashion show. A lot of shows now are such a high production with a lot of waste. But it was a great experience, I got to meet a lot of people and network a lot and experience what is like behind the scenes.
Did the behind the scenes and all the work correlate to what you were expecting?
JS: Yeah, I also expected the fashion industry to not always go well. In my life I haven’t always heard yes so I’ve adapted to not always hear yes. I think Pratt is good with criticism because if you go to a school that just compliments your work, it's gonna be tough when you’re thrown into the real world. It was surprising because it was the first time I was experiencing running around and fixing things and telling people what needed to get done. I haven’t had enough experience in the actual fashion world, because it is still very exciting to me. I have a friend in fashion PR who said that he hoped I never lost the energy for it. I think a lot of people get very overwhelmed when it becomes your daily life. I don’t want to speak for everyone that is out there working because I don’t know.
Is Gypsy Sport a brand you want to work with more, or was it a one time deal?
JS: I worked with them for that year, and I went to two of their after parties. I’m not super linked to them, just more of an opportunity. I have met people from the show that I am still in contact with, but not the brand itself. It is a really cool brand though.
Do you feel like you have to go and get the connections yourself?
JS: When it comes to fashion I think a lot of schools help out a lot. Parsons and FIT offer more for their students than Pratt. You can be comfortable doing stuff like that, but the whole concept of moving to NY for me is to take advantage of it. I try to network as much as I can and get out there and really experience it and not stay comfortable in my college environment. When my visa expires am I going to look back and say that I spent four years in a dorm or did I establish as many relationships as I can legally. It has been great, but I have had a couple experiences I have had to turn down because being an international student I can’t get paid. I got a message on my instagram asking to be a part of a campaign for American Eagle about a collection of jeans, but I couldn’t do it because it was paid. So it is very limiting in a way.
So what made you choose Pratt over another fashion school?
JS: I liked the environment of Pratt because people are supportive. There are horror stories of people stealing work at Parsons and FIT. I visited all the schools and I think Pratt was the one where something in me said I needed to be there. I love New York, but I didn’t know if I wouldn't live in Manhattan and lose the magic of it. I can have a peaceful life in Brooklyn, and go to Manhattan whenever I want. I don’t know what my life would be if I went to a different school, i'm not sure if I necessarily made the right choice, but I definitely feel content with my life now.
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