Having a rolling wardrobe of formal wear is a sartorial challenge to say the least. First things first, pieces are expensive, often extortionately so. Then you have the hurdle of finding a dress that is occasion-appropriate without making you look like Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife to contend with. Oh, and, of course, wedding season comes with a hefty price tag as you pay for countless dresses you’ll never wear again purely to avoid being tagged in social media recycling the same dress. See, I told you, it’s hard.
The good news is that Louisa Rechter and Alessandra Perez-Rubio feel your pain. In fact, they were both so frustrated that they couldn’t find stylish cocktail wear that don’t break the bank that they quit their jobs and joined forces to launch Mestiza New York. Created in 2014, the label is dedicated to offering a contemporary riff on occasionwear and has quietly been gaining traction with fashion editors, celebrities and influencers in the know. The fabrics are luxe and the handiwork is technical but prices range from the $500 mark for a full embroidered cocktail dress or a strapless tuxedo jumpsuit, to around £1,500 for their more intricate floor length pieces. It’s not cheap, admittedly, but you get far more bang from your buck that anything else out there and their cult following is growing because of it.
We caught up with the pair at their Chelsea HQ to talk about their lightbulb moment, working dynamic and what’s next.
ON HOW THEY MET
ALESSANDRA: Louisa and I are friends from college and we were itching to do something entrepreneurial. We were both working at the time but wanted to do our own thing. We decided over wine one night that we’d give it a try! I started sketching and Louisa liked my designs – thinking they were unique but also very wearable. We thought, now is the time to go for it! We’re both still young and scrappy!
THE LIGHTBULB MOMENT
LOUISA: When Alessandra got married in 2013, she had a black tie wedding and wanted the women to wear gowns. As a guest, I searched the Internet high and low for the perfect dress: something well-made, beautiful, with a unique point of view. Basically, I wanted a couture gown in the $300 – $600 price range. I was disappointed to see that the gowns in my budget were of questionable quality, something I wouldn’t wear again, and lacked novel elements. Alessandra and I felt that there is a white space in the market for special occasion pieces that are unique, novel and won’t break the bank.
ON THEIR WORKING DYNAMIC
LOUISA: I was a buyer, planner and merchant. Alessandra went to art school and was a graphic artist. Because we excel in different areas, I handle the business side while Alessandra handles the creative. We are a two-man team, so we flex in our roles, helping each other out when needs be. We have meetings to discuss what we’re working on and trust that it’ll get done!
ALESSANDRA: Having a partner is really crucial. It allows you to divide and conquer. The other weekend we were hosting a pop-up shop but also needed to be at our FIT Incubator Program’s networking event. Louisa stayed at the event while I manned the pop-up shop. It allows you to multitask and be efficient. The challenge is that you don’t always agree on certain decisions but the upside is that we always try to come to a compromise that best benefits the company.
ON LEAVING THEIR JOBS TO START THE LABEL
LOUISA: It was a very difficult choice. It’s not easy leaving a steady paycheck and putting yourself out there creatively. Most of our decision was emotionally driven but we had to be logical. We wanted to be entrepreneurial, start our own line, be our own bosses and create something beautiful. We sought advice from many different people and prepared ourselves for what being an entrepreneur means – living and breathing MESTIZA, being relentless, high highs and low lows. Funding is also something that is terrible to talk about but necessary if you’re going to start a business of any kind. My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs would be to make sure you are prepared to work 24/7, make sure you have a highly focused business plan and if you’re going to take on a partner, make sure you both have the same worth ethic and expectations.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
ALESSANDRA: When I source, I take pictures on my phone and then I have a little list with everything saved in one place. I scroll through them and once I design everything I organize everything by fabric. Louisa and I usually have a big design meeting and piece everything together. Once that’s done I can kind of say, ‘Alright which fabrications are we using too much? Are we planning on executing this particular top in three different fabrications? Do we need to?’ That sort of thing. It has given me a different perspective on how to design, and when I have meetings and talk my ideas through, it stops me from over-developing. If it were up to me we’d have 60 styles! You have to curate a story that makes sense and has purpose. We go to market, see what buyers are responding to, then we create an assortment of the best pieces on our website.
ON HAVING A CLEAR DESIGN FOCUS
LOUISA: When defining our brand and collection, both Alessandra and I agreed that we love purchasing and styling cocktail dresses. We have a lot of events in our lives that we want to look good for. We want to be elegant, on-trend and be wearing something that will spark a conversation. We are willing to spend the money on something that will last in our closets for years and ignite fun memories when we pull them from our closets. We know there are a lot of amazing brands out there that our customers shop for cocktail attire…we just don’t think it’s a focus for a lot of these designers. We want to be THE cocktail dress destination.
ON KEEPING INSPIRED & HANDLING CREATIVE BLOCKS
LOUISA: I think one of the things that has helped us keep going is we are always taking meetings. We meet with all different walks of life from CEO’s, other emerging designers, lawyers…everyone has a unique point of view on the fashion industry and our brand. We take all thoughts into consideration and try to find which angles best suit us and propel us in the right direction. It’s really important to get diverse feedback to inspire you and give you ideas.
ALESSANDRA: I’m always reading, people-watching, looking at vintage photographs to find inspiration. If I’m having a creative block, sometimes it’s best to separate myself, drink a glass of wine, have a talk with friends and the ideas will come!
ALESSANDRA: The collection is expanding rapidly. You will see a wider range of silhouettes and fabrications. While we want to remain true to being a cocktail attire brand, you will see items that can be worn in a more casual sense. And we’d love to do shoes too!
Join The Community
Join thousands of women who wake up with us every Tuesday and Thursday for inspiring stories, entrepreneurship wisdom & updates on our workshops, supper clubs and events.