This week another page in our nation’s history was written, on January 20th 2021 Kamala Harris broke a class ceiling as she was sworn in and became the first Black and Asian American and first female Vice President of the United States!
As millions of us tuned in and watched from the safety our homes during this pandemic, we were able to witness the herstoric, momentous occasion.
Along with the events of the day, the inauguration fashions will be forever sealed in time. Just as many of Jackie Kennedy’s iconic looks are attached to certain events (and are now part of museum collections) so to will be remembered the famous dress Kamala Harris wore.
Vice President Harris ushers in a new era of politics, one where Black and Brown faces can finally see ourselves reflected, so it was a beautiful tribute that she chose to go with Black American designers for the big day, Sergio Hudson and Christopher John Rogers.
The – now iconic – purple dress she wore for the official swearing-in Inaugural Ceremony was designed by fashion designer Christopher John Rogers, 27, who is from the south (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) and is no stranger to dressing big names, like Forever FLOTUS Michelle Obama, Lizzo, Rihanna and Tracee Ellis Ross; but he will now also become part of history and the nation’s fashion archives.
Rogers then reached out to his friend and colleague, Arturo Castañeda Contreras, to partner in the process of constructing this historic ensemble.
ARTURO CASTAÑEDA CONTRERAS
Castañeda Contreras, is Mexican-American, a Texas native from the RGV (Heidelberg) said in an interview with Texas local media:
“the designer on this is Christopher John Rogers, amazing designer…we got the call two, three weeks ago, we were told we need the jacket in three days, and then the dress in a day in a half…then I got a call from Rogers and he asked, Arturo can you make the jacket? …it’s typical for us to work together for people that are a big deal, ya know, it takes a village…”
Once the designs were created by Rogers, they went to Arturo and his team, Storytellers NYC, where they then created the pattern and manufactured (sew) that regal sophisticated top coat and blazer and then also manufactured the dress.
As he watched the big moment, he took to social media: “What a privilege and honor to have worked on this project! Overjoyed with tears. The real story is found with my Mom. An immigrant to this nation that has not been the kindest. From the fields as a migrant worker family to the halls of the White House! Not bad for a kid from a colonia Heidelberg, TX and San Antonio del Coyote Coahuila, MX” – Arturo Castañeda Contreras via Instagram
As part of Arturo’s team, Natalia had the honor of constructing (sewing) the famous purple dress. Hernández, who is 57, and is originally from Danlí, El Paraíso, Honduras has been a professional dressmaker and tailor for over 20 years in the United States (and 10 years in Honduras where she had her own workshop) and has only been working for Arturo for a little over a year.
During interviews with Spanish media outlets in Honduras, Hernández shared how the process came about. She first received the measurements not knowing who they were for and began the delicate construction of the garment, some parts she stitched by hand and others she used a machine. She said that she is always very attentive to detail in her work but once she found out it was for Kamala Harris she felt extremely nervous and spent many extra hours at work solely on the dress, making sure it was perfect, “...quería que todo saliera perfecto y gracias a Dios así fue.” – Natalia Hernandez [LaPrensa]
Natalia’s daughter was the one that posted on Facebook, sharing in how proud she was that her mom was a part of this historic moment. Her post went viral throughout Honduran social media channels and immediately Doña Natalia began to receive tons of messages of love and pride from the community.
When asked how she felt watching the ceremony and seeing the Vice President wearing the dress she constructed, she said “Me emocioné muchísimo… y me sentí orgullosa. Mis compañeros me felicitaron mucho porque a ella le gusto el acabado. Jamás pensé que esto ocurriría.” – Hernández
[translation: “I was very excited… and filled with pride. My coworkers congratulated me on my work since she [Vice President Harris] had expressed she was very happy with the final product. Never could I have ever imagined this happening.”]
Along with the purple dress, were Vice President Harris’ notable pearls. As a nod to honor her Alpha Kappa Alpha sisterhood, whose founders were known as the ‘Twenty Pearls’, she has always worn a pearl necklace for momentous occasions. For Inauguration Day, she decided to call on high jewelry artist, Wilfredo Rosado, who is Puerto Rican.
In past interviews Rosado expressed his thoughts on the creative process when designing for this special moment, he had been following Harris’ journey since she announced her initial run, “I thought about a woman as the first female vice president elected, who is also a person of color — that’s history. I love her strength, there is a feminine aspect of it that made me want to add a bit of glamour to that moment, so there is a special movement to the necklace.” He went on to say that he wanted a design to represent toughness and also fashion…”It’s a bold necklace, not a classic string of pearls.” – Rosado
Rosado has been upset at the treatment of Puerto Rican people by the exiting Trump administration, looking ahead he says he is hopeful for the future, “President Biden has expressed his thoughts on Puerto Rico and possible statehood, allowing people to decide on that potential. The past administration was a travesty and gave terrible treatment to the Puerto Rican people; with this new administration the future looks positive” – Wilfredo Rosado
Also taking a moment to witness the occasion, Wilfredo reflected back on his excitement at where the pearls will end up. Although they are on loan to Vice President Harris for the inauguration, he hopes that one day they end up in a museum. “For me this is beyond jewelry, this is beyond a necklace — this is history” – Rosado
Just a quick note that Vice President Harris’ sister, Maya Harris, also wore a blouse by a Latina designer Daniela Corte. The ivory ruffled blouse was the centerpiece to her Alexander McQueen pantsuit.
Corte is a Brooklyn based designer who was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina and comes from a family of designers. She launched her namesake line in 2000 after graduating from The Boston Fashion School.
In an interview with local Boston media, Daniela shared her excitement about her contribution to the historic day, “This has been a historic moment, watching the first woman ascend to the office of Vice President…I wanted the clothes I made for Maya to reflect the magnitude of this moment.” – Daniela Corte
According to social media, the blouse piece for Maya Harris was constructed by Daniela and her team, which included Hondureña dressmakers Estela Amaya and Carmen Maria Guillen Garche.
“It was an incredible honor to dress Maya and take a small part in such a historic event” – Daniela Corte
Gabriela Hearst (maiden name Perezutti) the newly named creative director at Chloé, whose designs have been worn by Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton, Angelina Jolie and many other prominent figures — was part of this week’s historic inauguration fashions.
“Born in Uruguay, Gabriela grew up on her family’s 17,000-acre ranch, Santa Isabel in Paysandu, surrounded by horses, cattle and sheep, where the notion of luxury meant things were beautifully crafted and made to last.
After more than a decade spent in design in New York, Gabriela honored her family’s heritage through the launch of her eponymous label in Fall 2015, as well as taking over the operations of her father’s ranch in Uruguay. She wanted to create a brand that reflects a slower pace and process: where things are made with care and detail, where tradition is more important than trend, where there is a purpose to every piece. ” [GabrielaHearst.com]
“There’s this idea that nothing can go to waste when you’re in a remote area…you’re always thinking twice and repurposing everything.” – Gabriela Hearst [Modesens intv. Feb. 2020]
Gabriela’s goal is to achieve maintaining a high end, environmentally conscious, fashion design line. Her stores are built without synthetics or chemicals and no new materials. She has also managed to go plastic-free with the use of compostable TIPA packaging and introducing recycled cardboard hangers. In September of 2019, Hearst hit another eco milestone as she produced the first ever carbon neutral runway show.
Hearst studio is based in New York but the Merino wool for her garments comes from the sheep on the family ranch and she also supports Manos de Uruguay, a 48 year old non-for-profit co-op and supplier of handmade products in Uruguay that is run, and operated by, rural female artisans.
As the previous administration didn’t believe in climate change nor supporting green renewable energy, it was a welcomed turning of the tide that incoming First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, chose to go with Gabriela – a designer who she has worn on several occasions – to create a symbolic and also eco-friendly dress for the evening festivities of Inauguration Day.
Hearst posted on social media and gave beautiful details about her inspiration in creating the First Lady’s exquisite design:
“The message of Unity is the main inspiration for the creation of the Ensemble. Unity makes strength and it is needed for the road ahead. The blooming symbol to represent this message are the federal flowers from every state and territory of the United States of America. The flowers are embroidered into the cashmere coat on the hem line in an pattern that rises organically on the side’s seams. On the dress, the embroidery is placed on the silk organza neckline and arms…
The Delaware flower is positioned at the heart level of The First Lady, from there, all the other flowers branch out. The pieces were made entirely in New York City. The Embroidery and Coat were crafted in the garment district and the dress was assembled at the in-house studio.
[continued] … Each flower took approximately two-four hours to embroider. Careful placements and color selections were carefully studied for weeks. Inside of the coat, representing the lifelong calling and service of Dr. Biden as an educator is a hand embroidery on the lining with a quote from Founding Father Benjamin Franklin “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
The materials used were existing available fabrics to minimize the impact on the environment” – Gabriela Hearst via Instagram
As we, the Latinx community, will be dealing (for a long time to come) with effects of having been main targets of the Trump administration; seeing our community now be embraced by the new incoming President, Vice President and First Lady etc., is symbolic and signals not only end of an era of hate, but more importantly, the beginning of the era of hope and healing…