Paris, New York, London…Santo Domingo? The Dominican Republic may not come to mind immediately as a fashion hub, but the city and its designers are leaving their mark on the industry. With bright colors and imaginative floral patterns, a handful of big-name designers have made their homes in the Santo Domingo, and show the city’s influence on their work.
Oscar de La Renta
The most famous Dominican designer, Oscar de la Renta, was born and raised in Santo Domingo. Before he passed away in 2014, he was best known for his ready-to-wear collections, and his fashion house continues to design custom red carpet gowns and other elegant, high-end fare in his name. Early on, he gained recognition designing tailored pastel pieces for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy that brought Caribbean color and flair to the White House, and then created couture collections for Elizabeth Arden. Even the current runway collection, presented under the supervision of his chosen successor Peter Coppings, feels downright Dominican, with its floral motifs and large color blocks in pinks, pale greens, lemon yellows, and sherbet oranges. But this should come as no surprise, as de la Renta famously said: “My greatest strength is knowing who I am and where I come from—my island.”
Former creative director Sully Bonnelly (who is also from Santo Domingo) got his start as de la Renta’s assistant, and since has designed for Bill Blass and Elie Tahari. He launched his own line, which is distributed through Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman, and an exclusive collection for the Home Shopping Network–the first Latin American designer to be featured on a shopping network. His design style is far less formal than de la Renta’s, but his dresses are just as colorful. He chooses large, soft, floral shapes in bright yellows, oranges, and greens for his main fabric patterns, and his silhouettes create the perfect summer look.
While on your haute couture shopping spree in Santo Domingo, keep an eye out for Prince Julio Cesar’s new label and shop Patric Love. Cesar is Venezuelan, but he loves Santo Domingo. He developed not just a store and a line of clothing for the Dominican Republic, but a new whole fashion outlook for Domincan women. Cesar designs for a sophisticated, modern elegance epitomized by women “not afraid of looking the best and showing it at all times.” The lines of his 2015 collection are sleek but breezy, with bursts of bright yellow and turquoise that echo the region’s bright sun and endless blue seas. Look out, Paris: pastels and passion, and Santo Domingo is on the scene.