A year ago, I wrote an article called “Meet Local Fashion Designer Maria Del Carmen Mercado” for my internship at Rhode Island Monthly. We’ve been in touch since I sat down with Maria in Dave’s Coffee Shop in Providence, but I decided to write a follow-up article (a whole year later) about the Dominican Republic-born, Providence-based fashion designer.
“I didn’t choose fashion, fashion chose me.”
Maria recalls the days where her career as a designer, and essentially, a creative began: “My story of a fashion designer or creative began as a child, where I would sew the clothes for my dolls and my friends’ dolls, and everything around me was usually transformed into dolls. For example, mango seeds. I would usually paint a face on them with nail polish and they would become my dolls. [My] business also started early; I would make doll clothes and trade them for candy or coins.”
Her curiosity for fashion and particularly the art of movement peaked when she was in high school. “I was involved in after-school art programs and activities. But it wasn’t until high school where I started to work after school in a clothing store. I also modeled with two agencies and started to draw clothes. During this time I became very curios why the clothing that I loved never fit correctly so during my time in my job I would put close attention to the fabrics that I handled, the details of the clothes but most importantly, I would ask myself how would I change the garment to make it fit me the way I liked,” says Mercado. And because of this experience, she likes to work with clients to give them the perfect jacket, wedding dress, bathing suit, etc that fits them just right.
After graduating high school, she received a scholarship to attend the Rhode Island School of Design pre-college program (concentrating on fashion), where she built a portfolio and eventually got into her first-choice college: The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, New York where she graduated as a fashion design major in 2007.
“Fashion is a form of expression, my own personal way to see a shape or garment. It is my way to represent a body’s figure. To me, fashion is away of life. Things become shapes, color and structure. It’s a way of putting attention to the details around me. For example, my opinion on politics, history and culture. Fashion is thinking outside the box. It is knowing when to listen to your intuition and being able to recognize what is and isn’t there.”
If you are thinking about a career in fashion design, Mercado does have a few words of wisdom for you: “First I want to say that fashion is NOT what you see in the magazines, another word is NOT just glamour. Just like a doctor or engineer, there are certain things that a fashion designer needs to learn. In my opinion, to be a good fashion designer, I feel education is key. Even if you are wealthy how would you communicate what you want to the pattern maker or the seamstress or most importantly, how would you know the difference between a patterned sleeve or a skirt? To be a fashion designer there are so many components that you need to learn that you can’t learn by watching youtube channels. Pattern making, draping, fashion illustration, color theory, are just a few things that are a must for a fashion designer.”
Mercado continues: “to be a great fashion designer you need to be adventurous, willing to take risks and be different. Learn to look within yourself and make decisions that YOU feel that work. You need to have the confidence to turn off the voices and follow your heart. I feel that the best direction is to design what I feel is correct NOT what is trendy. I believe that you can’t teach someone how to be an artist but they can learn the technical side and the best way is through formal education. Being an artist is seeing and feeling beyond what’s there, how can you teach that?”
When asked what her favorite part of being a designer was, she said she enjoys every aspect of it! But that isn’t to say, that there aren’t times when she doesn’t have creator’s block. When she does get creator’s block, she doesn’t go by what other people are creating or what’s “in style,” at the moment. She just moves on to another project or takes a walk to recharge and refresh her mind. That also isn’t to say that she doesn’t get critical with herself, either, which she said is a weakness of hers.
“Although I am much better now, but it took awhile to realize that no one is going to give my brand 100% but me. MDCM designs are my feelings, the way I see things, my way of life. Realizing that no one but me could convey this has helped me a great deal, most importantly excepting that perfect does not exist.”
With that being said, in the fashion world, one is always learning, making mistakes, taking risks, and finding themselves through their work!