New Type #30: Carolina Sarria & Bianca Allen Interview

April 16, 2018 5:00 PM

Both Carolina Sarria and Bianca Allen knew they wanted to become fashion designers from a young age. It was only a matter of time before they would wind up in New York City and their paths would intersect. One being Colombian, the other Italian, one rocking jet-black hair, the other jet-blue, the striking women fill each other’s voids and exude an iconic image of rock’n’roll. It is no surprise they instantly clicked and fell in business when they met four years ago. Having already launched her eponymous label in 2012, Carolina enlisted Bianca to grow the brand together and it has since developed a niche following and bustling flagship on the Lower East Side (149 Ludlow Street). More recently, Samantha Deller joined the pair to handle the business of the brand, serving as CEO.

The duo designs for the elegant woman, attracted by her strength, and in their Spring/Summer 2018 collection, elegance translates to classic prints with a twist. Think sequined squares next to plaid checks, a houndstooth pattern within zebra animalier, and snakeskin-embossed, transparent plastic. Their inspiration spans from Art Deco to 70s glam to 90s grunge. Picasso’s primary hues collide with graphic black and white. Relishing the ability to work one-on-one with their customers at their atelier, Carolina and Bianca imbue a personal touch in every garment. TWELV spoke with the rising designers on their creative dynamic, finding inspiration, and cutting through the noise: 


When did you each of realize that you wanted to be designers?

Bianca Allen: It sounds cliche to say, but basically ever since I can remember. I was very young, maybe 6 or 7 and my older cousin taught me how to do my first fashion sketches, and from that moment on it was my life obsession. I literally would sit in elementary school creating seasons and collections on scraps of paper instead of paying attention to class. I can never remember wanting to be anything else so passionately.

Carolina Sarria: From a young age I was also passionate about designing. I used to dream and imagine about becoming a designer, and I believe everything you imagine can become real. So that force was what pushed me to follow my career and path as a fashion designer. 


How did the two of you meet?

BA: We met about 8 months after I first moved to New York, when Carolina was preparing to have her second fashion show. One of my friends was actually cast as a model for the runway and she invited us both for a night out, and then the rest is history... We went on to become girlfriends and then business and design partners. 

CS: We were immediately connected, we fell in love with our creativity and ideas. 

BA: It wasn't until later when we realized we had a lot of mutual friends in common and there had been about 3 or 4 times we were supposed to meet but hadn't for one reason or another. 


What motivated you to open your store on Ludlow St? Do you feel it distinguishes you in a time of so many e-commerce fashion brands?

CS: I always knew that this area was the perfect representation for our brand. The Lower East Side keeps the feeling of back-in-the-day NYC– you know– the rock, the art, the spray painted walls, and unique style. I think we opened the store with the objective to meet and collaborate with new clients– interesting people that will inspire us to keep creating new collections– and to make the store our home where we are able to share with the world our creativity. We like to have personalized viewings with clients, explain to them what goes on in each piece. I think e-commerce is very practical, but it’s making fashion and art loose its magic, and to me, I see my brand as magic.


You both have international backgrounds. How do your Colombian and Italian roots influence your designs?

BA: I feel like my Italian roots definitely help me connect with Caro, in the sense that we both come from emotional, romantic Latin backgrounds. It also helps that knowing Italian made it very easy for me to become fluent in Spanish. So it helps us connect via language as well. I wouldn't really say my design aesthetic is very rooted in traditional Italian aesthetic, especially since I grew up moving around a lot. However, I do find a lot of inspiration in classic Italian cinema and in the strength and elegance of Italian beauties like Sophia Loren or Monica Bellucci. 


How do you feel the collection has evolved since it’s conception?

BA: I think more than saying our brand or collection has evolved, we have evolved and both become stronger and more talented designers. Just like with any craft, time, trial and error and process is what builds strength. I feel like now we can execute ideas a lot more easily and have maximized our eye for detail and craft. 

CS: Within the brand, I think where we have evolved most is that we have reached the point where we have a good balance of artistic and ready-to-wear. We have a better balance with our customers and their needs. 


What’s the creative dynamic in the duo?

BA: Its very open and free flowing. A lot of times, we have the same ideas without even realizing, or we give each other opinions that the other was already thinking [Laughs]. We do have a very good balance of making up for one another. Say, if I'm off, Caro is on or vice versa, which definitely helps since the fashion world can become exhausting. But for the most part, we just feed ideas off each other and build them up step by step in a very back and forth sort of process. We are definitely both stubborn, but we know when the other has an idea that makes sense and we figure out how to compromise.  


You’ve both mentioned that you fall in love with elegant women. Who are your latest muses?

CS: I love women in general, definitely to the point where I can become fanatic [laughs]. but I wouldn't say I have a specific muse. It's more whoever is in my life at the moment that I may be having a more intimate relationship with. 

BA: Omg, there are always so many. I think the main women inspirations I always come back to in terms of their strength and energy are Sade, Angelina Jolie and Erykah Badu. As far as newer muses, I just saw Sevdaliza in concert and thought her energy and stage presence were so profound, and as for models Mica Argañaraz, Freja Beha, Marine Deleeuw, and Aymeline Valade. I guess I have a thing for cheekbones…


What was the inspiration around the latest collection?

BA: Our last collection started with a really strong focus and research on classic art deco shapes, and how we could fuck those up in a more rock and roll, grunge sort of way, as well as mix in Picasso graphic color references and shapes. 


I love how you reinvent classic prints like leopard, plaid, houndstooth, zebra. How do you go about bringing new life to traditional designs?

BA: Thank you! A lot of the reinvention comes from really intensively sourcing our fabrics and trying to seek out the most particular or weird and unusual effects. If its something more classic like a plaid, we try to find a way to cut it up with something unexpected like a wavy sequin strip or sheer inserts and punk hardware embellishments, or create a shape that is unconventional.  


Can you tell us about any exciting projects or endeavors that you have upcoming? 

CS: I’m really excited for our upcoming show in June and also our new classics collection that we are working on for the store and online.  

BA: And a new animation series that we are working on as a special collaboration!


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

CS: Trust your work, don't listen to the noise outside, and you only live once. 

BA: Thats a tricky one, but probably, "There are no rules,” which seems very simple and obvious, but so much of society gets caught up in the "path" that is told to them or forced upon them, or that to achieve a certain success there are guidelines that have to be followed. I find that creating my own path and going about success in my own manner has been the most positive and productive way to grow to higher levels.  


Is there a particularly difficult decision you’ve had to make as the brand grows? 

CS: There are always a lot of difficult decisions we have to make. Growing a brand feels like playing a Nintendo game at times [Laughs], but the more you play, the better you get. I think a particular challenge that most small brands face is what is the best way to use our finances and how can we maximize our designs without loosing our originality.


What do you think is the biggest issue facing the fashion industry right now?

BA: For me, the biggest issue is that there is definitely an abundance of fashion as well as  of designers and creators in general. It can easily get overwhelming as well as create a lot of challenge for brands and designers to stay relevant, especially with how quickly "fast fashion" brands can move.

CS: The biggest issue in my opinion, in regards to fashion and art, is that people have a hard time maintaining focus and truly appreciating it. Because of the internet, everything is so fast-paced and it is so easy to copy ideas and concepts. So, it causes a lot of talent to get lost in this cyber black hole. 








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