Taking Puerto Rican Fashion to New York

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Above: Stella Nolasco (All photos by CJ)

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

For the first time, two designers from Puerto Rico showed their spring/summer 2015 collections at New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. CJ recently visited their San Juan ateliers, and since spring now seems to finally have sprung, we couldn’t think of a better time to share their work.

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Luis Antonio

Whether he’s designing T-shirts or formal wear, Luis Antonio’s work is always feminine, bold and dramatic.

Custom photo-realistic prints and body-conscious fits telegraph not only his own style sensibility but also the innate confidence of the wearer. Ladylike separates in cotton and silk feature simple shapes and vivid prints. But one of Antonio’s most distinctive calling cards is his juxtaposition of the formal and casual, demonstrated in his pairings of T-shirts with matching voluminous ball skirts, and formal dresses fabricated from cotton canvas.

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“My clients range from 15 to 60-years old, and my designs are truly ageless,” says Antonio, who’s been designing for two decades and operates a studio and store at San Patricio Town Center. “For Puerto Rican women, every occasion is like the Oscars.” And Antonio is the one many choose to dress them for the ceremony.

Stella Nolasco

Stella Nolasco is best known for her bridalwear and gowns, most of which feature generous use of custom-fabricated lace.

But we’re not talking old-lady lace, here! Romantic with a modern edge, Stella’s confections are feminine and of-the-moment, with open backs, nude linings, sequin embellishments, and plunging halters that are simultaneously prim and provocative.

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“Here in Puerto Rico we wear lace dresses from the time we are babies,” Nolasco says. “I think our love of the fabric starts as children, and continues into adulthood.”

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Gowns start at about $3000, and a wedding dress may set you back $10,000 and require up to a year’s lead time. But for stylish Sanjuaneras, a Nolasco original is worth both the wait and the cost.