Christopher De La Cruz is a fashion designer and creative director whose aesthetics embraces the values of acceptance and plurality new generations stand for. Some of the words he uses to describe his work are: surreal, queer, bold, energetic, and erotic. I agree with him, but I would add the adjectives inventive and welcoming because his work is a celebration to whoever you want to be as long as you feel good and leave outdated paradigms behind.
We invite you to read the following conversation we had and enjoy the beautiful words this wholehearted artist wanted to share with all the readers of Vanity Teen.
Be our guests.
My own little world
VT: What would you like to share with us about your first steps into fashion and visual arts and the support you received during those early years?
CDLC: My journey in the creative world started at a very young age.
When I was five years old, I remember having little hobbies and asking my parents what they thought about it; I remember wanting to be a hairdresser, cook, fireman! But they said no cause it’s dangerous (laughs).
But I remember one day my mother taught me to draw one of those “3 Dimensional” houses and, I was blown away by how something so simple made me so happy. I also remember asking my parents if I could be an artist, and, luckily, I grew up in New York City because there are loads of public schools that students are allowed to have majors or specialties as early as middle school.
In middle school, I had the most amazing art teacher: Ms. Schorr, and she taught me the world of fine art and illustration and the artistry of life drawing.
When I got accepted to Art & Design high school, I remember Ms.Schorr telling me I should consider majoring in fashion. So, on the first day of school, I went to the fashion teacher Gary Osborne, who replaced the teacher who taught Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs when they attended Art & Design High School and told him that, even when he did not know who I was, I wanted to learn the world of fashion. And that’s where I discovered my talent in fashion.
During those four years, I had my first ever garment featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art; I’ve started working in any possible way I can in the fashion industry. I’ve always had two jobs! Doing PR, Marketing, Styling, Tailoring I’ve tried it all (laughs).
It wasn’t until I was working in a showroom by Cooper Square called Albright Fashion Library that I met the most amazing people. I started working there around my junior year of high school as a studio Intern and worked there right until I graduated.
I still remember the day that Patrica Black, the Creative Director of Albright, was the one that put me forward to Bernat Buscato, who is a fashion director and stylist, and now a close friend of mines that introduced me to the world of styling and high fashion.
I had no clue where I belonged
CDLC: Working on sets with him for editorials and campaigns for Vogue, Numero, Bvlgari, etc., and being able to direct and style, as well is what developed this love of surrealism. Being able to create a narrative and capturing it all in a photo or film was and still is very inspirational. That’s why, when I design, it’s as if I’m telling a story or trying to create my own little world; it’s not just clothes on a hanger is a memory.
When applying to universities, my initial thoughts were schools like Parsons or RISD. I never really thought about London being an option. I remember Gary Osborne, my fashion teacher from high school, telling me I should apply to Central Saint Martins. That’s when I realized my favorite designers growing up went there: McQueen and John Galliano.
Then, I read and watched interviews of them talking about their experiences and level of creativity. I just knew that Central Saint Martins would offer the creative space and education I need to discover myself as a designer and my niche.
Getting into knitwear was a different story and quite a simple one (laughs). When I got accepted to Central Saint Martins, international, I knew students are required to take a foundation course that is one year long and has no guarantees of getting in for the Bachelor’s Degree. In foundation, you basically have to figure out what design pathway you belong in, and to be honest, during my first year in London, I had no clue where I belonged.
I didn’t feel like I belonged in either Womenswear or Menswear cause I didn’t see myself in that world. I was coming to the realization of my fluidity within myself and my work.
In foundation, we basically ought to make a new portfolio and re-apply to the university in a chance of getting in, so I remember one of my professors in the foundation during one of our one-on-one meetings said that I should study Knitwear or go back to America.
At first, I got back, but I realized after getting into the BA Knitwear program and after my first year of study that the way I think is exactly that, and now I’m in the middle of my placement year. Two years of studying have made me be the designer that took a while to find, and I couldn’t be any more grateful for the people that helped me along the way.
Also, I have the support of my friends and family in trusting me and always being there to encourage my creativity and journey.
…Queer, bold, energetic, and erotic
VT: How would you describe your creative process?
CDLC: My creative process starts differently sometimes, but it’s usually personal experiences and where my mind is at the time.
As a genderfluid designer, there are not many people who see or experience the world the way I do. So I like to take those experiences and moments and create a narrative. It is about the story, the moment because I want people to feel like they are living when they wear my clothes.
During times of COVID, living is different; definitely during the start, when we all were new to isolation. Being locked away and alone in my thoughts and world, watching new films, and listening to different music; all have an impact. I then work into the texture or color that screams out the most to me, and I develop textiles and swatches and go sourcing for new fabrics and techniques.
I also create mood boards and sketchbooks to keep track of these developments while I try to figure out where the collection is starting and ending is like making a film in my mind and choosing moments or frames that can be together to tell it all.
Some of the keywords or ideas I like to keep in my work are surreal, queer, bold, energetic, and erotic.
VT: One of the most remarkable things we love about your creations is that you offer the world gender-fluid pieces. You have previously said that this creative choice is related to beauty and empowerment, but what else would you like to say about your art and gender fluidity?
CDLC: What I would like to add is that my gender-fluid pieces, as they are related to beauty and empowerment, are personal to me and represent my experiences.
One of my most successful works is my blue muscle man and pink doll dress inspired by myself. Growing up remember trying one of my mother’s dresses when I was a little boy, and still trying on dresses and skirts and blouses now and how innocence and pureness I had as a child is still here and shining a light on all those moments.
All those first experiences going to a queer nightclub, meeting people, etc., no one but the people who can relate may understand it. Being queer is like a secret language; if you know, you know because we experienced it all: the good, the bad, and the wonderful feeling too, and I like to shine a light on all of it. That’s why, when I do something, my work involves as much as I do.
VT: The previous question leads us to this one. So, what do you think about the current representation of gender fluidity in media?
CDLC: Gender fluidity in media is coming along, and I’m grateful to see all the positive exposure and acceptance.
I wouldn’t be here today talking to Vanity Teen if gender fluidity was not accepted. Although I do say it’s being accepted, it hasn’t for all because there are great moments and terrible moments. But I’m grateful the world is talking about it, and I hope it continues because I believe and, for what I see in the media, gender as a concept is changing, and I’m living for it.
It’s romantic, camp, and a new story
VT: Knitting and handcrafting are also part of your work. How did you get involved with those kinds of millenarian arts?
CDLC: Knitting and handcrafting was a world I was always subconsciously into, but honestly, if it wasn’t for that very forward response of my professor during my foundation year: “ study Knitwear or go back to America,” it would have taken me some time to discover this about myself.
I always think about the texture and color first, usually before knitting. I’ve done a lot of work with embellishments and fabric manipulation. When I learned how to knit, I was mind blown. Because when I’m knitwear, I develop everything from scratch, from zero percent.
Every thread, stitch, and movement is part of the process, and that for me is amazing because it has no range. I go as far as my creativity goes, and I have a lot more work to do, so I want to produce and show.
VT: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
CDLC: I’m currently working on a mini-series of two collections; the first one is coming soon. It’s romantic, Camp, and a new story.
VT: Who are your biggest inspirations in life?
CDLC: John Galliano because he is constantly innovating and always is inspirational. “Sex and the city” cause growing up in NYC, I felt like my life was and still is in that fantasy. Barbra Streisand recently is all I listen to, and her voice transports me.
VT: How do you take care of your mental health?
CDLC: I’m grateful for the friends I have in my life because they are always supportive and close to me, but there are times I’m alone, so I knit and thrift. I love going into an old upside-down thrift store and finding that one hidden gem; it’s satisfying. Also, I only get things for my home that make me smile or spark joy, and honestly, that’s been very helpful recently cause of all the time spent at home the past two years.
I have to say that I do have a collection of yellow chicks and ducks because they always make me smile (laughs).
VT: Which message would you like to share who might be struggling with self-expression and identity issues?
CDLC: Surround yourself with positive people who support and care about you, but you also have to be bold and try new things to discover and experience things yourself that you didn’t know already. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is whatever makes you happy during the moment.
The world and the way people think are involved, and I’ve noticed the only thing I can do is express myself the way I feel, even if I decided to express myself differently than the day before.
VT: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen?
CDLC: I’m grateful for this opportunity, and there’s much more to see; this is just the start.
Before we go
When I look at the designs and creations of Christopher De La Cruz, I cannot help but think that those vibrant colors, unconventional shapes, and daring silhouettes are a reflection of his personality and a little peep of the marvelous things that round his creative mind.
He has reminded us that there is no safest place for us than whenever our loved ones are, and we should enjoy the bliss of having people who support us, so we should act with reciprocity and not be afraid to show the world who we are.
It’s our time to be bold!