Carolina Cruz, a freshman from Mexico studying business, said she is using her passion for designing dresses to start up a fashion business to help women in Mexico feel authentic, empowered and unique.
The company’s name is Beristain clothing and it has a Facebook page where people can order its products, and an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for inquiries. “We’re building a website where we will put a short description about our products like dresses, blouses, shoes, and wallets,” said Cruz.
Cruz said her first exposure to design was when she worked with a group of women in Mexico. She said they liked her style of putting flowers together and how she studied and incorporated her culture. “I told them I wanted to come to BYU-Hawaii because I wanted to fulfill the school’s mission - ‘Enter to learn, go forth to serve.’”
The reason behind her desire to create her own business started when Cruz was in middle school. She said, “Since I was a child, I always wanted to help people. And even though I didn’t have the opportunity to serve a mission, I’ve wanted to help people. I think [a business] is the best way to do that.”
Despite the many opportunities Mexico has, she said the government doesn’t spend much money on education. “We have a great land. I saw a lot of people who live in rural areas and they don’t have many opportunities. Most women have a lot of talents and I wanted to do something with it,” said Cruz.
Cruz discussed her trip to Mexico where she visited women who make the dresses. She said the women eventually became independent and they believe in themselves now.
“We went to one of the oldest towns in Mexico, and women are the head of the family. They work, they have a little fruit store, and they stay with their kids. But sometimes they don’t see how strong they are. That’s why we aim to empower them through recognizing their work and talents.”
James Astle, a BYUH alumnus from California, helps Cruz with branding and marketing. Astle commented on the mission if Cruz’s business. “[It] is perfect because she’s helping them with what they already do and expand their skills. They get more exposure so they can go ahead and make more money off what they’re naturally talented at.”
Incorporating the Mexican culture was important to Cruz. She emphasized, “I really like my culture. I always wanted to share that with everyone and the best way to do it is through fashion.”
She said she decided to put together a business that combined traditional and modern fashion.
“Each of the clothes is handmade, but it’s not just a simple dress. If you wear this dress, you represent women from Mexico who have worked so hard.
“I love my country. I want to give Mexicans the opportunity they can have here in the United States without having to leave Mexico.”
Cruz explained they’re not only selling dresses, they also care about the people, and each dress has its own story.
“We just don’t focus on producing clothes. We can find big companies who can do it faster, but I maintain a relationship with my workers. We want to increase the awareness of people that they’re not only buying clothes but also dreams and hopes of women in Mexico.”
Cruz said she wants to help women realize their great potential through designing. “I want to let consumers know that when they buy a dress, they’re helping someone. Also, my business makes a connection to the families of my workers. One grandmother taught her daughters to do embroidery.”
Astle said he likes Cruz’s business idea of not just designing clothes but incorporating Mexico’s authentic and indigenous culture, which he could relate to.
“I myself like to design clothes and I’ve always been interested in indigenous culture and clothing. Carolina’s business has tons of potential here in the states because there’s a story behind each dress she designs.”
Cruz said her fashion business is different and lets women feel empowered and good because no one else will own it. “Here in the United States they have big fashion companies, like Forever 21, that are very popular. I was observing how everyone is wearing the same thing. I wanted to be unique.”
One of Cruz’s models, Abby Boswell, a sophomore studying physics education from Canada, said, “I think the [business] suits the school motto, ‘Enter to learn, go forth to serve.’ Women in Mexico don’t realize the talent they have and Carolina is helping them reach their potential through her designs where she’s able to help them practice and expand their talents and skills.
“The project gives women a sense of autonomy and independency saying that they have a skill and knowledge that can turn to an opportunity [for] themselves.”
Boswell said she feels honored to model for Beristain clothing. “The fact that she’s stepping out of her way, putting extra time, and coordinating the people and resources without getting anything for herself inspires me.”
Cruz said her inspiration is her desire to connect women all around the world. “Behind the dresses is a history, and it is to help women have a better lifestyle. It’s not just for Mexicans, but everyone.”
Astle said it is an advantage for Cruz to be able to communicate in English and Spanish. “[Bringing] the authentic culture of the indigenous culture of Mexico here is awesome.”
Cruz said she wanted to accumulate money little by little in order to have more experience with small businesses. Cruz and her brother started a restaurant called Pink and Blue where they sold hotdogs and sandwiches.
Cruz said she knows she’ll experience ups and downs as part of starting up a business. “You learn from your mistakes. The most important thing is I have a great partner, my brother.
“Because of my desire to start up a business, I kept my idea and everything I did from the beginning. I’ve been working so hard for this many years ago and I don’t want to mess up things. I didn’t want to ask my parents for money. I wanted to do it on my own.”
Although the dresses are expensive, Cruz said they are worth it because it takes a lot of time and effort to make one. “It’s all handmade. Also, I want [the clothing] to feel comfortable.” Boswell said, “I don’t know what the fabric is made out of, but it’s super flowy and soft, and it’s not sticky on your skin. It’s perfect to wear around Hawaii, and the embroidery is beautiful.”
NOTE: This article's online publication was delayed because it was featured in the Nov. 2017 print issue.