Catalina Robles San Martin, a Junior Fashion Major, decided to come to the Savannah College of Art and Design because of Carolina Herrera. “I am here at SCAD because of her. She is elegance. She is my goal.”
San Martin has a history of defying expectation. She is from Chile, a country where artists are traditionally seen as lazy. While still in high school, San Martin had the opportunity to visit New York City. Upon her arrival, she immediately made a beeline for the offices of her creative idol, designer Carolina Herrera.
She was told by the receptionist of the building that Herrera was not available.
San Martin was devastated. Fortunately, an angel disguised as a cleaning woman saw San Martin pacing and upset in the lobby, and took pity on her. The woman happened to know Herrera's schedule and informed San Martin that the elusive designer never arrived in the office before noon.
More determined than ever, San Martin returned that afternoon and was granted a long conversation with the iconic designer. “It was my dream to meet Carolina Herrera. She told me that I should study at SCAD. That decision changed my whole life.”
“Carolina Herrera is also Spanish, from Venezuela. I was inspired by our conversation because we both come from countries that have no creative freedoms,” says San Martin.
San Martin is also inspired by her artist mother's elegant sense of style and perfectionism. She says it was difficult growing up living in a world where everything had to be perfect but it made her become the hard worker she is today. “I don’t want to be a mediocre designer. I want to be the best,” says San Martin.
Having traveled from an early age, San Martin’s work benefits from her multicultural experiences and interactions with people from all over the world.
While visiting Cuba a couple years before the border was opened, she met a local woman who worked as a bartender in her hotel. The bartender had never ventured outside of Cuba and had seen a lot of Russian tourists. Since they are both communist countries, 98% of foreign tourists in Cuba at the time were Russian. The bartender told San Martin how impressed she was by Russians because in her mind they were all rich and sophisticated. The bartender envisioned Russia as a land of freedom and opportunity. In reality, Russians vacation in Cuba on the cheap because of their diplomatic ties.
Rather than correcting the bartender's misperceptions, San Martin built on her fantasy by designing a colorful evening wear series. She created a handmade book filled to the brim with collages mixing tidbits of Cuban traditional dress in tones of red and pink entwined with Russian furs. The highly detailed pages feature fabric swatches and hand-drawn illustrations layered on top of the fabric using translucent vellum paper. San Martin utilized a sewing machine to stitch the thick pages of cold-pressed paper together.
She never got the bartender’s name but imagined her as “Colora,” a colorful, imaginative woman who believes in a better life in Russia and that is what she named the project.
Certain decades also inspire San Martin. She pulls ideas from the 1960s through the 1990s. She created the dress pictured as part of a collection for her Apparel 1 class where the students had to focus on one decade.
She chose the 1960s because of the rise of feminism. She wanted to develop a collection relevant for the times and completed the dress a few months before Trump was elected. Her goal was to create a versatile piece that could be worn for a party at night or with a jacket in the daytime.
The color of the dress, a metallic silver, also speaks for her love of electricity. “Lightning is a natural phenomenon. Much like fashion you cannot stop it. It surprises you,” says San Martin.
“Electricity brings light that can change your mood and that is a phenomenal thing,” she adds.
Catalina Robles San Martin is a creative force who loves putting together elegant, classic silhouettes that are also functional. Her goal is to work for Carolina Herrera when she graduates and one day have her own Atelier with a focus on high-end ready-to-wear clothing or evening wear.
Find more of her latest work here: www.catalinarsm.com. For more about the Savannah College of Art and Design Fashion Department visit https://www.scad.edu/academics/programs/fashion