Thursday, September 9, 2021

New York Fashion Week Designer Creates Sustainable Clothing That Brings to Life Pieces Inspired by Dance, Art and Joy of the Franciscan Friars

Christian fashion designer, artist and dancer Caterine Sanchez prepares for her New York Fashion Week showcase on Sept. 7. (Photos: Missy E.)

By Missy E.

GREENWICH VILLAGE lf life imitates art, then the glamorous pieces that fashion designer Caterine Sanchez brings to fruition are clothes that embrace sensuality, femininity, imagination and nature, while incorporating movement, hand-drawn images and if one digs a little deeper - even symbolizes her admiration for a group of friars.

“I’m really close with the friars, I love them a lot,” Sanchez said. “It’s just the community, the love, the animals, St. Francis.”

The professional designer and dancer met the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) three years ago on Easter. Even though her dad’s Peruvian side of the family is Catholic, she considers herself more Christian but heavily involved in the Catholic community. Since she lives not too far from the friar’s Harlem residence, she would volunteer with the community’s different outreach programs, where the brother’s organize weekly soup kitchens and cafes and spend time with neighbors offering prayer and fellowship. 

“You find a community and you get involved,” she said. “I’ve been really involved in the Catholic community for years, in (young adult group) Frassati, and the (Archdiocese of New York’s) young adult Mass.”

Walking through the hallway of Caterine Sanchez’s design studio, which also serves as her Manhattan apartment, her latest fall collection debuting in late September was hanging on a clothes rack next to pieces of fabrics in warm red undertones taped to the wall. On the table next to it, was just a box filled with quaint gold metal headpieces and crowns that only a ballerina would get away with. 

One might not equate that the serene and organized ambiance in her studio would underscore the fact that her upcoming New York Fashion Week show was just days away. Yet for Sanchez, she was just simply in her essence.

“I knew at seven that I wanted to be an artist and that making art was important to me,” Sanchez, 35, said. “It was just figuring out how to express that.”

Years of professional formation and education in the arts, eventually led her to studying fashion textile design in Milan, Italy. That experience abroad was the catalyst for how all her creative backgrounds came together.

“I love movement and my dance background and it all came together and I was like fashion is it,” she said. 

Flowers that gravitate toward her, are drawn and then become prints for her dresses. Delicate fabrics, feathers and string tapestry are sewn because she envisions how a woman walks or moves in her designs. Her sparrow print? Each one is inspired by a different Fransican friar. The symbolism is a special way of incorporating her own personal story to her pieces.

“For me, you know what I felt like, I was going through a season of my life and I just felt like I was uniquely loved by God, surrounded and protected," she said.

Her spiritual closeness to the faith even draws her regularly attending Holy Hours at nearby St. Malachy parish. Sanchez worked at several companies, including fashion powerhouse Alexander Wang, before she finally went solo crafting her namesake clothing line for the last two years. She would teach dance, then come home and volunteer, all the while juggling between her professional background in art and dance. 

Seeing her designs being worn and styled and showcasing it to the world is what brings everything into full circle.

“I was like this is the perfect marriage of creating this artwork, putting my art on a textile and creating it so that someone can wear it, so it’s really beautiful and it’s like this art in motion, this poetry in motion that someone can just wear this art that I created and feel beautiful and feel a sense of awe,” she said. “My canvases now are fabrics.”  

It’s no wonder that her brand’s mission, in true ‘Laudato Si’ fashion, is to thoughtfully and continually practice social responsibility and sustainability and minimize waste. She works with local manufacturers for her printing and sewing needs.

“I love creating beautiful things and I do want to create something that is just exquisite,” Sanchez added, “that takes your breath away.”

Fast-forward to the night of her runway show in Greenwich Village and the vibrant energy that cascaded from one side of the art gallery to the other. Whether it was the moves of the models who sashayed down the catwalk to the rhythms of a live salsa band, or the post-event dancing of the guests, a peaceful convening of strangers seemed to commence, in true Franciscan fashion. 

“I did read that salsa and music are her inspirations, so that’s amazing,” said fashion show attendee Marina Kaljha. “It’s very beautiful. The colors are so vibrant and energetic.”

More photos from the NYFW event:

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