Wood recently launched “Dazzlme for a Cure.” For every hat sold, she’ll give away a military-style hat with a crystal cancer pin (designed by Wood) to a cancer organization; these organizations will in turn pass the hats on to patients.
Alana Crain and Sharie Ellis
Crain and Ellis are best friends and business partners. They met as students at Fashion Institutes of Design and Merchandise in San Diego. Both graduated in 2004. In 2011, the two launched their Love is a Devil jewelry line.
“It’s a lower-priced line with unique pieces,” Crain says. “We got the name from a Shakespeare sonnet. As soon as we saw it, we knew it was the one.”
Crain is a no-nonsense woman. Her husband is a Marine, and they have two children. Military families have to budget within a fixed income, so Crain focuses on keeping the jewelry affordable. She believes she has a leg up, having lived around military wives. She’s in touch with the everywoman and wants to offer those customers one-of-a-kind pieces without breaking the bank. “[These women] shop for jewelry on base. And it’s not that interesting-looking.”
Ellis’s style is edgier. She’s the saleswoman on the team. She works in Los Angeles at the showroom, designing the seasonal collection.
“We sell mostly through our website, and at one local boutique in La Jolla called Shabby Chic. But we’re ready to step up our prices for Fashion Week San Diego. We’re calling this next collection ‘Vegas Showgirl.’ It’s inspired by the 1950s, but we want to make sure we stay timeless. Trendy fizzles out. We want to be progressive.”
Aguilar, a small woman who moves like a hummingbird, looks younger than her 23 years. Her family is from Spain and Mexico, and she mixes European poise with a Latina’s fervent hand gestures and direct eye contact.
Aguilar’s designs are Forever 21 meets Ibiza, Spain. Mini-dresses and skirts in bright colors, tastefully seductive tops, jackets detailed with girly flowers and ruffles.
She owns one of the few boutiques in her hometown of Tecate, Mexico. Known for the famous beer and a tasty brick-oven-baked bread, Tecate isn’t thought of as a home for trendy boutiques. Six months ago, when NOia Noia (the name of both Aguilar’s store and clothing line) opened, local fashionistas were thrilled.
Aguilar completed her undergrad work at Fashion Careers College in Tijuana. Two years ago, she received a master’s degree in design from the Instituto di Moda Burgo in Milan, Italy.
Tecate is a small town, she says, one where running a boutique provides an opportunity to design, sell, and manufacture her own designs — unlike in a big city.
“For Fashion Week San Diego I’m designing for women 15 to 25 — my age group. It’s vintage-inspired, with lots of bright colors, very playful, and very casual. Latinas like extremely feminine clothing. Similar to Europeans, we don’t go out of the house underdressed. We always want to look good. I design for my people.”
Borromeo is a plus-sized woman in a size 8 world. She has long, thick hair and is fearless about wearing bold patterns and bright colors.
“Just because you’re not small doesn’t mean you have to hide yourself.”
Borromeo calls her line Shades of Love. It features a variety of casual styles in knits and polyester blends, separates in silk, and floor-length gowns. The color story is black, white, and gray, with a pop of yellow. She says the color yellow represents “love,” the ability to see beyond the color lines of black and white, to include shades of gray.
“I’m hoping my A’doreus line is more ‘function before form.’ [I’m working] in a not-so-niche market of larger-sized women who want sexy and great-fitting outfits. In the beginning, I wasn’t interested in being a clothing designer. I went to Fashion Careers College and got a fashion business and technology degree in 2007. I saw a problem in the apparel market and thought I could solve it. As soon as I finished my degree, I went right back into school and two years later got the fashion design degree.”
Borromeo has worked off and on for the past eight years as a barista and assistant manager at Starbucks. Since 2007, she’s also worked as an assistant freelance painter with the well-known designer Zandra Rhodes. The two jobs, plus the sales of her custom designs, enable Borromeo to stay afloat.
Her passion goes beyond presenting a clothing line at Fashion Week San Diego and hoping to get it into stores. She wants to use her clothing to change women’s attitudes about themselves.
“Even though 40 percent of American women are a size 14, cute clothes in that size are impossible to find…. I think of myself as a lifestyle coach. It’s about self-esteem and giving plus-sized women a place they can shop other than Ross or Lane Bryant.”
Borromeo is determined to have models size 12 and up for her Fashion Week San Diego runway show, though they are hard to find.
“I’m praying one from L.A. will do the show. Everyone involved keeps saying size 8 models are plus-sized. And I’m, like, no way.”
Andre Soriano and Stacie May
Soriano is a small, soft-spoken man with a chiseled chin, sculpted eyebrows, almond-shaped eyes, and a fashion-forward hairstyle that still keeps it classic.
Soriano has a generous attitude, and his designs exude a retro-Hollywood feel. The glamorous and feminine gowns seem to have been made for a time when women wore form-fitting satins with a fur stole and feather accents.
Born in Manila, Philippines, in 1986, Soriano’s family moved to San Francisco when he was 15 to escape civil war. As a teenager, he already knew he wanted to be a clothing designer. He was in the fashion club in high school and attended Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise in San Francisco.
After graduating, he opened a small boutique in San Francisco called Andre Soriano. He closed the store when he relocated to San Diego in 2006 and now lives in La Mesa with his partner, selling his couture gowns both online and in the East Village boutique Dianne O.