Making a Business Out of Fashion

By Mercedes Sanchez

Sure, you may have a passion for fashion but the following Latinas are making a living out of it and making noise internationally. Fun Fact: All three were born out of the states.

Vanessa Barrantes

Vanessa Barrantes along with sister Jacqueline are the owners and designers behind Shumaq, a high-quality clothing line with pieces imported from Peru. The 27-year-old Brooklyn resident is a native of Lima where her items are made today.

Shumaq means beautiful in Quechua, the indigenous language of her native country.

How she got started

"I flew to Lima with the idea to start the collection in 2005 and met this amazing forty-something year old Amazonian divorcee, a beautiful belly dancer and an incredible pattern maker. I partnered up with this amazing woman and made twenty samples in a month and started the business. We still work with her to this day."

Barrantes studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology and follows Henry Ford's philosophy when it comes to her business. "I agree with the famous line about how creativity is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration," says Barrantes. "I think that the difference between dreams and reality is hard work."

Shumaq has been featured in Despierta America, Elle, Teen Vogue, Lucky and Glamour.

"Being Latina Smart means being proud of your heritage and where you come from, embracing that we are beautiful, loving, hard-working, passionate people." - Vanessa B.

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Erika Peña This woman's jewelry and personal style are one of my favorites! Erika Peña is a self-taught artisan who's gone international. She creates bold and timeless jewelry that's edgy, modern and organic.

Erika opened her first flagship store in Puerto Rico and is working on a Dallas franchise.

She has worked at many fashion houses designing laces, lingerie and sportswear. And though she's always had a love for jewelry, her craft started as a means to earn some extra cash.

How she got started

"I had a shell nacar lamp that I took apart, and with practice and growing pains, I learned how to create my idea. I was working in my friend's store and started selling them there," says Erika. "Within one week, I sold about 10 pairs and then another store was asking to sell them. Then another store, and so on. Within three months, I had bought every lamp in the store and needed some more. So I decided to go to New York City and buy more materials. During that trip, a  stylist from InStyle Magazine saw the earrings on my friend at a party and asked to use them for a double page shoot, but in order for it to be featured in the magazine I needed a NYC-based store to sell them.

"So I got three stores to pick up the line leading to $15,000 in sales. I also did my first trade show and picked up about 50 international accounts and $70,000 in sales." And that's how her company began.

Today, Erika's jewelry is produced out of Bali. She works with five different factories and spends four months out of the year designing and developing jewelry--and now handbags.

When you buy one of her pieces, a percentage goes to the Yamack foundation which pays for resources that help children attend school.

Her items have been donned by celebs like Beyonce, Jessica Alba, Paris Hilton, Rihanna and many others. She's been featured in AOL's Top 10 Latinas with Power & Grace and Harper's Bazaar's Latina Powerhouses.

Erika was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but raised in Fort Myers by her Dominican parents. Like her jewelry, she too is international living in Puerto Rico, Sevilla and Bali.

"Chic is a way of being, either you're born with it or you're not. A chic woman is a person who owns her style with  sophistication. - Erika P.

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Fabiola Arias

Fabiola Arias designs cocktail and evening dresses. She has a keen interest in surface treatment and fabric manipulation.

"My aesthetic is very 'painterly'," says Arias. "For me, my designs couldn't exist without my background in visual art, painting and sculpting. My fullest expression and interest that I have in design, comes from my use of thick brushstrokes and tactile aesthetic for my fine art work."

Fabiola was born in Havana, Cuba and raised in Miami. She fell in love with New York City during a family trip as a child. She says her dream came true when she got accepted into Parsons School of Design.

How she got started

"I always saw myself leading my own life. I knew that I wanted to be independent and set off on my own and have my own experiences in the industry. I simply decided my summer going into my senior year at Parsons in New York, that I would make my own collection myself, have my photographer friend shoot my lookbook and use my friend as a model. I called up some stores and press and simply introduced myself. I think it was my excitement and youth that really attracted them and got them interested," says Arias. "Ikram (in Chicago) was the first store to pick up my line, and slowly I started to build a clientele. It wasn't until a year later that I was awarded by a Japanese sponsor to present my collection in Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo. It was an amazing experience and I was able to sell my collection there to two major retailers."

In the beginning, Fabiola made all of her own samples and patterns, but today she has two factories working on her line. Her cocktail/evening collection is being sold right now in the couture salon of Neiman Marcus in Bal Harbour, Florida and San Francisco.

Arias' collections have been featured in WWD, Elle and Vanidades. In January 2011, she won the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award.

"Being a smart Latina means that you are confident with yourself and you follow and create your own journey."- Fabiola A.

[nggallery id=22] If you could follow your passion and run your own business, what would it be?