BettyConfidential: What’s your first fashion memory?
Julio Santiago: I would have to say watching my mother getting dressed or having her clothes made. She had an effortless sense of elegance that is imprinted in my memory.
BettyConfidential: When did you decide that you wanted to be a designer? Was their an event or a person that spurred that interest?
JS: I don’t think I officially decided to be a designer as a life goal. I started working for my sister-in-law Kela whom introduced me to knitwear; she designed mohair sweaters. Mohair needs to be finished by a simple wash and I did that on my last year of high school. I was intrigued by the construction techniques and how geometry is a big part of it. I immediately knew I wanted to learn how to knit. My grandma Josefa loved to knit and a crochet project was always around. I signed up for a knitting class and borrowed a loom from my cousin Amalia to practice after class.
BettyConfidential: Your mother Elsa and your grandmother Josefa encouraged you to learn knitting—what was it that intrigued you about it?
JS: Geometry without a doubt. I loved changing colors and making patterns of different shapes.
BettyConfidential: In your bio you state that you worked on a loom trying to learn how string can be turned into fabric. What was your first experience like? Do you still work on a loom?
JS: My first experience on the loom was in a class. It was funny, the classroom faced the sidewalk and I was the only male, so they sat me in the back of the room where I couldn’t be seen from outside. The instructor even asked me if my parents knew that I had signed up for a knitting class. Different times.
I remember my first project was to make a pocket and I loved it! And yes, I have a loom in my studio and that is how my collections get conceived, I knit every prototype piece of each collection before it goes to production.
BettyConfidential: Do you still knit? If so, what are you working on?
JS: Of course. I am working on my new fall collection for 2013. I was inspired by the Grand Canyon during a visit in the summer; I was taken by its layers, curves and the transition of textures and colors.
BettyConfidential: What was the most important thing you learned when you were studying design?
JS: My formal education is not in design. I am a self-taught designer and I strongly believe in freedom of self expression and following your instincts. I would say it is vital to listen to opinions (as I am yet to meet someone without one), but to stay focused on your vision and true to who you are as a designer.
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