Angel Olivera, owner of Angel Olivera Couture, has been designing one-of-a-kind apparel for men, women, and kids since 1994. He is also heavily involved in the fashion industry as he specializes in pattern making, engineering for manufacturers and other designers, apparel engineering, alterations, tailoring, and styling for private customers and musicians. Of the 22 years in the fashion industry, he has had the opportunity to wear so many hats in the industry: manufacturing, educating, media, etc.
What piqued your initial interest in designing your product(s)? Music, a fabric store, a design detail on a dress, a building or a painting, a dancer floating in the air… Sometimes it comes from the same customers with their unique ideas.
What principles do you use when designing? For private customers, I always follow the silhouette of the customer, their personalities, movement, the type of event, season of the year, and any customer concerns when looking for dresses off the rack. For my private collections, I prefer to flow with my imagination between eras, styles, personalities, movies, and arts.
Who and/or what influences your design style? How would you describe your design aesthetics and values? I like a little of everything. From the Avant-garde Alexander McQueen, to the colorful era flavor of Missoni, to the romantic lines of Carolina Herrera… trust me the list can go on and on. But there is one who is really special in my life, my professional mother and mentor, the Puerto Rican fashion designer Carlota Alfaro. My aesthetic and values have a lot of history in fashion and the arts. I like to grab some small details and silhouettes from past eras and combine them with futuristic concepts in really soft playful designs. They are easy to wear and enhance femininity, color, and elegance.
What comes first for you, the design materials or the design concept? It’s a mix of both. As an artist, my eyes are always open and can detect small details that make a final product very special.
What is your favorite tool, and why? Scissors. No matter their size or the use, it’s always the start of the sewing process.
Describe a piece you’ve created that you are most proud of. What was special about it? My sister’s wedding dress is the most recent piece I’m proud of. I had the opportunity to play with layers of different textures and design the fabric color treatment (lavender to ivory ombré, real pearls, glass Austrian carved Butterflies, and glass flowers with crystal centers).
Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions? Everything starts with the initial meeting with the customer. They have to provide any visual reference (magazine cuts, pictures, etc.) that can guide me to his/ her idea. After combining the customer’s ideas and my suggestions, we agree on a final design. The next step is measurements and the fabric selection (I like the customer to touch and feel the fabric samples). Right after that, I coordinate the next two fittings.
What advice you would give to aspiring designers like yourself? To be successful in the industry, you really need to know to lose your fear and familiarize yourself with the sewing machine. Learn how to dominate every single stitch. Learn the tricks of the sewing machine, pattern making, and draping. You can be a horrible sketcher as long as you can create a quality of garment. It needs to be impeccable inside and out.
What is one thing that the creative/design community can do in Indianapolis to help grow an audience for custom or hand-crafted work? The showing of the product, of course, is a start.
Dream commission/client? I’ve always dreamed of seeing one of my dresses on the red carpet of any major televised award event. Or, even better, a celebrity wearing one of my wedding dresses on the most important day of their life.
What makes your work different from anyone else’s? It’s very personal because it reflects the artist’s desires, passions, and visions of beauty. I’ve always said that Vincent van Gogh and Salvador Dali are amazing painters, but their vision is different. The same idea happens with fashion because fashion is art too.
What’s your most rewarding memory in your business? In my case, there are too many. Each one of them is very unique due to the type of work and final result. I prefer to not point out one because it wouldn’t be fair to other rewarding moments in my career.
Today I look back and I’m sure I would do it again if I had to because this is not just a job; this is a real passion, love, and my north.