Peruvian Designer Made His New York Fashion Week Debut
Jorge Luis Salinas ’94
Jorge Luis Salinas ’94 grew up around fashion and textiles. He was born and raised in Gamarra which Salinas calls the “fashion district of Peru”. His parents, Claudia and Leonardo Salinas were one of the first to enter the design and textile production industry in the country. They owned a garment factory and were very involved with the family business. His mother was a designer and his father sold the fabrics. Being the youngest of three, Salinas’ parents took him everywhere. He began working with his parents at the age of 10 and enjoyed buying fabrics with his mother. He liked the colors of the fabrics and the sounds of the machines. Salinas was charged with continuing the legacy.
Although running the family business seemed like a natural path for Salinas, he initially had other plans. He began his college education in Florida as an architecture major. Salinas was uncertain about a career in architecture. He was encouraged to take a career path test which indicated he should pursue a career in fashion. A professor recommended that he apply to Philadelphia University, and he did.
PhilaU allowed Salinas to be creative and focus on design. He recalls having excellent instructors and courses which helped him realize that there were so many possibilities with fashion. He really enjoyed participating in the fashion show at the end of the school year. That was not the last time Salinas would see his designs down the runway.
Salinas returned to Peru upon graduation and started his own business, Emporium, a contemporary women’s clothing company. He has designed fast-fashion collections for over 20 years. Salinas has two additional brands, J. Salinas and Jorge Luis Salinas. Salinas made his New York Fashion Week (NYFW) debut with J. Salinas this past February.
Last year, Salinas was selected to participate in the DC Fashion Incubator, a one-year program that provides designers with a space designed to accelerate their growth and success, curriculums in fashion and business, and retail opportunities to pitch their collections to buyers and investors. Participating in the DC Fashion Incubator gave Salinas the confidence to take part in NYFW.
Salinas was the only Peruvian designer to participate in NYFW. His collection was inspired by Paracas, an ancient Andean population that specialized in the creation of textiles. The inspiration was seen in thick interwoven alpaca sweaters, alpaca jackets and fur coats which were styled over embroidered organza. For this collection, Salinas used a minimal color palette of black and white, with hints of rusty orange.
This latest collection to hit the NYFW was a significant one for the designer. However, when asked if he has a favorite, Salinas did not shy away like most designers. He designed a kimono collection made of alpaca, which is his favorite because it is something so extravagant it belongs in a museum.
His clothing and artistic sensibility have rewarded Salinas with international renown and prestigious prizes in Europe and the United States. In 1998 he won first prize in Cologne, Germany with his avant-garde collection made out of patchwork. In 2002 he received the Gen Art award in New York for his handmade fabric collection, which also won best collection in Spanish Vogue at the Miami Fashion Week.
Salinas attributes his success to his parents. They introduced him to the industry and have supported him throughout his entire career. Salinas’ parents are with him at every show. His inspiration comes from people on the street, his trips but most importantly, his parents.
Designing in Peru has its challenges. The bad economy took a toll on Peru, as it did with many countries. People stop consuming and big brands such as H&M and Forever 21 made their way into the country. Salinas and his family have many years in the industry and have been able to overcome obstacles and still be leaders in the field.
When asked what is next and if he plans on leaving Peru, Salinas said he is taking time to decide what his next move will be. “The United States and Europe are more advanced than Peru, you just have to be one step ahead of other designers, always doing what others don’t is key,” explained Salinas. Designer Jill Stuart once told him that he could be a designer in any part of the world and not live in New York. She was right.
Salinas leaves his fellow alumni with one piece of advice, “Everything is possible, you just have to dream and make it happen.”