We need to give opportunity to new talent. New designers. Buyers need to be a little bit more open minded and see the new talent. Instead of buying the same things over and over again. We need to have loyalty to the talented designers and also loyalty to our customers instead of sabotaging each other. In Europe and any other place in the world, you see design is growing and growing. Even a kid from Africa and Africa did a spectacular fashion show. They glorified the designers, in the press they give them the respect that they deserve. In America they don’t do that. In America they are sabotaging the art, the talent and the designers. But it’s not only in fashion, it’s also in the music industry, film, and many other industries. People are not taking serious what is considered art anymore. It’s only a few people walking around admiring the work. It’s a lack of appreciation. So for me, I would say love, respect for the arts, be open-minded, and give people a chance.
I had the pleasure of interviewing fashion designer Henry Picado of ESTE & CHLO. Henry Picado is a talented fashion designer who captures the very essence of what it means to be an artist. Armed with the eye of an emerging designer, Henry emigrated from Costa Rica to the United States with nothing but a vision of what it takes to make the modern woman feel beautiful. Henry’s brilliant designs have won him legions of followers in the fashion world, including such Hollywood heavyweights such as Blake Lively, Joan Collins, Lady Gaga, Lauren Conrad, Soledad O’Brien, and Anna Lynn McCord to name a few. In fact, he was a known talent to many fashion editors, designers, and starlets before he started ESTE & CHLO. His work has appeared on such television shows as Gossip Girl (The CW Television Network), The Today Show (NBC), and Dancing with the Stars (ABC).
Thank you so much for joining us Henry! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I remember seeing the first fashion show in my life on television and it was the Christian Dior fashion show.
Christian Dior was the biggest influence that I have, and what impacted me most was that fashion show. He came out after the show and with his whole team onstage. And when people were clapping about him, he said, “It’s not about me, it’s about my team”.
I said that’s what I want to be.
Christian Dior said, “I would not be here without my team”. I thought what an incredible human being that he recognizes his team as well, when people are recognizing him. I started learning more about him by going to the library to read about who he was and what he did. His life was fascinating, and he became my icon in fashion. Then I started thinking about all of the designers and I came to realize there were no Costa Rican International designers in the entire world. I was determined to be the first designer who makes it in the big leagues.
My dream was to come either to New York, Paris, or Milan. I was determined to come. I had no plan of action. I had no idea how it was going to happen, how I would survive, how I would pay my bills or nothing. I was just determined to come. So I came to the United States in 1991, and it was not easy. It was really, really hard. I went through things that I don’t wish unto my worst enemies. I got abused. People mistreated me, I even got burned by cigarettes by people that took advantage of me. People took advantage of the fact that I don’t speak the language, they threatened me. So it was a really ugly step, but the thing is, I was so determined to make it happen.
So I insisted and the things that made matters worse was I came with a tourist visa, and I was illegal for ten years. And when I applied to FIT because I wanted to study. I did everything the proper way. I paid my bills, I paid my taxes and all this stuff. I was earning only like $2.50 an hour, so a career that usually take four years to do, for me it took 10 years. So I used to see students come and graduate, and come and go, and I was like the Energizer bunny. Keep going, and going, and going, and it was kind of depressing. And I was going to work during the day, went to school at night and then went home and did homework. I slept, for 10 years, only three hours a day.
And the funny part of this, a lot of students came and went and I’m the only one in the industry. So, I wanted it really badly. I remember when I applied to FIT, they called a bunch of students and they come in for an interview, and they asked me to create a portfolio based on fruit. So I did, actually. I spiraled a pineapple and created a garment. It came out so pretty that, they kept it. I think they put it in the museum, I’m not sure what they did with it.
And when they accepted me, I needed to prove how I was going to pay the school, and they needed my social security number. I didn’t think that far ahead. Oh, I have no money and I’m illegal. I have no social security. So I told them that, and they said, “Oh, I’m sorry, we cannot accept you”. So for me, it was so close and so far, so it was kind of harsh. And I came and I sit at that statue where that Jewish man is sewing, and I sat on the steps and I just started crying and crying and crying. It was the middle of the day, and people just passed and looked at me, but nobody really cared. I felt defeated.
Well, you feel like nobody’s there for you.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
And then three years ago, in 2016, I decided that it’s enough. I’ve made a lot for everybody else, and now I need to do something for myself and to actually be truthful as an artist, as a designer. And I want to put product out there that is me.
In January 2016, I decided to launch ESTE & CHLO. And ESTE & CHLO came to exist. It came to exist because of the two most important people in my life, and what it means for me and what it means about them. So that’s where ESTE & CHLO came to exist. And today it’s three and a half years, and we’re rocking and popping at this point; I opened my first showroom on 7th Avenue.
This past September, we went to Paris for the first time as a brand and showed with some major designers.
Then, from there last October we went to African Fashion Week.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I wanted to do evening dresses, and I had to give a presentation on how to pitch my dress to the public and to the press and other arenas like that. And I said to the lady, “Oh, my dresses has many frills, and the embellishment is this, and the trimmings” are like that. “And they have some rhinestones. And then they would start clapping as if they were delighted with the presentation. At the end, the teacher goes to me, “Oh, that’s a very radical dress” and I said “why?” And she said “because I never thought somebody would do food on their dresses.” And I said, “food, who’s talking about food?” She said “you’re going to going to put raisins”. I never said raisins, I said rhinestones. She goes “yeah raisins”. I said “no, rhinestones” because for whatever reason I couldn’t say rhinestones properly.
So every time I said rhinestones it came out as raisins. Everybody thought I was saying raisins, I was going to put raisins on the dress and they were like, wow, that is radical. So for a year they called me the raisin dress designer.
I wonder if they’d still remember that?
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self what would you tell him / her and why?
Do exactly what I did.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
It’s because of my grandma’s influence. I was born in Costa Rica. My grandma and myself were actually shopping in the capital, and we walked through this store that was selling very high end fashion. I remember they had Chanel. I didn’t know at the time what Chanel was, it was just a fancy outfit and I was seven years old. So I was watching TV and looking at her, watching TV and looking at her, and then she started cutting shapes and forms. It was very confusing for me. And then she cut her fabric to those forms and shapes, which were patterns. She laid it on top of the fabric, started cutting the patterns again, and pulled out the sewing machine and started sewing the items. She actually duplicated the dress I saw in the window. I was fascinated by what my grandma did. The fact that she actually made something out of nothing.
I told her that I wanted to learn how to do that, and her response was, “Are you kidding me? Your father would kill you”. For me it was like creating something. That’s the first encounter that I had about judgment. How people perceive somebody else based on what preferences are, what is their job or career, or color, etc.. So I started questioning a lot of stuff. I decided to keep asking my grandma to show me how to start sewing. Once she showed me how to sew, I started making pillows and giving pillows to everybody for the holidays and birthdays. From there I started experimenting with shapes, and started working on doing tops, shirts, pants and skirts. And by the age of 13, I was already putting a whole ensemble together, and that’s what I did for Mother’s Day. The first thing I created was an actual garment.
It was the ugliest thing I had ever done in my life. First of all, the pants looked like an airplane because they stood out. They had seams that were terrible, but I gave them to my mother. Making the pants was really hard, because I thought the front was the same as the back. It’s not, so my mother’s wearing a pair of pants with a bulge in the front. It was horrible, but she says,”Oh, I love it. Thank you very much. ‘’ But, then she never wore them.
So whenever we go back to the beginning, it’s thanks to my grandmother I’m standing here today. So I dedicate my career to her, my mom and my aunts. They’re the figures who were very important to me in my life.
What’s your inspiration for your latest collection?
My inspiration is actually gardening. Everything has a reason to be, so I wanted to find a dress pattern to represent Costa Rica. It’s actually an orchid, which is a natural flower in Costa Rica. I love flowers. So for me, when I think about spring I think about flowers, and that’s the pattern that we created for our launch. It was big flowers with the name strewn across, and because I think the flower is the best way to describe a woman, because when a woman comes out before they open the petals, it’s just like a little cocoon or a bud.
And it’s you don’t know what’s going to come out until it comes, and it’s always beautiful. And women have the ability, with their hair and makeup and accessories, to have these beautiful transformations and every day change into something else. And that flexibility is what makes fashion fashion. And to me as a designer, I love that. I love the ability. So for me, what inspires me is definitely nature, and the woman itself.
So you are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My idea would be to educate the young men and women so we can have a better system in society and stop the abuse of children.
Especially human trafficking. There are many issues. I want to get involved in stopping human trafficking. The violence against women in society, pedophilia, anything where I can be the voice of the weak or defenseless people. That’s what I would like to do.
Every industry constantly evokes and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
Yes. We need to give opportunity to new talent. New designers. Buyers need to be a little bit more open minded and see the new talent. Instead of buying the same things over and over again. We need to have loyalty to the talented designers and also loyalty to our customers instead of sabotaging each other. In Europe and any other place in the world, you see design is growing and growing. Even a kid from Africa and Africa did a spectacular fashion show. They glorified the designers, in the press they give them the respect that they deserve. In America they don’t do that. In America they are sabotaging the art, the talent and the designers. But it’s not only in fashion, it’s also in the music industry, film, and many other industries.
People are not taking serious what is considered art anymore. It’s only a few people walking around admiring the work. It’s a lack of appreciation. So for me, I would say love, respect for the arts, be open-minded, and give people a chance.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
A couple of years ago I predicted the growth of China. I predicted the independence of China out of the international commercialism, which I’d been telling my ex employers and I told, we need to get involved with China. They thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. I also predicted the fall of major companies like Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Barney’s. When you saturate the market with the same product or the same people eventually it gets tired. It gets boring. It’s not as fun anymore. So people start looking elsewhere and there is an opportunity for the new commerce to come and showcase themselves and be different. It’s exactly what happened in the 1980s. 1980s was a great opportunity for new commerce, new ideas, new concepts, new talent, and that’s where the growth of fashion was really tremendous. We see that’s happening again. People are paying attention to the little people.
If you could meet anyone either living or no longer living for breakfast or lunch, who would it be and why?
That’s a hard one because it’s three people that are very iconic for me and it’s because of who they are. I’ve always been drawn to Linda Carter for who she was and she came from different ethnicity’s and she represented Indian Americans. The way she recreated Wonder Woman, who was a woman with beauty, strong values, but it’s still very feminine. I would love to meet her one day and would love to dress her. The other person would have to be Barbara Streisand. Barbara Streisand for me is pure natural talent. During her career in her industry it was a very dominant man’s world but she forced herself through those channels and changed the industry for women.
She made a huge mark in the industry, not only as a female but as a Jewish woman. She represented what is the female agenda that not even religion can restrict her and showed who she is as a talent. So I highly respect that about her. And the other person whom I’ve actually met and I got to dress her, which was one of my biggest accomplishments is Joan Collins. Joan Collins, what she did from Dynasty to every other film and she had done, she’s always been a glamorous inspirational fashion icon. We do not have a fashion icon who represents Hollywood the way she does now.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish people would be more supportive and not so negative.
- Give young entrepreneurs the chance to shine and grow by guiding them, the pros and cons.
- I also wish to know or had been guided on how to proceed with the international market instead of having to experiment.
How can our readers follow you on social media?