The reinvention of a designer who once lost everything

It is after 3:00 p.m. on a Monday and Nicoletta Valentina (34) is marking a pattern of a garment from her clothing line. Around her are hundreds of changing rooms located on hangers and a photographic set. The space is full of garments with innovative cuts and attractive designs that are illuminated by the sun that enters through the windows.

The designer walks away from the table and excuses herself: “I shouldn’t have to do this anymore, or sew, but sometimes special things come out.” She takes advantage of giving a series of instructions and settles in her office, where she has more sketches and objects that bear her mark. She has little time left there; she will soon settle in Ciudad Empresarial, where she will have about 850 square meters.

It is one of the many stations that Nicoletta Valentina has traveled. One of the last, and one of the most significant, was in New York at the beginning of this year.

She recalls that she was working on some designs on a holiday with Alex Demers, her partner and partner, when he approached her and emphatically said: “Come. Hurry up”. She sat down and saw an e-mail in English that said, in a nutshell, that she was invited to New York Fashion Week. Nicoletta’s eyes glazed over and she burst into tears. “It may be false,” her partner told her. The tears stopped and they decided that it was best to answer and solve the mystery.

That happened in January. The appointment was in February. They managed a telematic meeting and cleared all the doubts. The invitation was real: they were looking for someone from Latin America, they had found her and they had liked her proposal. At 5 am the next day, Nicoletta began looking for inspiration for the 15 designs she had committed to. But nothing. She started looking for ideas and trying to find a story to tell through her designs, until she came up with the result.

“We were supposed to go out 15 minutes later to the parade; I didn’t get to wear the shoes I had personalized, so I was stressed and didn’t want to go out. Catalina, my right hand, grabbed my arm and pulled me”, she narrates. The audience began to applaud, Nicoletta let go, joined the applause with the models, the emotions intensified and the smile was engraved on her face.

On her Instagram account, she details the story of each outfit, narrates the creation and design. “People like that you show them, that you prepare those videos with authenticity,” she adds. Social networks have been a fundamental part of her brand. In them she shows her history, her work and her creations.

The proposal of the designer Nicoletta Valentina is to create innovative, striking and unique garments. Photo: Nicoletta Valentina.

All this has served for his next move: the internationalization of the brand. For some time they have been thinking of running the same business model as Chile, but from outside. That yes, the designer recognizes that here is her story and her work the key to bonding with her clients and followers; That is why they are looking for ways to connect with people from other countries.

Sales are already underway through its website, its main sales channel and where you can find t-shirts ($25,990), tops ($29,990), bodysuits ($42,990), pants ($49,990), unisex sweatshirts ($52,990) and dresses. (from $75,990 to $295,000), among other items.

In addition, they are managing sales in physical stores in Brooklyn, New York, and Madrid.

Nicoletta Valentina was about eight years old when her mother brought clothes from the United States. She broke it, cut it. “It left her bad,” she admits. In one of those orders, a friend of her mother asked her for a party dress for her daughter in her twenties. “Similar to what I do today. It was love at first sight,” she continues. Her hair stood on end and her effervescence was so great that she hid her dress under her bed. The punishment was unavoidable. She then started making some skirts and clothes for teenagers that her cousins ​​fought to buy them.

“At school they told me that if I didn’t study I wouldn’t be anyone. The language teacher told me, in a bad tone as well, to dedicate myself to something that I didn’t have much to think about”, narrates the designer. After receiving rejections to the idea of ​​studying Costume Design, she began to prepare to be able to study Law. “Besides, she had seen Legally Blonde, where he dressed very well”, he adds between laughs.

But his life took a turn: his paternal grandmother who lived in Italy passed away. Nicoletta traveled to her funeral and she never left. Her father, whom she had not seen for a decade, encouraged her to study there and she accepted without hesitation. She first studied the language, and then enrolled in the academy.

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Every day she traveled for an hour on a train that left her behind the Vatican, crossed Sant’Angelo Bridge and arrived at the institute, which, she says, was like something out of a movie: full of mannequins in dresses, designs plastered on the walls and a classical architecture. “It was the most beautiful stage of my life,” she recalls. But she had to interrupt it after the third year, since her family suffered a financial downturn and they could no longer afford her studies.

There she learned art history, design theory, and how to connect the fiction of movies through fashion and design. She absorbed as much as she could, but her stage was cut short.

After Italy, he tried his luck in Spain, but was denied a visa to study. Resigned, she began to work as a waitress in Chile until she collected money to continue linked to fashion. She thus opened the De La Cruz store, in the heart of the Italia neighborhood. Her grandmother, Veronica, had told her about a store that sold wholesale clothing, so she decided to start buying and selling. But she ran into difficulties: “The first day I sold $400,000 and I felt like a millionaire. The problem is that on the weekend many people go to take photos and not to buy; During the week no one was there”.

Since he had to pay the rent, he started making beaded bracelets, which allowed him to survive for a while. Then she boosted Instagram and things picked up there: she began to put together combinations of clothes on the floor and upload them to her account. That caused people to come directly to De La Cruz, but there was another problem. “I’m lousy at math and if I bought something for $9,000 she would sell it for $18,000, but she didn’t add VAT, or the rent of the premises, or anything. So at the end of the day I was doing terrible, ”she acknowledges.

With a lack of money, it was impossible to buy more clothes to sell; People came to her store asking for the outfit that was on Instagram, but she didn’t have it. “One must have a partner, someone who knows business, math,” adds Nicoletta Valentina.

In that scenario, and with everything against her, she began to make her own clothes. The inconvenient? In Italy she had learned theory and art, but not to make, nor to make patterns, not even to sew. She bought a homemade sewing machine in many installments, a few pieces of fabric and began to try. It was hours and full days of watching videos on YouTube and putting it into practice. She thus learned to put invisible closures, for example. One day, a client asked her for a dress with a corset and she accepted. She did the same thing with another person who asked for pants with a zipper. She opened the app and watched as someone else explained step by step how to do it.

Today the designer works together with Alex Demers, her boyfriend, as her main partner.

Determined to experiment, she created a dress and formed a line of about 15 people. “A woman from the show business put it on and a lot of people came to ask me for it.” But it was the only one she had done. That is why she went to her first dressmaker, who, in addition to teaching her some things, helped her make her designs.

That, he says, was the beginning of Nicoletta Valentina as a brand. And the closing of the store. It was not a sweet process, by the way. She went through another atelier in which she advised and made dresses to order. A stage full of uncertainties.

He traveled to Canada. There she took a French corsetry course and met Alex Demers, with whom she fell in love. She went to work, first in a Dominican bar and then cleaning. Despite the fact that in that last one he earned more money than he generated selling, it was not his thing, he returned and accelerated his project: he hired people and began to make much more clothes. Alex didn’t go back to her right away, but hesitated for a while until for a designer’s birthday he proposed to be her partner. Insecure, she ended up accepting, but not following her recommendations. Alex had asked her to restructure her model, fire the people she worked with, and she refused. “I had to make those changes and I stubbornly didn’t. A year later we had lost all the investment of the ‘gringo’”, she details.

They were determined to sell everything and leave. With quarantine looming, they brought everything they had from Nicoletta’s grandmother’s house. And two weeks before traveling, the borders were closed and they could not leave. There they managed to rescue the machines and fabrics that they had in the office and began to cut at home, because they had to continue selling at any cost.

Not only that. The designer began to take photos to upload and had an idea: “What if we do a session like the Kardashians?” So they photographed themselves with a cousin, uploaded them to Instagram and revolutionized their followers. “When we upload it, it fills with comments,” says the designer.

“The clothes are tried on by a model, but also by my grandmother and the whole office. Unless, of course, it’s a dungarees or something she doesn’t wear. A lot of our clothes are designed for people like her too”, says the designer.

That was the rebound of her brand: thanks to her Instagram videos and the personalized way in which she sells her designs, Nicoletta Valentina paradoxically consolidated herself in the midst of a health crisis. The truth is that, this time, Nicoletta had a great success: start making garments with full sizes. In addition, due to the lack of models to hire for her catalog due to her confinement, she chose the best of all to present her line: her grandmother Veronica, who became the protagonist of her brand .

“The clothes are tried on by a model, but also by my grandmother and the whole office. Unless, of course, it’s a dungarees or something she doesn’t wear. It’s part of our authenticity, because she loves fashion. A lot of our clothes are meant for people like her, too,” she closes.