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Interview: Cultivating Confidence Through Creativity with FLORA by Alexandria

Experience the captivating journey of FLORA by Alexandria, where artistry meets sustainability.

Meet Alexandria Cruz, the visionary behind FLORA, a blossoming fashion brand that intertwines the worlds of artistry and sustainability. With a childhood steeped in the vibrant hues of Puerto Rico and a passion for textiles inherited from her interior designer mother, Alexandria’s journey into the realm of fashion design was inevitable. Drawing inspiration from her multicultural heritage and early experiences surrounded by lush flora and fauna, she embarked on a quest to redefine feminine fashion through FLORA by Alexandria.

In this exclusive interview, Alexandria shares insights into her creative process, her commitment to sustainability, and her vision for empowering women through fashion.

Join us as we delve into the heart of FLORA and discover the intersection of art, style, and self-expression with Alexandria as our guide…

What inspired you to start FLORA by Alexandria, and how has that initial vision evolved over time?

I knew from an early age that I was inspired by textiles. My mother was an interior designer, so I was always surrounded by fabric samples and large reams in all kinds of prints and styles. That love of textiles grew to a love of fashion design and more specifically, floral prints. I realised I’d have to visit five different stores or brands to check to see who was carrying floral prints so, I decided there needed to be a one-stop shop for floral fashion. This is where the idea for FLORA by Alexandria emerged.

We are a newly launched brand as of November 2023. As we evolve, I see incorporating a mixture of loud and soft florals and ones that have been hand-painted and designed by myself.

Your designs are described as balancing between feminine and masculine auras. Can you share more about the philosophy behind this unique approach?

Sure! The classic idea of masculine fashion: blazers, collars on clothing, button-downs, pleated trousers is something I’ve been very inspired by. I call this look the handsome woman look. These are typically cleaner silhouettes lacking extra ruffles and frills. That, paired with the femininity of floral prints and silky fabrics is where the duality of masculine and feminine auras meet.

How do you incorporate your floral paintings into your designs, and what significance do these prints hold for you?

I typically start with a paintbrush and a few reference images of florals that I’m interested in or inspired by. I then scan my paintings (acrylic, oil, or watercolour) into Photoshop and play around with the composition to make it a repeatable pattern. I’ve learned through this process that not all paintings look great on fabric, even though they may look spectacular on your wall. Therefore, it’s a huge trial and error process that requires a lot of patience.

I lived in Puerto Rico for the first five years of my life before moving to my hometown of Charlotte, NC (I’m half Puerto Rican, half white). I spent most of my days on the beach or surrounded by the flora and fauna of the island and so, I believe my love of florals began through this very peaceful, early childhood experience of growing up in such a vibrant place. Also, not to mention it was the late 80s/early 90s, the height of Gloria Estefan, Selena, and Kenny G- what a magical time, Puerto Rico in the 90s.

FLORA places a strong emphasis on using natural or recycled fibres. Could you tell us more about your commitment to sustainability and how it influences your design process?

While sustainability is difficult to accomplish, particularly for a newer brand, I felt that it’s important to start somewhere in the process of becoming a “recognised eco-conscious brand.” Therefore, we started with the part we can control the most, and that is the quality of our fabrics. Each material is selected for its natural qualities, even the buttons, and we choose to stay away from polyester items typically used in fast fashion.

Can you share some insights into the three-question quality test your team employs to ensure lasting quality in FLORA garments?

No one likes to wear clothing that makes them feel hot, sticky, and uncomfortable. Our clothes are designed for warmer weather climates, therefore, we generated a three-question test to make sure we stay in line with our goal to produce breathable, easy-to-wear styles day and night:

  • Is it gentle on the skin?
  • Is it breathable?
  • Is it a natural fibre?
  • Before a garment is sent into final production, it undergoes several tests to check the three questions above. These checks are accomplished through material washes, fit checks, and so on.

Your letter to the FLORA community mentions rewriting the narrative together. What changes or shifts in the fashion industry are you most passionate about championing?

FLORA is designed for the woman who doesn’t want to be put in a box, no matter her age. She’s the woman who can fit many different roles and enjoys doing so, from conservative to flirty, from the boss to the mother. There is a little something for every mood, phase, or life quest at FLORA.

In what ways do you hope FLORA garments empower women to express themselves creatively?

There is just something about putting on a vibrant floral print that elevates your spirit. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re wearing yellow florals, for example, and we believe there is a creative being in all of us waiting to be engaged. Therefore, we hope that by wearing FLORA, the creative spirit rises within each of its wearers and inspires women to engage their natural-born imagination and creativity.

How do you see fashion as a means of promoting self-confidence and empowerment?

The saying, “when you look good, you feel good” couldn’t be more true. When women dress in clothes that truly represent themselves, there is a sense of pride and joy that coincides which is ultimately empowering.

What challenges have you faced as a small business owner in the fashion industry, and how have you overcome them?

Finding the right manufacturing partner was a challenge and took a lot of research to find. Now, we are grateful for our partners in Vietnam and San Francisco and look forward to building a long-term partnership. Also, the idea that not every brand aspect needs to be solidified from day 1 and that it’s okay to learn and evolve through customer feedback has been a difficult lesson to learn but one that holds a lot of truth.

Your purpose statement emphasises inspiring others to live fully. How do you envision FLORA contributing to this mission beyond just clothing?

I used to be an art therapist and mental health counsellor and saw that most humans just want to be seen and heard to reach self-actualisation, and when you’re happy you tend to take more risks and live with a higher sense of self. So, at FLORA, we want to help women feel seen.

As our small business evolves, we would love to empower under-resourced women through a social responsibility arm of FLORA.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers looking to create their own sustainable fashion brands?

Just start, don’t wait for all the stars to align, you can always figure it out as you go.

How do you stay connected to your customers and their needs as you continue to grow FLORA?

Many of our customers have been seeing the brand grow from the behind-the-scenes posts I’ve shared on my personal Instagram @alexandriacruz. We also are transparent with our customers through the FLORA Instagram account @florabyalexandria and show behind the scenes of the photoshoots before styles have been released. As we grow, I’d like to share more of my painting and design process through our social channels and email communication.

We may even let consumers vote on the next print!

Could you describe the typical FLORA customer? What characteristics or values do they share?

A typical FLORA customer is a natural beauty, curious about the world, has an appreciation for art, love of warmer climates and of course, florals.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I’ll be traveling to Spain and the South of France soon; they have always been a bucket list place for me. Next, Portugal!

What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

“If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it” – helps me remember it’s supposed to be hard!

I also wrote this mantra for myself: I am going to make mistakes, they may be costly, it’s part of the process, How I pivot and learn will determine my success, just keep going, don’t give up.

Finally, what message would you like to share with the readers of House of Coco magazine about FLORA and your journey as a designer?

Looking outside of myself and noticing the beauty around me has been the driving force behind my artistic vision and creativity. So, I encourage your readers as they travel the world, to take it all in, inspire and stay inspired– always!

Ready to explore more captivating journeys? Dive into House of Coco for an abundance of inspiring stories waiting to ignite your imagination and fuel your passions.