Push yourself, live in the moment, and focus on the journey.
Cool, Rebellious, and Rich–That’s how Dominican fashion designer Estephania Holsteinson describes her luxury garment brand hols.e. And just like her brand, Estephania definitely prefers to blaze her own trail. We got the chance to interview this remarkable Latina business owner and learn about what it takes to follow your dreams.
LBT: What makes your business unique?
I think Latino and Dominican designers are usually either casual or glamorous. I think hols.e blends the two for those in-between moments, and moments that flow from one to the next—the unexpected. We definitely have an identity. Within my universe, I make very different things and do not want to limit myself to a genre or a style. I like rather to evolve. However, I do always ask myself if something is my own idea, or if am I adding to something that already exists. Is it good enough to be worn around the world? I don’t just want to be recognized within my circle, I want my friends from other parts of the world and people from different cultures to appreciate the garments and the ideas as unique.
LBT: How did your roots influence your career path?
I always used to sketch and take drawing classes and painting. I suppose the Quinceañera dresses, and getting them done by famous Latino Dominican designers such as Leonel Lirio, were always inspirational. But even before that, I was drawing clothes back in the 4th grade from a barbie kit I got for Christmas. I suppose also getting costumes made by local seamstresses for Halloween could have had an impact, making things happen, being creative. I remember we didn’t always have money for costumes and we would make them out of cardboard—that was fun too. And then there was ballet! There really were a lot of costumes growing up.
LBT: What would you say was the most important challenge you had to overcome in getting to where you are today?
The biggest challenge has been the labor, and getting the quality of work that I want for clothes that are ready to wear. The concept is relatively new for Dominican brands. A sacrifice for me has been forgoing profit margins in order to sell at an accessible price. There were times when the labor market just couldn’t execute the idea I wanted successfully.
To be honest this still happens pretty often. Even when making the gradings from different sizes, the pattern maker will not know how to do it. Yes, we could pay for a grading service or use technology for this, but in order to keep costs low we don’t spend on this type of technology yet.
In terms of overcoming, I don’t suppose I’ve completely overcome any of it, or any of the anxiety or stress. I definitely gave up several times a day and broke down, but I kept going.
In the end, the results calm me down, as well as comparing myself with where I was a year ago. There’s so much more I wish to achieve, but I comfort myself with this. I continue to make progress.
LBT: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?
I keep pushing myself in different directions and pushing the people around me. Pushing different leads and different opportunities. When one fails, keep pushing the others and keep coming up with other avenues to push.
LBT: If you had to give our readers financial advice for their own Hispanic businesses, what would it be?
I try to keep expenses as low as possible. To be honest, I’m not sure how right it is to be savvy all the time. As an artist, sometimes you have to defy logic in order to make a dream come alive. Sometimes I do go crazy and make something that doesn’t make economic sense because I dreamt it up, but I do try to plan and prototype as often as possible in order to avoid unnecessary expenses—be proactive and think of things that could happen or could go wrong before they do.
LBT: Would you have done anything differently?
I would maybe allow for more mistakes and try to focus on one thing at a time, rather than all the millions of ideas I have. I think I am doing this now, or at least structuring myself and my time to better lay out all my plans by order of priority.
LBT: Most of successful people are surrounded by people who inspire or help them reach their greatest potential. Who is that for you?
I don’t really have any mentors at the moment, which is a difficult thing. However, the fashion world is unique and it can be risky to connect with other Hispanic designers. People copy even when they are not trying to, and original designs are everything. I do often get good advice from magazine editors and such. When I was in New York I had good mentors, who helped me learn a lot and shape my thoughts and views about design. The most important ones were Marion Forand at Jason Wu and Phillip Lim.
LBT: How do you balance professional and personal life?
Right now, not so well! I could do better. I usually burn out and then come back. Since my job is a passion project, it’s hard to determine when to stop. It can also be hard to start again when I do stop. Also, the employees don’t work the same unless you are supervising them and on top of them for results. I have to work on this more!
LBT: How has the Latino Community helped you? How have you helped the Latino/a Community?
I just attended Latin American Fashion Summit in Miami and met with a lot of people from different places in Latin America. You feel a special connection with them. Latinos are warm and welcoming, even if you just met them. When I showed my collection in Kansas City, the Latinos there were very, very kind, hugging and congratulating me like they had known me my whole life.
It feels very special when you make something and people see themselves reflected in it.
I have always thought of myself as very different to everyone else – that my views are very independent and I think for myself. It is good to find people that are also this way within the Latino community, who are in search of their own individualities and also wish to see Latino culture represented in a global way.
LBT: Where do you see hols.e in 10 years? And yourself?
I see us not only as a fashion design brand, but a multifaceted design platform. I don’t just want to make clothes—clothes are a way of expressing creativity and solving problems—but I would like to solve other types of problems as well. For the moment, I will focus on the task at hand and do this to the best of my abilities so that the brand may grow to be the best version of itself it can be. Even if we make more than clothes, we will always be hols.e.