From benches to runways, when fashion spoke to Wilfredo Gerardo, thankfully (for his clients), he listened.
By Stacey Gualandi
While he was a struggling fashion designer-to-bein New York City, Willfredo Gerardo had a choice: use the remaining few dollars in his pocket topay for a hotel room, orbuy himself a meal. He opted to eat, and then spent the next three nights sleeping on a sidewalk bench. A Trump Tower bench, tobe exact.
“That moment was when I really knew I was going todo something with my life, but I hadtogo through that moment of being almost homeless—when people are most vulnerable and [when] you don’t know what todoor where togo,” says Gerardo. “I had a vision.”
It didn’t take long for that vision to materialize. He learned everything he could about fashion design during that year in New York. Then he decided to take the plunge. In2013, Gerardo opened his own 20-by-20 foot studio in downtown LosAngeles, with 500 hard-earned dollars. He made a small collection of six gowns, and then waited to see what would happen.
“ The biggest thing for me is that I do believe in myself. I see myself where I’m going to be,” he says. “ It doesn’t matter what anyone tells you. Some people will say, ‘ Who do you think you are?’ You got to think that you are someone, and have the capacity to [follow through]. God gave you this talent for you to show it.”
Gerardo came by his talent naturally and calls his Mexican mother his “ constant muse.” “ I would see my mom put on her eyeliner and accessories, and I would bet his little gay boy [watching her] elegance. She could throw on a $2 scarf and make it look like a Hermes. That gave me the desire for fashion.” He also learned everything about design technique from his El Salvadoran stepmother, who would make paper patterns in her garage.
Born in North Hollywood but raised in Orange County, Calif., by his Cuban grandparents (“ I was the only Latino boy in Fullerton,” Gerardo jokes), his passion went from singing baritone in performing arts school to designing wedding dresses. Soon after it evolved into his designing red carpet-ready gowns. He credits Instagram for his break-through moment: After posting photos of his designs, Latin celebrities like actress Ninel Conde came knocking on his small studio door. After that, his work insta-blew up.
” Everyone wanted tobe dressed by me,” he boasts proudly. “ I’ve been blessed. I’ve dressed every A-lister in the Latin community that you can imagine.”
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