A Cult Status - Carolina Santo Domingo

Carolina Santo Domingo has been churning out It bags since the designer's 2016 debut, and the brand has become a celeb-and-fashion-insider favorite.
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OSTRA Bag | Carolina Santo Domingo | SS20

Carolina Santo Domingo is a luxury accessories label based in Los Angeles. It offers a nuanced sensibility - evoking California Ease, Colombian artistry and European classicism. Produced in Italy, CSD leather, raffia and resin bags have been designed for versatile use. The minimalist collection features clean-lined styles that are meant to be the finishing touch on your look, not the accent point. 

“I grew up in a multiple places: Los Angeles, Paris, and Colombia. I have several nationalities, and styles as a result. I am not one thing, and my brand mirrors these elements as a result of this eclecticism.”
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Carolina Santo Domingo, Designer

L’Officiel Arabia: How did you start your career in fashion?

Carolina Santo Domingo: I always knew I wanted to work in fashion or art since I was very young. I started in New York working for a luxury brand after college. Then I went back to school and studied at FIT and a technical shoe design school in Milan.

L’O: Who are the biggest fans of CSD bags?

CSD: I have been so fortunate that Emrata (Emily Ratajkowski) has worn my bags many times, as well as several other incredible women such as Oprah, Michelle Obama, Solange Knowles, Indya Moore, Janelle Monae, Kerry Washington and Karolina Kurkova.

L’O: What sparks your creativity the most?

CSD: Translating natural materials, textures and techniques into the world of luxury women’s accessories. I think this is the most important especially today. It is today’s imperative that we move towards more sustainable ways of living and consuming.

L’O: Walk us through your design process. Are there the inspirations that come from other creative fields?

CSD: There are many different ways I get inspired but here is the most basic one. I save and collect a lot of images, on Instagram, Pinterest, screen shots, and photos I personally take. I do this over long periods of time. These can be anything from a small detail, to a mood, an interior, even a texture or anything that I find interesting or inspiring. Then I sit down and make many drawings. Once I have the final drawings I take them to Italy and work directly with the pattern makers who translate the sketches to three-dimensional models in paper and eventually into leather. There are at least three trials before we go to a final sample, which is what the buyers see and then place their orders.

For the straw world it is similar process, except it is crochet or knotting, so sometimes there are technical things we have to figure out.

I am quite inspired by Interior design, furniture design, ceramics, and weaving or textile design. I also love going to flea markets on the weekends, especially in Paris where I spend a lot of time.

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L’O: What is your design ethos?

CSD: Everything has an organic flow, and is inspired by natural shapes or textures; starting from the natural fibers that are hand-knotted or crocheted by women artisans, to the minimal leather Ostra, which is inspired by the form of an Oyster shell, to the striking resins made from 65% recycled materials, which resemble ivory, horn and ambers.

L’O: What are some of the traditional techniques in your designs that are noteworthy?

CSD: Everything is hand made in Italy! I have a lot of crocheted and knotted bags. For Spring/ Summer 2020 I introduced a knotted cork tote. I love this bag because it is fully sustainable: cork is a tree bark that can be easily grown. I had it turned into strips and hand knotted by artisans for up to 8 hours per bag. It’s the most amazing sensation to touch it - the bag feels like velvet!

L’O: You are the designer who created the Bissett bag - a cult style for LA label Staud. What was the most challenging about founding your own brand?

CSD: Trying to narrow myself down to one style, which can be expected in fashion. In fact, I had several types of styles that blended as I have developed newness. I named the brand after myself and I think that style is truly a reflection of me. I grew up in a multiple places: Los Angeles, Paris, and Colombia. I have several nationalities, and styles as a result. I am not one thing, and my brand mirrors these elements as a result of this eclecticism.

L’O: How did you develop brand communication?

CSD: I did all of my communications myself for the first two years. I did not have much of a strategy, to be honest, I just kept in touch with the editors I met along the way and made sure to update them with newness.

L’O: How much does Instagram help with the promotion?

CSD: It definitely helps with promoting a brand because it’s a window into the brand’s little world. I spend a lot of time on the Instagram creating the content. I think the most important thing is that it feels authentic and not forced, so I even take some of the pics myself with my iPhone and upload. It’s a big mix of things.

L’O: You are a member of a prominent family Santo Domingo, and a niece of Lauren Santo Domingo, co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Moda Operandi, but have you ever found it harder to achieve your goals as a woman?

CSD: Of course, all the time! My company is woman founded and woman operated (just coincidentally not on purpose).

L’O: What are some books you've recently read that you'd recommend?

CSD: “Medical Medium” by Anthony William. I love all his books on health.

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Emily Ratajkowski spotted wearing Carolina Santo Domingo Ostra bag


All Images: © Carolina Santo Domingo


* This interview by Tanja Beljanski first appeared in the June 2020 issue of L'Officiel Arabia.

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