Sergio Davila, a Peruvian national, has been up and coming in the New York fashion world. After graduating from Academy of Art University in 2002 and making a name for himself in San Francisco, he made his way to New York City.
By 2004 he opened his first high-end menswear store in the Nolita neighborhood of Manhattan. Since then, Davila’s work has graced three Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Weeks. By making a name for himself, he has also become Fashion Ambassador for the brand Peru by promoting the use of Peruvian textiles around the world. Splitting his time between New York and Lima, Sergio says he finds inspiration from both cities and almost everywhere in between!
Recently, the Embassy of Peru in Washington, DC held the event, Textile Diplomacy: Celebrating Peruvian Fashion Design & Educational Exchange, where I was able to catch up with the designer and ask him just how he got into the fashion world.
How did your career in fashion begin?
You know, I started out as an event planner at the age of 16 and I did that for a while before I even thought of going to fashion school. When I moved to New York after finishing fashion school in San Francisco, I started planning my own productions based on prior experience. My first show was in a church, from there I moved on to a basketball court, and from there I put on a show on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Oh wow! The Brooklyn Bridge, how did that work?
It was a lot of fun! We basically just invited models and about 50 photographers and just set up a show on the bridge.
Had you always wanted to incorporate your heritage? Or was it something that just came about?
Basically, I know that the cotton from Peru is amazing and I realized that all of my American friends really like it and in the wintertime they all loved wearing my alpaca knitwear and scarves too. Knowing that Peru has a lot of great fabric to offer, I make Peru present in all my collections through the use of natural fibers.
What is your favorite fiber to work with?
To be honest, I love cotton – pima cotton. You know, mercerized cottons are super soft and comfortable especially for a very hot summer. It’s the textile I feel most comfortable with. In this line we are showing today, we are working with textured canvas like herringbone and madras that is 100% cotton.
How are you influenced by Peru and Latin America?
To be honest, I get inspired by American cities: north, central, and south. I live 50-60% of the year in New York and the rest in Latin America so the men and women from all over the three Americas inspire me. If I go to Buenos Aires, I am sure to be inspired there; if I go to Sao Paulo, if I go to Michigan, if I go to Miami, I can get inspiration too.
For this summer collection, it’s a little bit more of a Miami vibe, more specifically, the art scene of Miami and the times I traveled to there in the ‘80s, which still inspire me today. Still, New York is present and Peru is and always will be present in the fabrics. Overall, my collections will represent more of an international influence.
How do you see the fashion scene in Peru? Do you think it is growing?
Well this is what I think is happening: we have amazing factories and we have amazing fashion schools in Peru right now. In the last 10 years fashion designers have been prepared really well in Peru. Some of my friends from America are even moving there to go to school especially since they have direct access to the factories and can learn how to sow and how to knit. I also think that a lot of these Peruvian designers have this international point of view now. You know, they travel and get ideas and I think it is just the beginning of what you will see in the next five years.
For the designers that are up and coming in Lima, and for those who are still studying fashion, what is your best advice for them?
You need to find a niche, you need to find a customer, and you need to create just one wonderful product. If you are the best guy making ties, if you are the best in menswear or knitwear then do the best in what you love and from there, grow. Don’t go crazy trying to do everything!