Young Dominicans with limited resources make their future in fashion

Dominican designer Martín Polanco directs some students during fashion making classes at his workshop school, on April 1, 2022.

Photo: Orlando Barría / EFE

Text: Maria Montecelos

Santo Domingo, Apr 6 (EFE).- The sound of the sewing machines mixes with the conversations of the students of the workshop school of the Dominican designer Martín Polanco, a space where young people with limited resources can make a future in the world of fashion and sewing.

The creator, who has made a name for himself in New York and has a loyal clientele, launched this altruistic initiative a year and eight months ago in the municipality of Santo Domingo Este so that boys from humble origins, like him, could carve out a future stitch by stitch.

From the street to the workshop

Polanco, who had some difficult beginnings, had been taking kids off the street for years to work in his workshop in Santo Domingo, which he combines with the one in New York, before setting up the National Foundation for Caribbean Art and Design, where Efe was able to talk with him about the project.

It is about shaking hands with those who want to enter “a profession where a lot of investment is needed to position themselves”, both in materials and in machinery, which are here available to those who really want to make a living between sewing and patterns, Polanco explained. .

Students attend fashion tailoring classes at Dominican designer Martín Polanco’s workshop school, on April 1, 2022, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Photo: Orlando Barría / EFE)

It also seeks to break the stereotypes that question the possibility of becoming a designer coming from a humble family, as was his case. So he feels fully identified “with each one” of the 75 students who have passed through the school so far, to which some have already reached through word of mouth.

“I try to look for those young people who are on the corners, in the “humble” neighborhoods, to take them to where perhaps they don’t even know they can go, “they are young people who don’t know what they are going to do with their lives and I present this opportunity and suddenly they discover that they have immense talent.”

Students with hope and future

This is the case of Adonis Leandro Germán, whom Polanco rescued from a bad life at the age of 14 to take him to his workshop and who, now, at 26, is part of his team and begins to work as a teacher.

“I like to sew, by hand and by machine, I am very skilled”, although “always open to continue learning”, he told Efe, confident in the future that awaits him and that he has thanks to Martín Polanco and his own efforts.

Dominican designer Martín Polanco directs some students during fashion tailoring classes at his workshop school, on April 1, 2022, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Photo: Orlando Barría / EFE)

Adonis has been dedicated to stitching for years, but after three months at school some are already pointing out ways and showing their skill with the needle, like Iara Abigail Agramonte, a 28-year-old model who wants to stay in that world, but behind closed doors.

She arrived at school without having sewn a single button and her progress has been remarkable. “I love it. We have learned a lot, the teachers are very good, they are patient with us, ”she told Efe next to the sewing machine with which he practices, feeling “with family”.

Other colleagues, such as Jonathan Chalas or María Esther Medina, show great determination to achieve their goals, without doubting for a moment that they will become great designers.

Embroidering your challenges

Polanco instills in them his philosophy of work and culture of effort: “to be and to do to conquer”. Something applicable to any discipline and that, in his case, supposes a commitment to artisanal work in pieces of all kinds, including accessories, but with a prominent place for the chacabana, an emblematic Dominican garment similar to the guayabera.

The challenge imposed on these young people in exchange for free training and the payment of their travel expenses is to “make a fashion show”.

Martín Polanco poses in his workshop school, on April 1, 2022, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Photo: Orlando Barría / EFE)

In fact, last year his eight brightest apprentices participated in the runway of Dominicana Moda and the collection was a success, he said.

The designer has his own challenge, which is to leave this project as a legacy. “I have promised myself that my career is nothing more than Martín Polanco, that Martín Polanco is many, that we can say that we have achieved it and that we are at a world level like Oscar de la Renta”, inspiration of so many designers.

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