Credit: Styles by Margarita Alvarez for "Project Runway"

Retazo, a startup company in Puerto Rico’s local fashion industry, has launched a sustainable clothing business for international markets. The Retazo Partners along with Sor Isolina Ferre Centers are operating basically as clothing manufacturers. Their business is specifically geared toward young designers who are working on sustainable fashions. New designers’ products will be manufactured economically to minimize negative environmental impacts. The company’s focus is on conserving energy and natural resources and improving the safety of employees, the community and products.

“For decades, we have offered a clothing design and tailoring course that has helped many people turn their sewing talents into a source of income,” commented Jose Luis Cotto, CEO of the Centers. “We are very excited to join Retazo in this project that seeks to develop clothing manufacturing in the island. It is also our first initiative of solidary economic development, which seeks to develop community entrepreneurship through alternative models of collaboration.”

One of Retazo’s world-class designers, Margarita Alvarez, was a finalist on “Project Runway.” June 22, 2018, Alvarez participated in Retazo’s introduction to their fashion sustainability event for designers and students. Retazo’s mission is to plant seeds so that fashion designers and manufacturing eco-systems flourish on the island. They also promoted a model of sustainable and circular garment manufacturing. Retazo created the Retazo Moda Lab to develop and produce pret-a-porter (high-end ready-to-wear) pieces in the Sor Isolina Ferre Center, located in the Caimito neighborhood of San Juan. They will continue their mission by developing an extensive training program in design thinking, sustainability, fair trade and circular economy for factories, as well as designers. For the development of their product, they work directly with fashion designers.

Retazo was chosen by the startup incubator program Paralle118, which was created after Hurricane Maria. During their participation in the program, the company’s founders, Auralis Herrero-Lugo, Ruby Davila-Rendon, Ellen Colon-Lugo and Daniel Santiago-Diaz, have extended their vision and created standards for other textile factories to utilize in Puerto Rico. These standards are grouped into five categories: energy, water usage, man-hour salary and safety equipment. “The idea is to transition the manufacturing and fashion industries from linear to circular, and to have an impact on the local economy. It’s important to position Puerto Rico as a hub for sustainable garment manufacturing within the niche of high-end ready-to-wear,” explained Auralis Herrero-Lugo.

To increase the visibility of local fashion designers, Retazo has created alliances with companies such as Brands of Puerto Rico and Nineteenth Amendment. They are working on a very special project with the Miramar Art and Design Museum. Retazo’s goal is to strengthen the garment manufacturing industry, create jobs and increase export of Puerto Rico’s local fashion to international markets.