Latino designers seek
to develop a network

In honor of a recently published report about the issues encountered by Latino designers in pursuing business growth in New York City, NYDesigns hosted a panel discussion and reception on Thursday, September 16.

NYDesigns, a program of LaGuardia Community College/CUNY, examined the report “Créate: Diseñadores de Nueva York.” Between August 2009 and March 2010, NYDesigns, in collaboration with Hostos Community College, conducted a study of 70 Latino designers to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and issues they face.

The goals of the study were to develop a profile of Latino designers, assess their key business challenges and identify where they could most benefit from additional assistance. The study examined professional expertise, experience, marketing finance, and language and cultural issues affecting their businesses. Analysis showed that the greatest needs for assistance are in marketing and obtaining finances.

“We want to start a network where we can support each other,” said NYDesigns Director Natalia Arguello. “We want this community to grow.”

Three guest speakers were on hand to discuss their own experiences as Latino designers and entrepreneurs. Speaker Cesar Zapata, who originally hails from Colombia and is the founder of Zapata Design Studio and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), said when he first started out as a designer in New York, he wasn’t allowed to speak to clients because he had an accent. However, he feels he has an advantage being from a country with limited resources because it forced him to be more creative in utilizing what he has to work with.

Argentine Manuel Saez is an award-winning industrial designer who has had trouble finding a lawyer to represent his own small firm, Manuel Saez & Partners. He has had to learn to be “bicultural” by living and working in New York and believes in the importance of teaming up with the right people by meeting mentors and people you can learn from.

Interior designers Samuel Botero is also Colombian and heads Samuel Botero Associates. He also encountered prejudice at the start of his career.

“Being Latino became a gift,” Botero said. “I have a sense of color that is different from people here that helped open doors to work in other countries. Thank God I’m Latino.”

For more information about the report, visit: www.nydesigns.org.

To comment on this story go to www.queenscouier.com.