Elena Velez sews scraps by hand and makes the woman of today

The centerpiece of Elena Velez’s brand is in the family-owned workshops and cool waters of Wisconsin. Her romantic dresses, in matte cream and sheer black, contrast with the gritty grit of the metal bars that she models into corsets and bras. It’s raw industrial design at its most sensual form and a fresh Midwestern expression in the New York and Los Angeles-centered American fashion scene. Still, the designer, who debuted at New York Fashion Week last fall, has ironically, if understandably, become a Hollywood darling.

Last month, reggaetón singer Rosalía wore a pure white look of woven PVC filament from Velez’s “Vessel” collection while shooting a video for her album Motomami, and was in Elena Velez’s head to toe for her “Hentai” music video, which premiered on March 16. One look included a tan leather corset made in Milwaukee, Velez’s hometown, with pieces deconstructed from a solder apron.

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Three Crews

“In all honesty, stardust hunting can lead to a pretty cynical place, so I try to stay out of it,” says Velez. BAZAAR.com. That said, the designer admits, “Rosalía has been an ongoing event for years.”

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Rosalía’s stylist Caitlyn Martinez was in the maze of her rabbit hole Explore on Instagram when she stumbled upon Velez. “It’s an instinct,” says Martinez of finding the next designer to obsess over. “It’s like buying a painting for a specific room in your crib. You only know when it fits and contributes to the whole vision. Her drawings fit so well with the direction of the video.”

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Velez also created looks for Kali Uchis, Grimes, Charli XCX, Arca, Kim Petras, Tinashe, Rico Nasty and Caroline Polachek. Solange Knowles wore the Velez steel rod bodice for a shooting with Numéro Berlin, Joan the Virgin Actress Diane Guerrero wore a topless PVC harness from her Homecoming capsule collection “for no damn reason,” says the designer.

model designed by joe van o in elena velez

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Making high fashion with scraps is Velez’s specialty. The designer draws inspiration from her childhood, which she spent aboard industrial ships, traveling across the Great Lakes with her mother as captain. This is why she often uses materials such as ship sails, boat ropes and discarded metal in her pieces of hers. This is why she stains her ivory dresses with the dirt and water of brown tea, and why her designs, while always delicate and feminine, refer to construction sites and manufacturing plants that first shaped her idea of ​​femininity.

It’s a deconstructed, anti-beauty take on gorgeous fashion, similar to what we saw in Rick Owens’ smoke-filled fall 2022 show, or Yohji Yamamoto’s perfectly chaotic fall ready-to-wear collection.

model designed by joe van o in elena velez

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At his second show, held at the Freehand Hotel during New York’s Fall 2022 season in February, Velez debuted one of his most technical designs to date: the Morph Epoch Boot, made in collaboration with Aion Prosthetics, a Midwestern company that specializes in machinery and robotics. The team, who met Velez in a collaborating studio he has hosted seasonally over the past year, says BAZAAR that the shoe, which looks a bit like an astronaut’s boot, was a “piece designed to completely enclose the wearer” and to introduce “heavy industrial production into the fashion industry”. Made of PETG, a plastic-like substance, each had to be bolted around the foot using custom-made bolts and Milwaukee Tool drills.

model Elena Velez

Elena Velez

“The premise behind it [the boot] is offering an industry pipeline for non-traditional producers off the creative shores, “says Velez.” Disrupting the geographic condescension that has inhibited my opportunities as an artist in the Midwest is a mission that is close to my heart. “

In fact, for each of his collections and drops, he involved quite unknown artists, often from his city, and highlighted collaborations such as the welding of two identical visions, rather than a star and his accessories. One of his longest collaborations has been with Nelson Kies, a Milwaukee engineering worker who, after working with Velez, launched his own jewelry brand: Nels Studio. And more recently, he’s been working with genderless shoe designer Kira Goodey, whose sculptural, metallic version of a platform heel entered the Velez Fall 2022 fashion show. The shoe was a true echo of Velez’s version of feminism, driven by both history and fantasy, the earth and the divine.

model designed by joe van o in elena velez

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Velez is more comfortable discussing these collaborations than his recent success. “The response from the public, as far as I know, has been overwhelmingly positive, which is not funny,” he says BAZAAR. “I’m always grateful for some of these very demanding publishers who overlook some of the (personally) obvious hitches that come with a fledgling brand. I think it means they see a future in helping me build the kind of operation that will someday allow me the ability. to create the quality we all demand. “

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While her business has certainly expanded since I met her nearly five years ago, when it was a solo show, drawing, sourcing materials, collaborating with representatives and creating every single look herself, she has now set her sights on a new one. manufacturing way. She currently creates the complete concept looks for each collection herself, which are then assembled in the various small New York ateliers she works with. “Growth is exciting, but it always comes at a price when you rely on others to materialize a very sensitive personal vision,” she says.

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Three Crews

He dreams of starting a champion development factory in Milwaukee, where he can “truly celebrate the experience of authentic craftsmanship in a way I’ve never been able to find anywhere else.”

American fashion is screaming for attention, hoping the Midwest finally has a say.


Elena Velez Year 1: photo by Tre Crews; styling by Joe Van O; make-up by Maite Moreira; accessories by Carolin Dieler.

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