Aria Garcia took the inspiration she received from her Virgin Island grandmother’s gift of a sewing machine to follow a career as a New York fashion designer.
That career includes being creative director and CEO of AREGA, an emerging women’s fashion line, and stints as an actress and model.
Garcia’s edgy, couture fashions in AREGA collections recently graced New York Fashion Week runways. Garcia’s new collection on the world stage is named “Joy,” after her sister Joelyce Santos, who inspired much of this work.
“Joy is strong, relentlessly fearless and confident,” Garcia said in a recent interview with the Source.
Garcia said she is thankful for the special bond she shared with her sister as they grew up on St. Croix.
“I created from inspiration filled with joy and love,” she said.
Ramona Santos, Garcia’s grandmother, apparently saw the potential in Garcia’s creativity. With love and diligence, she taught Garcia the fundamentals of sewing, knitting, crocheting and basket weaving. Garcia said as a child she was always creating, drawing clothes and designing fashions. Santos gave Garcia her first sewing machine when she was eight years old.
“Design and sewing came natural to me,” Garcia said. “I took to women who were seamstresses. I knew all along I wanted to design fashions. It always felt like a part of my destiny.”
Garcia got her feet wet in business early, when St. Croix businesswoman, Ann E. Abramson, took Garcia under her wing at 13. Abramson saw Garcia’s eagerness to work and made her office manager.
“Ann was an impactful and fearless businesswoman.” Garcia said.
Garcia attended the West Indies Heritage Institute in Sion Farm on St. Croix. Her father suggested she study business management and Garcia saw that could fit in with plans to own a design company. She studied business management at Santa Fe Community College in Florida and business administration and design at St. Leo University, also in Florida.
To turn her dreams into reality Garcia took a leap of faith and settled in New York in 2013, eager to start her fashion career and master her craft.
“I love it here,” Garcia said about New York City. “It’s the best decision I ever made. Fashion is respected here.”
She said consistency and never giving up is the key to making it in fashion.
The debut of the Garcia’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection isn’t her first time on the catwalk. Her fashions graced Fashion Week runways in the Spring/Summer 2016 and the Fall/Winter 2018 shows.
Garcia creates fashions for domestic and international clients including Japanese pop star Mika Nakashima, TV/radio personality Melyssa Ford, Sports Illustrated model Jessica White, Dorinda Medly of the cast of Real Housewives of New York and Janeisha John, media personality and Miss Universe contestant from the territory.
The Crucian designer creates edgy New York designs and bright Caribbean inspired fashions with the brilliant colors of Caribbean flora and fauna infused in her designs.
A bright yellow flower called ginger Thomas was the inspiration for a gown detailed with 100,000 of the blossoms and Austrian crystals. Another design is an intense yellow, silk blazer, silhouette dress inspired by the yellow bananaquit bird.
“The garments uniquely personify the beauty and strength of my bond with Joy and growing up on St. Croix,” Garcia said.
In 2017, Garcia became the first transgender woman to compete for the title of Miss Universe U.S. Virgin Islands. Garcia captured first runner-up, coming close to representing her country on the Miss Universe stage. Also, in 2017, Garcia was selected as a semi-finalist for the hit fashion reality television series Project Runway.
Garcia made her acting debut appearing on the Ryan Murphy directed FX hit series “Pose.” Garcia added she would definitely like to do more acting.