After visiting and working in factories in Sri Lanka, where she observed poor conditions and the mistreatment of workers, Amelia Toro was inspired to build a fashion brand that's committed to a mission of social responsibility and luxury craftsmanship.
Toro, who was born in Bogotá, Colombia, returned to her hometown to launch her namesake label, which empowers Latin American women and makes a meaningful contribution to society through what the designer calls "fashion with a heart."
Intrigued by Toro's mission to better her community and her commitment to her workers, we recently chatted with the designer, whose work has made its way into Barneys and other luxury stores, to learn more. Keep reading to check out our full interview, and take a look at Toro's latest collection here.
1. How would you describe the aesthetic of your brand? How has it evolved over time?
"We believe that the essential ingredient and the core of our luxury brand is our product, and the passion and love we put into the manufacturing of quality garments. We believe in a strong brand culture, that provides high standards of working conditions, education growth in the art of tailoring and the transformation of the industry. After many years of working only in South America to establish a high standard quality production atelier in an effort to grow our business, we decided to set up our company in New York less than three years ago."
2. Tell us about the social mission of the Amelia Toro house.
"We set up our company with a commitment to continuing our social responsibility and dedication to producing garments of the highest craftsmanship. Each piece is handmade from start to finish by a single person. We employ artisans who have a love for fashion and appreciate high quality standards of manufacturing. We employ seamstresses and tailors who want to learn to construct every type of garment from finish to end. Talented craftsman, who happened to be single parents."
3. Why do you employ mostly single parents?
"We are committed to improving the lives of those who work with us. We guarantee economic stability, safety standards, health insurance, benefits and we do not employ children. Fifty percent of our employees are single parents."
4. Tell us about the education/training you provide your employees with and why that's important.
"Instead of the assembly line manufacturing, we train our employees to manufacture the complete garment from start to finish. Creating skilled labor and providing materials that are purchased from the best quality European mills allows our company to maintain its brand culture and social commitment. We believe in empowering those who work with us by teaching them the necessary techniques to complete a garment. It's important to us because it provides satisfaction of accomplishment and sense of pride, [another] reason why we co-brand or share our labels with each tailor or seamstress. Each piece is individually signed by its creator."
5. Tell us about your spring/summer 2015 collection. What inspired it?
"The spring/summer 2015 collection, which we presently carry in our boutique, was inspired in the 1950s-style skirts with a mix of the 1970s."
6. What pieces are your favorites?
"My favorite pieces are the cotton voile draped dresses with full skirts inspired by American couturier Charles James, the cotton floral pop print dress and the loose-fit coats."
7. If you could see anyone in one of your designs, who would it be and why?
"Some women I would love to see in my clothing are Cate Blanchett, Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie and architect Zaha Hadid, among others. I consider them very stylish, sophisticated and feminine women."
8. What other designers do you look up to?
"My favorite designer was Gabrielle Coco Chanel, and I look up to Azzedine Alaia, Alber Elbaz and Miuccia Prada."
9. You were born in Bogota but are based in New York, where are some of your favorite places in both cities to hang out?
"Some of my favorite places in New York during the winter is Wollman Rink where I ice skate with my sons, and I absolutely love to spend time at the Met and the Museum of Natural History when I have a chance. In Bogota, I love to hang out at Nikos and Brasserie as well as spending time with my family at our vineyard."