Imagine a maker’s space for fashion where local fashion designers, makers, entrepreneurs and artists all collaborate. Then imagine that this space is in an up-and-coming part of Louisville in an old train platform building with plenty of buildings nearby to expand. This vision is becoming a reality, known as Louisville Bespoke, all because of Yamilca Rodriguez. This former Proctor & Gamble brand innovator has returned to her original love of clothes and fashion design. We met her at the Design Terminal, which is the name of the building where all this will happen at the end of October. We are excited to follow the progress of this great creative idea. Meet Yamilca Rodriguez, this week’s FACE of Louisville.
Tell us about Louisville Bespoke and how it came to be.
When I was growing up in Venezuela, it was typical for the girls to have their party dresses made rather than buy them from the store. I liked to design my own dresses but when the seamstress would make them, they didn’t come out the way I hoped. When I was 18 years old, my mom put me in sewing lessons and an amazing tailor taught me how to make my own clothes. However, when it came time to choose a career, I went for graphic design instead of fashion because I did not want to be a fashion designer if I could not be Coco Chanel.
Later, I switched from graphic design and graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in industrial design. I started working right away at Procter and Gamble in brand and product design and innovation. Thirteen years later, I left Procter and Gamble and started my own line of clothing. While I knew the design side, it was very difficult to source the fabric, find the pattern makers — and very expensive to produce. I made 600 skirts of one color and no one wanted to purchase one item.
I moved to Louisville, KY, in 2014 to be with my future husband. Around that time I was leading a creative session in Columbus, OH, and had developed the session at a maker’s space in the area. On my drive home from Columbus, the idea was born: Why not create a maker’s space for fashion?
What is your vision for this collaborative concept?
My vision for Louisville Bespoke is to facilitate a collaborative movement among some of Louisville’s finest local fashion designers, makers, entrepreneurs and artists. The goal is to create more exposure and excitement around the great talent and resources of the fashion industry in Kentucky and the Southern Indiana region.
You have a background in brand innovation working for Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati. How have those skills translated into the fashion industry?
Through my brand innovation background, I know that to foster ideas and create an entrepreneur-led community the space has to be designed to integrate diverse thinking. I traveled the world talking to consumers about products I designed. I also learned how to understand different business models that would make products desirable to that unique culture. I have also taught design thinking-based classes for the University of Philadelphia Strategic Design MBA Program. I understand what is needed to foster the creative side and how it integrates into the business world.
As a result, the space has been designed to foster innovation and collaboration. Louisville Bespoke will include a retail area, worktables to make patterns and work spaces for design and to encourage the sharing of ideas. We will support production with a range of different sewing machines and other equipment. One of the most important elements will be education. We will offer a broad range of fashion industry-related classes, as well as events throughout the year. The space will be an open format for the integration and development of ideas, an incubator for the fashion community in Louisville and beyond.
What have you learned about the artistic talent in the Louisville community through this process?
When I first had the idea, I wasn’t sure Louisville was the best place for a fashion hub. However, since I arrived, I have been very fortunate to be welcomed by some amazing people. Through them I have become aware of the incredible talent, innovative brands and passion in the local fashion industry. I have been impressed with the diversity in the talent and the richness of the skills and knowledge. The community is also eager to help, volunteer and make our city a fashion center. I am in no doubt Louisville has the basic ingredients to become a mecca for fashion.
What is your most favorite part of your job so far? Least favorite?
My favorite part is connecting with the community; my least favorite is all the paperwork to make it a reality.
What advice do you treasure?
I have been talking to people who have started similar businesses and I treasure their advice. I have been very flexible with the business model. It has morphed and I think it will keep morphing as I understand the needs of the community. People have been very generous with the advice and I take it seriously. We are already putting together an event to launch the space, so lots of planning and organizing. The funny part is that the space is not ready yet.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
I try to start my day exercising, preferably yoga. Then I meet with all kinds of people: designers, stylists, make-up artists, graphic designers, art directors. After lunch I answer my emails, do some social media and write a few documents. Most evenings, I work on the non-profit organizations I’m a part of and spend time with my husband and my stepson.
Night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
I’m an early bird. I usually start my day at 6 a.m. and by 10 p.m., I’m in bed. During my quiet time, I meditate and breathe.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my ___________.
You will never see me without my engagement ring. I truly cherish the reminder of the commitment to our relationship and support our life journey.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Lightning Round! Give us your:
- Candy or junk food splurge: Graeter’s salted caramel
- Guilty pleasure song: “Hello” by Adele
- Tearjerker movie pick: “The Sound of Music”
- Standby nail polish color: OPI Samoan Sand
- Favorite cocktail: I like fresh Mojitos with no alcohol
- Cartoon alter-ego: Firebird (Bonita Juarez)
What are three of your favorite things right now besides God, family and friends?
My Mini, my Orla Kiely bag and my Apple watch.
Louisville Bespoke will have their kickoff launch party and fashion event this week on October 21, 2016, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., so you can see fashions walking the catwalk from 22 designers. There will be a mix of local fashion designers, local vendors and food trucks. The party will be at The Design Terminal, located at 1403 Rowan St., Louisville, KY 40212. General admission is free; VIP seating is $25. Click here to purchase tickets.
Shot on location at the future Louisville Bespoke at The Design Terminal in Portland. Photography by Adele Reding Photography.
Read about more inspiring women in Louisville in our FACES of Louisville weekly features here.