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Rogelio Velasco’s launching pad into the world of haute couture was in our own backyard, The Altos de Chavón School of Art & Design. His work is world famous now, and many consider him to be one of today’s most talented designers. It was Velasco’s work that influenced the decision of V Magazine to count The Altos de Chavón School of Art & Design among the world’s foremost schools for fashion design. And while New York is now Rogelio’s home base, it was via La Romana that he arrived there.
Designing for the famous Michelle Obama, ever on the lookout for emerging talent in the world of fashion, he won acclaim for the Velasco dress she wore for the photo on the White House’s 2010 holiday card. The design house Cushnie et Ochs worked with Velasco for that dress, and Mrs.Obama, looking fabulous, garnered compliments even from those who enjoy targeting the First Lady’s fashion choices.
Beyond the Obama stamp of approval, Velasco has a client list of well-known women who enjoy his creations. At the 2006 Academy Awards ceremony Meryl Streep presented an honorary Oscar to director Robert Altman wearing one of the most extraordinary ball gowns of the evening, widely reviewed as such by the industry and press reporting on the event. The gown was total tour de force by Velasco, and Streep was named among the best dressed at the ceremony. Rogelio recollects working with Streep as the most exhilarating experience of his career.
Other fans of Rogelio’s brilliant take on fashion include Queen Rania of Jordan, Brooke Ocampo, and Jane Rosenthal, among a long list of socialites of stature who can be seen in the capitals of the world proudly wearing their Velascos. The Rogelio Velasco collection is sold in some of the most exclusive department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys, and the editors of Vogue and Vanity Fair cite his work as sculptural.
Rogelio Velasco’s beginnings are in the infernal heat of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. His big family—I think he is one of 13 brothers and sisters—was always supportive. His sisters are credited with starting his fashion career: as a teenager, Rogelio was kept busy making dresses for them to wear to their parties. The quest for beauty and glamour can be a great motivator, and soon he was seeking a place to study fashion.
Velasco applied to The Altos de Chavón School of Art & Design, which since 1983 has been affiliated with Parsons School of Design, in New York City. But how could he pay for his studies? He’d studied engineering in Mexico, he’d danced with the Mexican Ballet Folklórico—he clearly was resourceful. So he cut hair in La Romana and made clothes for those who were already recognizing his talent. Then, when he finished his two years in Altos de Chavón, he had to choose between an offer to continue his studies in Milan and going to Parsons in New York. Winning a full scholarship to Parsons that included lodging and the support of a generous patron—a Casa de Campo villa owner—Rogelio took on the challenge of New York.
Freshly graduated from Parsons, the outstandingly talented Velasco was spotted by Isaac Mizrahi, who offered him a supervisory role in the sample room. He ended up working with Mizrahi for 11 years, an experience that gave the young designer the foundation to start his own atelier and helped shape who he is today.
Velasco has been pivotal in developing couture lines for such well-known designers as Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, and Donna Karan. He has to his credit innumerable gowns for the prestigious runways of New York and the world, as well as for the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe ceremonies. Perfectly complementing his mastery of the art of couture are Rogelio’s charming and sincere personality and his wisdom in working with people and giving them what they need before they even know what they want.
Derek Lam, an American Fashion Designer, one of the most talented young designers of today and a future icon of the
fashion industry, waxes eloquent when speaking of his friend Rogelio.
“Rogelio is a constant marvel to me. Talented and yet humble; refined in sensibility, yet totally aware of the vagaries of dressing. He has a shrewd eye, elegant hands. He is a self taught master of his craft.
I turn to Rogelio when I need my ideas come to life, and I need a brilliant collaborator. Rogelio understands my desire to create subtlety, to create the effect of effortlessness, through a rigorous approach to handling fabric, draping on the body, using methods of couture to evoke not tradition, but a living present.
He makes for me clothes meant to be worn, not exhibited. Nonetheless, it ends up artistic in satisfaction and marvellous to the eye. Like I said, he is a master. Let’s appreciate him and give thanks, he is one of those unsung talents in fashion whom so many of us rely.”
— Derek Lam, American Fashion Designer
That Rogelio Velasco is a graduate of The Altos de Chavón School of Art & Design is a great honor for us. His legacy lives on here, and he’s active in working with The School on scholarships and serving as a consultant to students as they create their collections. So remember the name of Rogelio Velasco, a Chavonero launched from our own patio who now belongs to the world.
Article contributed by Stephen Kaplan
– Thank you Stephen!
Stephen Kaplan is the Rector of the Altos de Chavón School of Art and Design
A component of The Altos de Chavón Cultural Center Foundation, a U.S. 501(c)(3) public charity, the Altos de Chavón School of Art and Design has been graduating students from its two-year associate-degree program, affiliated with New York City’s prestigious Parsons “The New School For Design” since 1983.
Three majors are offered: Graphic Design, Fashion Design, and Fine Arts/Illustration. In addition, The School has developed a state-of-the-art Certificate Program in Digital Design.