Coach, Put Me In

On February 22, 2021, I announced that I was taking a hiatus from the atelier as I addressed my recent breast cancer diagnosis. A week ago, Hopeless + Cause Atelier returned to the runway as part of the Hispanic Heritage Month Awards presented by the Hispano Chamber of Commerce and while I was anxious, I was so happy to return to this space.

The call came two weeks before I was to travel to NYC and Portland. I received the call from my friend, Shannon, she shared that the chamber wanted to focus on fashion and the convergence of cultures in NM. I would represent the European Hispanic influence. I would create 4 looks for this event.

It was perfect timing as I was going to NYC and could find rich, luxurious materials for these designs and be inspired by the city in general. This four-day trip I would be spending with my KK. It was the first time we had traveled together in more than 2 years. The plan was to meet with producers to start planning for Paris Fashion Week and catch a few shows. However the universe had something more in mind as the city, and Fashion Week, wasn’t completely out of the pandemic and there weren’t the options for in-person shows as I had hoped.

Instead, we spent time exploring the city, getting our auras read, going to the immersive Van Gogh exhibit, and eating our way as we walked everywhere. I was so happy that my friend Heather and her daughter were visiting at the same time and that I could enjoy brunch with Amanda and Andy, they came into the city this round. I even volunteered on 9/11 with approximately 1,500 other people to make food boxes for the nearby food banks. It was a great sense of community. The weather was beautiful and the city was on track to being back to pre-pandemic visitor levels.

On our last day, we hit Mood and I saw beautiful fabrics but none were speaking to me so instead of purchasing them on that day, I took photos hoping something might ruminate in my mind for the perfect creation. We flew back that Monday evening, it was the perfect long weekend. Although, I didn’t want to leave. I was excited to be traveling the next day with my BF, Ang, to Portland.

We arrived in Portland around 6pm and checked into our hotel. Immediately I noticed the homelessness in city dotted by tents everywhere. Downtown where we were staying was also still reeling from the pandemic and the protests. Not much was open after 8pm and many building were still boarded up. In ways, it reminded me of a post apocalyptical small town vs a large metropolitan area.

Outside of Portland was absolutely gorgeous, we reserved a waterfalls, wine and mountain tour of the area and it did not disappointment. Our tour guide, who was not only local but educated in the rich history of the area and geography provided incredible insight to all we saw. The next days we explored Portland proper and on our last day visited Astoria. Traveling with me is always a Ms. Adventure as we took a commuter bus, stopping at every small town gas station along the way. We didn’t find the Goonies but had fun getting lost in the small quaint town.

These two trips were much needed after the non-existent summer I had. I was so happy to travel with Cati and Ang and spend quality time with them. We laughed, had deep conversations and explored the area we were visiting. It was a wonderful reprieve.

I returned home to the bustle of work, but still not entirely positive of my inspiration and what I would create for the show. I was also spending a day a week with my gram in her home. She is 91 years old, but ever since her bout with Bells Palsy my aunt Lisa, hasn’t felt comfortable with her staying at home alone. During the pandemic, Lisa was able to work from home but this summer she had to return to the office. Aunts, cousins and grandchildren took turns in spending the day with her. There were days filled with looking at photos, questions about who the people were, sitting outside and watching the birds or admiring the flowers. There were moments I would put on the mariachi station on Spotify and would make her lunch and take her flowers.

What a gift it is to care for the person that took such good care of me: the matriarch of my family, the woman whom I named my daughter, Catalina, after and my biggest supporter in life. I was now fully inspired to create.

A few weeks before the event, I got to work, balancing my day job, medical appointments (I opted to have my cosmetic surgery the week after this showing), and spending time with my gram. I decided to create in black, white and red with a focus of floral accents, because of the love my grandmother has for her garden. I reused one look because I knew how perfectly it fit into the collection. I reached out Ang, Kristen, Sofi and Teresa to model. They were my perfect muses.

The night before I hosted fittings with everyone except Ang and for the first time ever had finished the tailoring in time to enjoy dinner and go to bed at a reasonable hour (this is big HUGE). Friday, October 15, 2021, I arrived at Hotel Albuquerque around 4pm, I reserved a room that would serve as the space for hair and make up to take place. With the help of my friends, Stephanie and Lydia and hair by Misha, the team got to work. I was feeling a heavy dose of anxiety. In every show from LA to London, I barely stepped out onto the stage, letting my designs speak for my work and inspiration yet for this hometown showing I had to go on stage and talk for a minute about my inspiration and that was unnerving.

We arrived backstage 5 minutes before 7pm and Sofi had a great idea to do a Boomerang of us dancing backstage. It was a great way us to let loose and shake it off. The first designer took the stage and his models followed. I was next. I walked up the steps to the podium adjusted the microphone so I could speak clearly into it and of course if fell out of its holder. I held it to the left of my mouth while trying not to pay attention to the fact that my arm was shaking and spoke the following slowly as the models took the runway and Red Light Camera’s Caged played in the background:

“As an 8th generation Nortena and coyote, my inspiration for this collection is my maternal grandmother her impact on my life and influence on my design aesthetic with simple beautiful designs for every woman.

My gram, as I call her, will be celebrating her 92nd birthday next weekend. Born and raised in northern NM to a farming family, she later became a Harvey Girl before meeting my grandfather and raising a family of 6. Because of the discrimination they both received, the fluent Spanish language they spoke was not passed on, however their faith, importance of family and caring for your community were instilled. She taught me to sew when I was in seventh grade, and when I originally didn’t follow my passion as a fashion designer, she retaught me in my 40s and Hopeless + Cause Atelier born.

This brand is for every woman using demure designs with unexpected embellishments. My models always represent my customers, whom are all different body types, ages and ethnicities. My designs have been featured all over including NYFW and British Vogue (And if we can get out of this pandemic, Paris FW) I know this community and its support is the reason I have achieved so much…so thank you. I am Dara Sophia Romero the designer behind, Hopeless + Cause Atelier. Hope you enjoy Familia, Fe y Communidad.”

I left the stage on cloud nine. It had been months that I had been inspired or even had the energy to create and the room was in a roar with excitement and I smiled from ear-to-ear. I spent the rest of the evening with so many I loved and sharing in the creation of something beautiful especially when there were so many in this inner circle that had a rough year, to say the least. It was a moment to forget about that and just enjoy ourselves.

If you are reading this on Sunday, October 24th, yesterday my gram turned 92 years old. She started her day enjoying coffee and cookies and later, we will be gathering as a family to celebrate the incredible soul to the family she is.

I’m glad I didn’t take myself out of the game. In fact, I’ve been asked to participate in another show supporting another incredible non-profit in January. La vita e un dono….enjoy that gift every day!

With light and love,
Dara Sophia Romero

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