Hi there! Remember me? How have you been? I know it’s been months and months since I last wrote. And honestly, I’ve tried, but I guess I haven’t had the right words. I’ve had several friends ask if they missed a post which made my heart happy, because they said they enjoy reading along my Ms. Adventures. I guess I’ve been in this weird purgatory type space where I haven’t had a million things going on, yet I guess I have. I’m a high-performing manic. The more I have going on the more I flourish, but when something gets in my way or I get in my head I become absolutely avoidant and check out from everything. 2024 got me feeling this way with a sense of uneasiness. I don’t know about you, but this hits differently.

2020 – the world pandemic;
2021 – I was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent a mastectomy (5 weeks recovery) and radiation therapy (6 weeks of daily treatments);
2022 – broke my ankle and because of subsequent surgery was out of work for 6 weeks; and
2023 – had reconstructive surgery that resulted in 4 days ICU and 8 weeks recovery.

Yet through all these years I was excited to overcome these obstacles and live my best life. And, boy I did. I created beautiful memories with family and friends here at home, across the country and abroad. Since I last wrote, I traveled with my BF to NYC for the holiday season and celebrated NYE in Denver, and I survived another retail holiday season (if you’ve never worked retail, you have no idea what an accomplishment it is). I started January full of promise, big eyed and bushy tailed. I used points to book a flight to NYC for fashion week in February and a trip in April to Austin in April to be extra ears for a friend considering buying into a franchise and then my champagne dreams on a beer budget went flat.

Have you seen this? OMGEEE I can so relate. If you asked my brother, I bet he’d say that was me growing up…righting the wrongs. You go Marnie! Bloody Hell!!

Maybe it’s the economy? And the uneasiness of a presidential election year? And the potential of war around the world? Maybe I’m just old and pay more attention to these things than I should, but I’ve never cancelled trips before. January I got hit by major car issues and I think what I was most upset about is the fact that I was taken advantage of and paid for preventative maintenance to only find out that it wasn’t performed. At the same time I had past debt pop up…blah blah blah…we all have debt (well, maybe not everyone) but I feel like Dallas, the clairvoyant from NYC, profoundly stated years ago on 5th Avenue, “you constantly take 1 step forward and end up taking two steps back”.

One day when I was figuring out why I haven’t been ahead since 2020, I realized over the past three years because of medical expenses I’ve lost out on $25,000 in income (that doesn’t include estimated income lost from retirement savings). And don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful to be healthy, to have a job and healthcare and for some reason I am incredibly blessed because God always finds a way to provide. I was working overtime and gratefully had commissioned dresses to help pay one of my debts down quickly. I was working toward another when last week I was informed, that overtime is no longer available to me. Sometimes you have to go with the flow…but I also understand how, in this economy, someone can be severely impacted by one major expense like medical or automobile expense. So, when I am asked for help, I CANNOT NOT help.

There were fashion shows and drives. At times I feel like I am the richest woman in the world because of the incredible people in my life and the opportunities that have been bestowed upon me. 2024 has been no different. In February, I was approached by another production company to show in MILAN, ITALY (yes, for fashion week). After reviewing the proposal, the 10,000 euros in production costs was out of my budget. But what do they say, “what comes around goes around?!” Last month, I received an invitation from the production company that produced my Paris Fashion Week show in 2023. The proposed production costs were a third of the former and about 2,000 euros less than Paris. This really gave me food for thought (but more on that in a minute),

I’ve battled demons that won’t let me sleep
Called to the sea but she abandoned me

But I won’t never give up, no, never give up, no, no
No, I won’t never give up, no, never give up, no, no

Never Give Up, Sia

A couple of weeks ago, I had my annual breast MRI. And as any woman that has dealt with breast cancer or questionable scans, you know the feeling of apprehension and anxiety and want to get through the tests as quickly as possible. MRIs are uncomfortable as it is because the tube you are drawn into can lead to a feeling claustrophobia. Breast MRI requires you to lay on your chest balancing on a rod along your sternum while trying to stay as straight as possible. Added excitement for me happens when my veins hear that an IV is coming. They immediately hide (no matter how much water I drank the day before), so that just adds to the fun. The only redeeming factor of this procedure is that the medical staff asks if you’d like to listen to music while you lay as still as humanly possible. The first time I had an MRI, I was asked the same question and big dummy me said, “I’d like to listen to Lady Gaga radio”. That was the most difficult 20 minutes in my life (how can you listen to Lady Gaga and not want to dance?). But after that, I’ve learned I can listen to Sia radio because I listen intently to her lyrics and find solace in that thunderstorm. After clicks and strumming of the machine and praise for my ability to stay still, the session was over. The next day, I received a call from scheduling, the appointment I had with my breast surgeon for the next week needed to be rescheduled. I guess my mammogram wasn’t scheduled so it too needed to be added. The woman scheduled both for August, so of course I felt that the MRI must have went well since there wasn’t a rush to meet with doctor. I went on with the rest of my week.

That following Sunday, after a full day of activities, I stopped by the post office to pick up my mail because I had been told that I should have received an invitation. I didn’t find the invite within my mail bundle but instead a letter from the office that performed my MRI. In the letter, it stated that I had just performed my screening and there was something found within that required an additional look. The letter also included a note that said most of the time there is nothing to worry about (sure tell that to someone who’s been diagnosed with cancer). And what the hell, why didn’t they call (the letter was dated the day after I had my doctor appointment rescheduled). I think my heart fell into my stomach and anxiety set in. I tried with the best intentions to just go to sleep. Monday morning, I called to reschedule my mammogram to an earlier date because of this finding. The associate on the phone was kind and helpful. She scheduled me for the next morning. I wasn’t sure there was anything to worry about but the unknowing is the hardest thing, so I went on that day working on a commissioned dress. I have found focusing on something outside myself is the best stress relief for me.

I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go
Where the wind don’t change
And nothing in the ground can ever grow
No hope, just lies
And you’re taught to cry into your pillow
But I survived

Alive, Sia

I arrived at the appointment. The mammogram technician asked the obligatory questions about the visit, “have I noticed any changes in my breast or did I have any concerns?” I responded about the note I received. She read her notes and said there wasn’t anything specific noted for her to image and that the MRI scan came back benign, but she would do her due diligence. If there was anything that needed a further, they’d pull me in for an ultrasound. I went through the contorted smashing of my breast and then was ushered to the waiting room. The ultrasound would be next.

This waiting room…what can I say. It is set up like a spa waiting area with water and tea available, soothing music, art on the walls and tables and a big window overlooking the dirt parking lot next door. I understand the concept but as I looked around the room at the women who were there with me awaiting their next step, one was pacing and one was softly crying. I got up to get water and offered to get the woman next to me who was in her feels a drink too. About 10 minutes later, I was called into the dark ultrasound room. The sonographer remembered me from the year before, I guess when you’re asked what you do and you say you’re a personal stylist at Macy’s, and the only one in Albuquerque, it’s a lasting impression. Although, now that I think about it, none of my medical team has come into see me after they constantly say they need to. I guess it’s hard to go from scrubs to real clothes, but I digress. After each click of the machine, I couldn’t help to think what is she photographing, but a few minutes later she gave me a napkin to clean up the goop and said she was going to get the doctor. I sat there as I heard the two of them talking when the door opened the doctor was talking about his daughter getting a fellowship to Oxford when the sonographer redirected him by introducing me to him. He went on to introduce himself say something like, “everything is clear; see you in a year.” Who says bedside manner is dead. LOL!

I put my armor on, show you how strong I am
I put my armor on, I’ll show you that I am

I’m unstoppable
I’m a Porsche with no brakes
I’m invincible
Yeah, I win every single game
I’m so powerful
I don’t need batteries to play
I’m so confident
Yeah, I’m unstoppable today

Unstoppable, Sia

I left with a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I got in my car and said a prayer of gratitude and texted the few people that knew what I was going through over the past 48 hours. I then realized, this is my life. I all I can do is live life to the fullest every day and pray for good results but you never know what’s ahead of you. If you are still with me (and I hope you are). I’m going to share a little more how this continued to hit home.

At a recent graduation party, I was asked to highlight a verse or scripture in the Bible for the graduate to take with them on their next chapter. I was stopped in my tracks because there is so many beautiful passages and knowledge found to share that I got overwhelmed and wrote a note instead. A few nights ago, I read this passage from Romans and I was overwhelmed with emotion (so intensely that tears streamed down my face) because I thought of the suffering and struggles of the past few years. I then remembered the suffering this love experienced and how there is so much hope for the future, so I sent a text with this passage and I explained my delay and asked that it be highlighted from me with love. 🤍💜🤍 I’ve said this before, but you can’t life a full life without suffering and as much as we all hate it (I know I’m generalizing, some sadists enjoy it), it softens us and makes us more human—built by perseverance and relishing in hope and joy. I have also found that it pushes me to do all the things even when I feel it’s not possible but all things are possible through my faith and the support around me.

This past week, I was once again reminded that Life is a Gift (La Vita e un Dono). Since I began creating under the label, Hopeless + Cause Atelier almost 9 years ago, I have been gifted with some incredible people. People who have become friends and family. Creative beautiful souls that I’ve been able to bring along these Ms. Adventures all over the world. Our lives have been connected with the thread to create beauty, confidence and self-empowerment through fashion and design. Sadly, this week we said good-bye to one of those beautiful souls. I met Jocelyn Lopez in 2017 through an introduction of a mutual friend. Jocelyn, who by profession, was a hair artist jumped in to help with one of my local shows and when I had my first opportunity to show for New York Fashion Week, she relished at the chance to join me and help me bring my creations to life. I still remember the morning she, another stylist friend and I met and talked about the looks. She assembled the team and not only did we rock the hometown preview but also took NYFW by storm. Last year, when she heard I was going to Paris she asked if she could join me for hair. I sent a request to the production company asking if she could join the local team. I wish I would have pushed harder because as I wrote before, the hair team showed up late and we ended up helping the models with their hair needs. As I read her obituary, her sister wrote that one of her biggest professional accomplishments was working NYFW and that made my heart happy that I could be part of that. Her excitement and zest for life and travel will be missed, but I think I can honor her by living life to the fullest and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to me.

Again the fragility of life, reminded me to go after all the things life has to offer. It will all sort itself out. It also isn’t lost on me that tomorrow June 10th, is the one year anniversary since my gram died.

So I did it, I signed the contract and am planning to do Milan Fashion Week on September 19, 2024. I am once again planning a hometown preview to help defray the costs and provide some fashionable entertainment to my friends and family in the Albuquerque community. I am grateful that Alpha + Lit Albuquerque Santa Fe has already committed to sponsor (thank you Tanya) and Carol Crist from All About You Weddings and Events has come on board as an in-kind sponsor helping with the planning of the event because this girl can use all the help she can get. I hope you will save the date for August 25, 2024. It is a Sunday and I am planning a brunch time show for the Atelier’s 9th birthday. Once I secure the location, I’ll share ticket information. However if you know any beautiful venues, a lovely garden would be perfect, please send those ideas my way.

Until then, you can catch Hopeless + Cause Atelier at Meow Wolf’s Absolute Rubbish: a Trashion Show on Thursday, June 13th in Santa Fe. I am partnering with my beautiful friend, Sofi, to bring to life the Phoenix…guess whose music she’ll be bringing to life the look to?!?

I hope to be back soon with more information and I’ll be remixing my obstacles to opportunities, my suffering into gratitude and my avoidance to action.

I’m goin’ to fly, goin’ so high
Goin’ to live, live my life
Goin’ to fly, I’m so high
Live my, live my life

One night in Milan is like one year in rehab
Let’s cancel all our plans, it’s a- (ah, pleasure, pleasure)

One Night, Sia

With light and love,
Dara Sophia Romero

Always Open

If you’ve followed my Ms. Adventures from the beginning, then you know the influence my material grandmother (lovingly aka known as my “gram”) has not only had on my passion project, Hopeless + Cause Atelier, but most importantly on my life. Growing up, I couldn’t imagine a time I wasn’t with her or she was in my corner when I was bumping heads with my mom. She taught me how to sew out of necessity when I was young and when I returned to the craft decades later, she pulled out her sewing machine and once again gave me guidance as I started to design and create.

She recently turned 93 and she lives at home with my aunt. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren take turns staying with her and provide care during the day while my aunt works. I’ve talked about my time with her in past posts but a couple months ago, I had an epiphany of sorts. Tuesday afternoon we were at the kitchen counter–she, with her cookies and coffee and I across from her chatting, when I realized that her hair was standing up in the back from her most recent nap. I went into her bathroom and grabbed her brush. I went back to the counter and started combing her hair. Her coos of excitement from this simple gesture threw me over with emotion. We went on that afternoon talking about family members. She told me how beautiful my dress was and she had a mixture of frustration and sadness when she couldn’t remember things. The next Tuesday, when she was enjoying her afternoon snack at the breakfast bar. I decided to pull out a deck of cards and start playing “Solitaire”. This is a game she would always play when we were at the ranch or she was in the kitchen waiting for the timer to go off on a meal she was cooking in the oven. I thought this simple act would jog her memory from the past as she watched intently as I played and showed her excitement when I made the cards work for me. Another Tuesday, she was sitting up in her bed rubbing on her finger nails trying to clean off the chipped nail polish. I grabbed my aunts tools, remover and polish and sat in front of her to give them a fresh look. Her happiness fed into mine. She has had her good days: remembering me, where she is and what she’s doing, eating, getting up to walk and holding a conversation, and she has had her not so good days: chanting prayers when she’s in pain, disoriented and upset when she can’t remember, and not really eating.

Either way, I am really grateful for this time and while it’s hard to see this fiercely independant and strong motherly figure so fragile, I am blessed that I am able to be there for her in this way. I also realized it was an epiphany on two fronts. The first was the realization was that as much as we think we are indedpendant and can do it all on our own, at sometime in our life we NEED others. The second was the hardiness and the value of time or making the time.

I set goals every year. I have learned in order to be successful I need to be realistic and specific in creating them. I also lean on a word to help guide me on my path. I opened with “opportunity” because I knew this was the year that I could take advantage with my health in check and the world opening up….but then it hit me. Opportunity is ALWAYS around you just have to be open to it. So “open” became my guiding word.

I finally set a date for breast reconstruction and it excited me that I would finally be able to shelve this chapter (plus have a new bangin’ bod). I took advantage of my company’s free educational benefits. I applied and was accepted into “Fashion Design Management” certificate program. I understand the creative side but wanted to learn more about the business side. I reached out to friends I hadn’t seen for years because of the pandemic and set dates to visit with them. I decided visiting NYC only once in 2022 was not good enough and this was the first REAL Autumn/Winter fashion season since 2020. I had points so I booked my flight.

When I opened up to the universe, I found abundance, even when obsticles blocked the way. I almost canceled my NYC trip. I really wanted to go but I started thinking about my next medical proceedure, corresponding leave of absence and short term disability pay (60% vs.100%) and I felt a little uneasy about spending the extra money. I decided to be open and just like that, I received a text from my friend, Evelyn, asking when my next trip was. I filled her in on the dates and she asked if I’d like company. So we made a plan and February 9th couldn’t get here quick enough. There were 6 things I had to do and the rest of the time was free for what ever. Those things were: 1) check out a NYFW production that also produces in Paris, 2&3) schedule time with Amanda (whom I hadn’t seen since 2020) and Sal (whom I hadn’t seen since 2018), 4) go to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 5) get some work done at at Louis Vuiton and Gucci and 6) visit the Museum at the FIT .

We arrived after a full day of travel and checked into the hotel, freshened up and headed down to the hotel bar for happy hour. We had reservations for a speakeasy in the East Village. I knew I’d be recovering from surgery for her March milestone birthday so I wanted to take her to someplace fabulous to celebrate. And it was! The front was a pawn shop that opened to a sweeping staircase with beautiful chandler that welcomed you to the hostess station and bar. We celebrated our arrival with a cocktail before we were escorted to our table.

The next day I had nothing scheduled and the only thing Evelyn wanted to do was to visit the Guggenheim. The weather was unseasonably mild and beautiful for February so we decided to walk from our midtown hotel, along 5th avenue and then through Central Park to the museum. It was my first visit to this museum it was a lovely afternoon for art. We walked about half way back until Evelyn asked if we could jump on the subway. We had walked 8 miles so I gave in and if you know me, you know riding the subway is a big compromise for me (HUGE). We opted to stay in that evening grabbing pizza and a bottle of wine from neighborhood establishments (I did have to send Isaiah a photo with the caption $2 pizza).

The next morning, I had an appointment with the Louis Vuitton team to try make some sales while I was in town and then my plan was to stop by Gucci to pick of a repair order. Evelyn would meet me after the store opened. We had little bit of time to look through the latest at Herald Square before meeting Amanda for brunch. I hoped we’d hit the Museum at FIT for “Fifty Years of Hip Hop Style” before returning to the hotel for a little R-N-R. I got to work–I just love entering from Macy’s Herald Square employee entrace–and chatted with the team before I started taking photos of the latest bags and accessories. I got to work and made a few purchases on behalf of my clients. We strolled through the contemporary lines but realized we had about a 20 minute walk through Chelsea, so we decided if we had time after, we’d come back. We arrived in sync with Amanda. I gave her a big hug and made introductions. We were escorted to our chalet, or quaintly decorated outdoor eating space, that was probably built in 2020. We had a lively convesation about our lives from the past three years. After brunch, we walked over to FIT and caught the exhibits, continued on to Macy’s to do a little shopping and then returned to the room to freshen up before heading to the shows. The first one was near the Flat Iron Building and was produced by Small Business Fashion Week. They produce throughout the USA and in Paris so I really wanted to see their show and attendees. We arrived right at 6pm and almost didn’t make it in, but I’ve learned to be a pushy New Yorker and was able to get us. The show was smaller than what I am used to, but it was fun to see the varying type of designers from swim to street. The next show was in the East Village and one I’ve attended over the years. It’s a bigger production company, Art Hearts Fashion. We jumped in an Uber and headed south. As we arrived, I noticed a line wrapping around the building which I had never seen at that venue before. As we got in line, we started talking to attendees when one mentioned the type of ticket I had meant go to front of the line. We walked to the interest and I checked in with the press table. I had sent in requests for me and Evelyn. However, there was a screening process and Evelyn wasn’t on the list. Unfortunately, I couldn’t talk my way through this one so we opted to just head back to the hotel. We finished the evening watching movies and munching on Cava (one of my go-to’s in NYC).

Sunday, I got ready and headed out early to Mass. It’s so peaceful walking 5th Avenue on Sunday morning. I know it’s unbelieveable to discribe the City as peaceful but it really is before 10am on Sundays. I got my fill of St. Patrick’s and because brunch with Sal was at Pier 17, I had to take the subway (yes, it may start snowing as you read this). I arrived to the Brooklyn Bridge. Since Evelyn, didn’t go to mass, we were going to meet their and walk over to the restaurant together. We were all running late, so I informed the party to check in as they arrived. Evelyn could not find me so we headed over separately. Sunday was the coldest of the days with the weather dreary but at least it wasn’t raining. However being so close to the water made for some bone chilling cold. Brunch was wonderful. I hadn’t seen Sal since she stayed with me in 2018 for our friend, Jennifer’s celebration of life. We met when she was a reporter with Albuquerque Business First and developed an incredible friendship over the years. She left Albuquerque and returned to her home town, Denver, before landing a job in D.C. and in the past year was scooped up by the Associated Press in NYC. We wrapped up brunch and headed back to Macy’s to work on another purchase from Louis Vuitton. Then plan was to find a pub to watch the superbowl but after the chilly afternoon we decided to have a superbowl room party. Evelyn was craving Canolis so we hit the neighborhood, picked up dinner, wine and sweets and turned on the game. I think everyone should experience a superbowl room party.

Our flights on moday were early afternoon, and I had another order for Gucci. I had also received a request to create a prom dress for someone i love dearly, so I wanted to hit Mood for fabric ideas. I tooks swatches and photos with the Gucci bag in tow. We got back in time to check our bags and hit a pub across the street for lunch before heading to the airport. We got on our planes and made the treck back. On my flight, I had the option to watch movies when I came accross a new release that, after the recommendation from aunt, has become my favorite, “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”. It is a sweet movie about an everyday woman who has profound impact on those around her. It’s about loss and enjoying life to the fullest. It was totally relateable to me.

“We need more dreams now more than ever.”

-Ada Harris

I returned to Albuquerque inspired. I’m always inspired by NYC but this is a milestone year for me and I was so grateful I took this trip. I had a little less than a month before my surgery and I wanted to get so much in before. I got back to work on outfitting the local The Go Red for Women Fashion Show for the American Heart Association. This is a such a full circle event for me. In 2014 and 2015, I actually attended the Macy’s NYFW version with celebrities models like Zendaya, Thalia Sodi, and Giada De Laurentiis. So when was hired at Macy’s, I was excited to outfit the real superheroes in our community. I also planned to host a Galentine’s soiree to thank all those that have supported me in my business throughout the years. I continued my Tuesdays with gram. Made time with my minis, my friends and to volunteer. I celebrated several friends incredible accomplishments and just enjoyed life at community events. I started my course work. I opted for a Dry Lent and found that it hasn’t been difficult to follow even when going out with friends.

I had my pre-op appointment scheduled for March 1st. I woke that morning after feeling so many different emotions over the past couple of weeks. I knew the intensity with a hospital stay involved and assumed a 6-week leave of absence. My plastic surgeon had moved from her private practice to UNM Cancer Center, so when I had planned to have reconstructive surgery last year, I’d have to wait until late summer but because of my time away from work for my ankle surgery, I knew I couldn’t take another 6-weeks off, so late last year, we planned it for March 10th. I arrived at my appointment on time and after going through the maze of the cancer center I was taken to an exam room. I had a busy day but I had planned the appointment early enough that I wouldn’t be too stressed about spending the time for the appointment. However when my doctor arrived 45 minutes late, I lost it. The emotions bubbled up and I explained how it is not professional or courteous to make someone wait that long. She apologized profusely and we got to work talking about my care pre-op, the surgery and the recovery. It was overwhelming and I wish I had an extra pair of ears but I tried to take copious notes. I was to give up caffiene immediately (which resulted in several days of fun headaches). My surgery call time was 6am and the surgery would be anywhere from 6-9 hours long. I would be admitted into an ICU room and would be released 5 days later. The room would set at balmy 75 degrees so the newly constructed veins and arteries would be expanded enough to feed the new tissue enough blood to sustain life. The final big change to what I was expecting was the fact that I would be out for 8 weeks. Eight weeks of minimal movement and 8 weeks of reduced pay. But at the end of the day, I knew that on the flip side I would be able to shelve this chapter of my life and have a banging bod (If you’re reading this, I hope you’re laughing along with me).

“When she woke the next morning she felt no longer sad but only eager and excited as one who is about to embark upon a great and unknown adventure.”

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

I got back to work. Set up our store’s Bag Hunger Activies, saw as many clients as I could. Cleaned my casita since I’d have my minis staying with me and got as far as I could in my class assignments. I planned a team volunteer project the day before my surgery because I knew I’d be out of commission for the rest of the projects that month. A group of 12 from Macy’s Coronado headed to St. Felix Pantry on Thursday March 8. I think what made this even more special is that one of my coworkers mentioned that he had utilized the food pantry’s services years ago so he was compelled to go and help others now that he was at a place where he could. That made me smile. We packaged fresh veggies and sorted non-perishable foods for two hours.

As I was leaving, my phone rang. I answered knowing the number was coming from Lovelace, the hospital where my surgery was taking place. The woman on the other end introduced herself as the financial consultant and asked to speak to me. I responded and she continued to discuss the financial costs of the surgery and my responsibility. I think I was in shock because it all became jumbled besides the following: Lovelace was no longer contracted with my insurance carrier. The surgery would cost $330,000 and my patient responsibility would be $150,000. While I was hoping the surgery was in-network because it would be free because I had already met this year’s $3,900 in network out of pocket maximum, I knew there might be a possibility that it could be out of network and my out of pocket maximum would be $11,000. So when I explained that to this woman, she responded saying since Lovelace wasn’t contracted they could charge whatever they wanted. I then proceeded to ask why they waited until the day before to inform me of this. My heart sank thinking how much longer I’d have to wait. She said she’d reach out to the CFO to see if there is anything they could do, but it might require me bringing a few thousand dollars with me…again, I thought you request this a day before my surgery?!? I asked whom the CFO she was referring to, so when she responded with the name of one of my clients, I said, “tell her it’s for Dara, her Macy’s Personal Stylist”.

I hung up the phone and tears streamed down my face and I’m sure my blood pressure was through the roof. I took a deep breath and reached out to my friend, Serena, whom is an executive at Lovelace. I explained what happened. She was astonished to hear what I told and said she’d get on the phone with the CFO. With in minutes I was given the number for the head of admissions with a time to call her. I promptly did so and talked through the financial responsibility and she agreed that the max out of pocket I’d experience would be the $11,000. As a friend told me, it’s like I received a $139,000 gift. I was lucky because I have friends in high places, but I couldn’t help but think what if I didn’t?

The next morning, Isaiah drove me to the hospital. We checked in at 6:00am and after going through the admission process we were taken to the surgery area. The nurse came to get me within minutes and after taking all the preliminary vitals, got me prepped for surgery. My surgeons came in and marked my breast and abdomen surgery site. The anesthesiologist came in started the process as they rolled me into the operating room. About 8 hours later, I woke up in my ICU room connected to oxygen, IVs, drains, a pain ball, blood pressure cuff, catheter, oxygen sensor and dopler wiring to read the blood flow. Later, Cati admitted to me that she was scared after seeing all the machine connections. Initially, I had two nurses attending to me. They stayed with me in the room checking vitals every 15 minutes until the shift change at 7pm. That first day I could only have ice chips (it was ok–Friday’s during lent are for fasting–okay, I know bad joke). The room was so hot that I asked for ice packs behind my neck and under my feet. I found out that my lungs had partially collapsed from the time spent in the operating room, so they gave me a spirometer to exercise my lung. It was difficult to initially get to the level I was challenged to, but the bigger problem happened after the first day of using it and the coughing that ensued. I prayed that I didn’t cough, laugh or sneeze and of course all these actions occured. I’ve never held my stomach tighter.

I’m not going lie; the first 48 hours were probably the hardest I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. I straddled the line of modesty and vanity with my own vanity pushing me through. My faith, my family and friends who checked in and said prayers on my behalf, the incredible nursing team from the ICU unit and little things like watching Friends on Nick at Nite, Harry Potter Marathons and trash tv from Bravo were my saviors. The ICU nurses went above and beyond in my care. I had one nurse, Michelle, who was so concerned when my temperature spiked to 101.8 degrees that she called the doctor for advice and did everything to keep me comfortable. I knew it was because I was living in an oven, but soldiered on following instructions to make sure that the tissue had a healthy start. I also kept my sense of humor, welcoming my visitors to my tropical paradise.

Tuesday morning I was doing well enough to be released home. Brianna took off of work and picked me up. Isaiah met us at my casita and stayed with me until Cati got off from work. Isaiah is working remotely for the next month so he’s been with me during the day all week and Cati has been staying overnight with me. I am truly blessed by my three kiddos. Family and friends have checked in to see what I need and how I’m doing. I am incredibly grateful. I know this was the path I chose for reconstruction and I am so thankful that it is going well but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t intense. And it brought me back to my epiphany from my grams. I’m a tough, independent woman, who’d rather focus on others than ask for help.Yet again life reminded me that we all need help sometimes. Right now, it’s hard for me to welcome visitors because I’m carrying my painball and two drains. I walk hunched over with the aid of a walker and I’m living my best life in pj’s. I’ve always been teased because I have monkey toes, but my prensile feet have aided me as I can’t bend down. And to not welcome someone into my home when I can’t make them a meal or even clean my house, is trying. It’s not that I don’t want to see loved ones but instead because I don’t want them to see me in this manner. I’m at the start of road to recovery and I can’t wait to write about what’s happening next…and down the road.

I know 2023 is going to be a big year with milestone celebrations, travel and quality time with loved ones. My first couple of projects are to complete the Fashion Design Management Certificate Program, loan looks for the Locker #505 Fashion Show in April and get back to work reviewing Paris Fashion Week production companies. My journeys are never straight lines, but it’s in those difficult paths and off road adventures that I learn so much about myself and the world around me. This journey continues to reveal to be open and to take advantage of every opportunity that is set forth.

“Life is not all moonlight and movies.” – Andre Fauvel “Why can’t it be? I’ve spent too long on my own, wishing my life away.” – Ada Harris

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

With light and love,
Dara Sophia

P.S. I can have coffee again after March 25th and a glass of wine after April 9th.


And you asked me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
‘Cause I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

Better Days, Goo Goo Dolls

It’s the first evening of 2021. I think everyone is nervous and even the atheists are praying that 2021 is a better year (and over the period of writing this blog, some absolutely horrific things have happened…all in the first week of the new year…yet I choose not to address it here). In years past, many of you reading this, including me, would be verbalizing and/or writing out (to keep ourselves accountable) our New Year’s resolutions. As much as I try to focus on the good, especially because I have a tendency to have bad luck and try not to get pulled into the dark side, 2020 was hard. So instead of resolutions, I am taking a different approach, I am reveling in what was revealed to me in the past year. My own epiphany of sorts.

After Project Runway Interview PC: Sofi J

I have had years where I had resolutions or maybe just goals, thought out with a plan of accountability to ensure completion. However, I have found when I go into the year with a growth mindset (and believe me there were those years that I had anything but…more depression and just not wanting to face the year), I find that I have revelations about myself and the world around me going into the next.

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

Better Days, Goo Goo Dolls

Hablas? Parles? Snakker Du?

I started on a language learning app almost immediately when I thought I was going back to Paris. I stuck to it, daily throughout 2020, even investing in watching French shows and movies (my favorite Netflix’s “The Hookup Plan” sitcom…which also includes an incredibly accurate, Parisian version, special episode dealing with the worldwide Stay At Home order). I have a number of French words floating in my mind that I hope come out in conversational form when I do return. I even continued with watching one of my favorite Netflix series “The Hookup Plan”. I even watched the Norwegian sitcom, “Hjem til Jul”, for the holidays to see what was similar to the English language (it’s a super feel good and fun watch even with subtitles–highly recommended).

However, I have found it is very much like the seven years of classroom learning, it doesn’t stick unless you have daily conversations with it. However, since my return to Macy’s, after furlough, in May. I have had many wonderful conversations with the team that works tirelessly to create a clean and safe atmosphere for the staff and customers. This team is primarily Spanish speaking with little English understanding and I am the opposite. Speaking in Spanglish and Google translate on occasion.

I try more and more every day even if I don’t sound proficient, at least I’m trying. On the daily we talk about business, how tired we are, the messes people make. One woman has blessed me with rosaries one for me and and one my gram. I’ve also written a letter of support for her to become a naturalized citizen. Another we talk about our background where we come from…for some reason she thought I came from China. I responded, “soy de Nuevo Mexicana y mi familia están de nortena Nuevo Mexico” (I didn’t say it was good…but I’m trying). What I learned is that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in conversation with someone who doesn’t understand your language because you will find a way to communicate, breakdown barriers and create understanding.

Because of the pandemic we have been isolated for the most part, utilizing technology and social media to connect with others, but I truly believe that connection is lost in translation. We have gone from listening and trying to understand where the other person is coming from to saying what we have to say and leaving it there, sometimes to the detriment of isolating and vilifying others.

I need some place simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And that’s faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child who saved this world
And there’s ten million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

Better Days, Goo Goo Dolls

Nothing is guaranteed

If we can say one thing for sure about 2020, the best laid plans were canceled, postponed or altered. Because of the virus, it was a year that reminded us how fragile life is. While I did my best to socially distance and create a healthy environment for me and those around me, I was reminded how much I need to relish moments. Cherish accomplishments, no matter how small.

I started 2020 with the idea of Sunday Supper. I asked a few dozen friends if they wanted to join me in supporting a local restaurant and their hosted bartender competition event. I hadn’t gone into the event thinking it was a “Sunday Supper” but as I looked across the table, I saw people from my childhood different parts of my work and community life but all whom I’ve loved and was happy that they could join me.

That Sunday night in January, I decided I would create a monthly Sunday Supper and send invites across the board, support a local restaurant, create conversation and connection with people who maybe had not met each other before. I was able to host one more large gathering before the Stay At Home order went into effect.

From March through June, those Sunday Suppers became smaller and because I lost track of the days they hit other days of the week and were primarily with one or two other people. When I didn’t have anyone join me, I tested recipes in cooking, baking and mixology (I had just renewed my server’s license so I could host events in my space at work, that was kind of a waste lol). I also happily delivered them to friends and family.

PC: Adolphe Pierre-Louis

Then I had a dream in late spring. I dreamt about a big table out in the field where I hosted and made dinner for those who had congregated with me. I decided I would host a dinner in by back yard. There would be a maximum of a dozen people two separate tables and I would make the meal. I became a uncomfortable hosting that size of group, because socially distancing would be fine outside but what if it got too hot (it was early July) or started to rain? So instead, I hosted two separate events. The first morning brunch with my minis and my brother and sister-in-law (and delivering the meal to my gram and aunt Lisa). The second, that evening with socially distanced tables in a private space at one of my favorite jaunts. It was an Italian themed meal where I once again connected people from different parts of my life. I sat back and enjoyed watching the conversations, smiles and laughter.

PC: Kate Duran, aka Kate the Photographer – photo in front of Broken Trail which sadly closed permanently in 2020, another reality of this pandemic

Seeing how the restaurant community was struggling with all the health orders that were particularly stringent upon them and also hearing about the uptick in numbers and new protocols put in place for the non-profits serving our neighbors experiencing food insecurity, I pulled together a group of chefs and non-profit leaders to create #EatOutToLiftUp. The plan was to host a community-wide event on the first Sunday that would have been during Balloon Fiesta. Each participating restaurant would offer a special menu for dine-in or take out and all the proceeds would benefit their partnered non-profit. But to ensure that the restaurants costs were covered, so all the proceeds from ticket sales would benefit the hungry, I had to reach out to my network and this concept in the middle of a pandemic when these businesses/organizations had already been in the trenches supporting the community during this time. It was hard work and at one point I didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off…but thankfully for Laurie at PNM, Maria supporting her brother’s work through Paz Fine Arts, Serena with Lovelace Health Systems, Michael with The Jennifer Riordan Foundation, Nathaniel with Sandia Labs Federal Credit Union, and my own Macy’s support team, they took a chance and incurred costs were covered with even additional sponsorship proceeds benefiting the non-profits further. To raise additional funds I asked friends and family members to purchase gift cards to their favorite local establishments for the raffle and over 100 meals were purchased that day from the participating restaurants….it was the biggest Sunday Super I could have imagined…and as Martin Luther King envisaged in his own time, people came together from diverse backgrounds to take action to address the needs of our community.

While it is so difficult for me to ask for help, what I learned was that people genuinely want to be involved in something that can create positive impact, they just need to be asked. For those of you reading this who participated as a sponsor, purchased gift cards and/or bought tickets to the event, I have overwhelming gratitude for you.

Life is fragile

So much loss has happened in 2020. I know many people who have lost someone to COVID and for that reason, the last time I was in close proximity to my gram was in February for my KK’s birthday. While I would do drive-by’s, run-by’s and video conversations, I miss her immensely. Luckily, there have been moments that I have been able to see loved ones but I think this has hit me the hardest. I also was reminded of the importance of enjoying every moment with loved ones and just how fragile life is.

In April, my beloved Kiki crossed the rainbow bridge. Honestly, it broke me. I was shattered because she was my spirit animal. Yet, I was tremendously grateful that I wasn’t working in her last days. The last month of her life she wasn’t mobile, so I would carry her and walk Chibi several times during the day so she’d get fresh air and “do her business”. Many afternoons, especially on warm spring days we would sit out on the golf course and I’d blow bubbles while rubbing her tummy and Chibi investigated our surroundings. My heart still aches and smiles when I see photos of her.

We lost some incredible human beings this year…it’s not different from any other year…as perfectly said in Black Panther, “everybody dies”. I think it hits us differently when it’s before their time or when we aren’t ready to let them go. I don’t know why the news of Chadwick Boseman’s death hit me so hard, but it did. I think it reminded me of the incredible trip me and my minis had to Cali in spring 2018 and how his talents were a small but impactful part of it. We had the most perfect day at Universal Studios. In the first time in years, I saw their youthfulness as we went from ride to ride without wait, filling the day hitting every single one (even the horrific The Walking Dead one) and to top it off we decided to see Black Panther at the AMC in the City Walk. Isaiah had us listen to the soundtrack on our road trip to Cali and so I was excited to see the blockbuster. I was enthralled by this movie and its star (and have honestly watched over a dozen times). In the days following his death, I remember reading about dispelled rumors saying he was addicted to drugs due to his appearance and because he was a private man, he didn’t openly let the world know that he was battling cancer. This cemented for me, that you never know what someone is going through…so never jump to conclusions and always be kind. Chadwick (link included to his graduation speech at Howard University 2018) was a bright star that was extinguished WAY TOO SOON.

In September, after a mysterious call and a conversation with my brother, I found out that my biological father had died. It was a range of emotions for me because I truly didn’t know how to respond to this news. I was angry. I was feeling guilty because I didn’t initially feel the grief that a daughter should feel for her father. I was sad. I was sad because I’m sure he was alone when he died and I truly believe no one deserves that. This is what addiction does. I finally found out a few months later that probable cause of death was an overdose. Addiction never goes away. It separates you from all you love and takes control of your life. You become a slave to it. However, I am glad that he has finally broken those chains from addiction and I pray that he has finally found peace.

As I write this blog, and recall all these memories, I am dealing with my beloved Chibi who is no longer choosing to eat or drink water. He slowly passes the casita in silence. I have spent the day, between tears, trying to get him in to see a vet and yet, COVID has played the trump card in the number of patients clinics can see. I am hoping this is just an ailment and he can recover because I don’t know if my heart can take another loss so soon. Updated: Chibi passed in his sleep sometime between the night of Friday, January 8 and the morning of Saturday, January 9, 2021. My hope is that he is reconnected and snuggling with his Kiki.

For everyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one this year, my heart goes out to you. May you be comforted by wonderful memories. Don’t take time spending with loved ones for granted. Don’t be afraid to tell and show them how you feel. Be kind because you never know what battles someone is dealing with.

Smiling is my favorite

There is no comparison to a smile. While you can kind of see it in your eyes or hear it in the inflection of your voice, a smile is the first thing you can see about a person from across the room and prior to 2020 mine would be painted in vibrant red with mouth of teeth gleaming…most of the time it was Chandler-esque. I miss having that accessory on display. I miss human touch. I started 2020 in the most incredible embrace. I continued the next month in NYC and back in ABQ dancing the night away and smiling all through. We all learned rather quickly that an embrace or being too close to someone could possibly be lethal. This was one of the hardest thing to learn this year. I am a hugger.

To help me from falling into that dark place. I did things to keep me in feeling good. I couldn’t go dancing with friends so incorporated belly dancing into my daily exercise routine. It was a nice balance between yoga, core, running and walking. I got outside more. I think I calculated over 40 miles walked on the bosque when I was on furlough.

My creative side moved toward culinary and mixology skills until I was was inspired to work with other artists and bam it was the injection I needed. I still have my moments, but I think all creatives do.

When I returned to Macy’s, I decided since I couldn’t wear a colorful lip I would instead focus on my clothing, many times being teased by being asked, “why am I so dressed up?” I am in the business that I am because I truly believe in the power clothing has on a person, in their comfort and in their confidence. Feeling comfortable is empowering and confidence helps you to take on the world.

“We don’t allow kids to reject hope. ‘Hope is the only thing that can allow children to heal and move forward.’ Heath Kull”

from The Ranches website

This feeling was exacerbated when I was asked to style youth from The Ranches. Just before Christmas, a dozen young men were surprised with a before hours VIP shopping event. They were to receive an outfit purchased by new and dear friends, who are board members of The Ranches. When they arrived, I greeted them with my partner for good, Lee. I gave them a small Macy’s bag. That bag included a small bottle of cologne, a coupon for a Starbucks drink and cookie, and a Believe bracelet. I informed them why they were there and I told them about their goodie bag but especially their Believe bracelet (the Macy’s Believe project has happened annually for 13 years and supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the proceeds from these bracelets benefits the org). The goodie bags were my gifts to them. I told them that there are many people that believe in them in this community.

The gratitude, the sparkle in their eyes and that confidence I saw that morning once we put together their outfit, made my heart full and I only cried, tears of joy and gratitude after they left. We had to postpone the young ladies visit due to a COVID outbreak, but I can’t wait to assist them. Sometimes I see what I do compared to others in this world and I think fashion and retail is shallow. Then I’m reminded that everyone has power to make a difference. Thank you Allen and Carla for inviting me to participate.

Pivot. Pivot. PIVOT!

I don’t know anyone who didn’t have to pivot in 2020…whether it was the sparkling-eyed bride and groom that were going to have the 2020 wedding, the individuals that were going to ROAR into 2020 or going into the year with 2020 vision. I too had the best laid plans. First, planning to make the jump into Project Runway after 5 years since my first application. Then in September, I was going to make my mark in the Paris Fashion Week. I also was coming up with a year under my belt at Macy’s and finally felt like I was going to do big things and then the world shut down.

As I look back, while I didn’t achieve those accomplishments, I did have some pretty stellar ones.

Harper’s Bazaar UK, September 2020

Hopeless + Cause Atelier’s designs were showcased in another world renowned fashion magazine.

2020 Businesswoman in Fashion Design and Retail – Albuquerque Journal

Customers and friends showed their support for Hopeless + Cause Atelier and my work with Macy’s. I was recognized by Albuquerque the Journal and I could talk about my gram again and her encouragement and help in my passion project.

While not traveling as much as I hoped to in 2020, I still was able to visit NYC during both seasons of Fashion Week (September of course was quite different). My BF took me to Santa Fe for my birthday and I was able to sneak away to our family ranch for some reprieve when I needed a reminder of the beauty in our own backyard.

PC: Erin Killion

I didn’t get to show in Paris, but the dream isn’t dead yet. I did show some fun and collaborative designs in an outdoor runway here during the #EatOutToLiftUpEvent.

When I was brought back from furlough I was immediately brought into virtual sales training. I started the year with my primary goals focusing on return business, wedding registries and community events, all with high level engagement. I had to learn new business and pivot from being an one-on-one, in-person engagement stylist/shopper to a virtual one. While the universe challenged me, many of my appointments and meetings were via Facetime/zoom or on the phone (and those of you who know me know how much I love this type of interaction). However, my wonderful community supported me while I supported them.

My dear friend, Roberta, pulled me in to support her work at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation’s annual Maravilla fundraiser. It took a virtual look this year and I have to say, the team hit it out of park. And as NM ALWAYS proves, it is only two-degrees of separation. I was once again connected with the most incredible people and as I talked with new friends, I learned we actually had a long, rich history.

Friends from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and KRQE’s NM Living also helped me during this crazy time. Inviting me to join in on a Zoom appearance and submit a video talking about my work, respectively. It totally took me out of my comfort zone because this was live or something I had to review before submitting and because I fixate on my mannerisms and seeing myself on the screen…it was a daunting task for me, so much so that I actually joked on my NM Living outtakes that is was my 561st take.

Cafecito con Colon Hispanic Creatives and Retail

Then I was happy to be reconnected with a friend through a mutual friend, just days before the Christmas holiday. I was asked by Jennifer, to participate on Facebook live event talking about fashion, entrepreneurship, and personal styling for Cafecito con Colon with Brian Colon. I always say I can talk fashion all day long. I did for approximately an hour in this segment.

I wasn’t able to host many big, in-store events, but that doesn’t mean as a local division of America’s department store, we weren’t able to have positive impact on the community. With donations, grants, or change round ups supporting: Barrett Foundation, Roadrunner Food Bank, Girl’s Inc, Make-A-Wish Locker 505, the National Hispanic Cultural Foundation, Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women, United Way of Central NM’s Mission: Families and drives or personal volunteerism support of Casa Esperanza, United Way of CNM’s Women United, Beds 4 Kidz, The Ranches, and YDI/Job Corps Headstart (to name a few), my biggest pet peeve is to hear and read posts to only support local businesses. Both small and large, and for and not-for-profit are vital to having healthy communities. I have worked in all areas so I know the importance of working together to better all.

This year taught me that sometimes you have wander uncharted territories and do things that take you out of your comfort zone (every time I think I’ve gone further outside, the universe reminds me that nope, I still have growing to do). And even when you think you may not have accomplished much, take time to revel in the fact that no accomplishment is too small.

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

Better Days, Goo Goo Dolls
PC via IG: @ahtlaqdmm
Bonne année à tous! Plus que jamais, je vous souhaite d’être en bonne santé et heureux!

My wish for you going into 2021 is health, happiness and prosperity. Be kind: to yourself and to others. Dream. And, commit to making those dreams into reality. Revel in the smallest accomplishments (with bubbles and and dancing).

Click to watch all the memories and moments from 2020 ♥️

Don’t take anything for granted. Life is finite. The only regrets you should have are the things YOU DID DO not the things you didn’t do. Revel! Dance! Drink the elixir of life. I can’t wait for the day to smile in your presence and give you the biggest hug. Let’s make this world a better place.

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

Better Days, Goo Goo Dolls,

With light and love,
Dara Sophia

True Love and Following Dreams in the Time of Coronavirus

It’s crazy how the world has turned upside down and inside out since I returned from NYC. A month ago, I wasn’t worried about traveling and Coronavirus was barely talked about. Now, there is world-wide panic, countries are quarantining their residents and people are stockpiling toilet paper and disinfectant. In fact, I was supposed to be traveling to Dallas this week for a conference but it’s been postponed with part of it happening virtually.

Life at home has taken a toll as well. You may or may not know I have two small pups: a pug-chihuahua mix and queen, Kiki, and a long hair dachshund of pure joy, Chibi. They are in their latter years, 14 and 13, respectively. Before I left to NYC, I asked KK to stay with them because Kiki, especially, has been feeling the effects of old age. Partially blind and with nervous system issues, she had been having problems walking. Since I’ve returned, she’s become completely immobile. I’ve only slept in my bed a handful of times the past month and a full-night, uninterrupted sleep, less than that. I have opted to sleep on the couch with a make shift bed for her right underneath me. Chibi usually joins us and typically right on top of her. She seems to know when I have important days scheduled the next day and makes sure I’m only functioning on 3 or if I’m lucky, 4 hours of sleep (the days I’m off she tends to give me a full 6 hours only waking up two or three times).

She also has major anxiety if she can’t hear or see me. For example, right now I’m sitting on my cheetah chair typing this with her at my feet (or in my lap) with my music playlist going. She vocalizes this anxiety and it isn’t a quiet yelp. She makes sure everyone including the neighbors know that she’s displeased I’m not with her. I no longer go to the bathroom, take a shower or make dinner in peace. I do yoga with her make shift bed next to me. I have found that the only other things that appease her are her CBD treats and putting on PBS in her bedroom when I leave for work. We go for walks almost every morning (except those night’s I didn’t get sleep and have an early appointment). She rests in my arms and I squat on the side of the road when I feel her hips open to relieve herself. Chibi is just happy to explore and I smile that I have these moments with them. It is the purest form of love and I try not to think about the day I won’t have these moments with them, but I also know that I don’t want her to live in pain so that moment that I can no longer comfort her easily…well, we won’t think about that. You do what you need to for who and what you love, right?

Because of this self-absorption, and honestly because I don’t watch the news, I haven’t been completely up-to-date on global events. I thought this virus was so far away from me. I had finally set aside time to focus on Hopeless + Cause Atelier again and started sketching and while Paris Fashion Week is 7 months away, I knew it would be here sooner than expected. Then this week, something extraordinary happened.

Those who have been following my design story from the beginning know that I was encouraged to apply to Project Runway five years ago…and I did. I had this professional and beautiful video created. There were so many people excited by it…almost as much as I was.

Here is the interview about it and other things happening at the time.

I didn’t have a lot of experience under my belt, but I had gumption. I didn’t make it past the application phase. I tried a few more times. But honestly, didn’t think I had the drama that the show seemed to warrant, so I focused on the things I could accomplish…NYFW, London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week.

As I’ve said before, I love to create. And if my creations give me the opportunity to travel the world and write about it, then I have lived a full life. I would love and not pass up the opportunity to have a world renowned brand, but I really want to create for those individuals that value what I have to offer. I also want to create in a sustainable way and we all know how the fashion industry adds to the environment and not always in a positive way. Hopeless + Cause Atelier is my passion project and if you don’t know the origins, here is the LINK to find out the story behind it.

Tuesday, I was walking the floor at work and happened to check my email. I had a message from casting with Project Runway. The woman said she found my brand and loved my work. She asked if I’d like to learn more. I went over to my Instagram account and found messages there as well. I knew this wasn’t a fluke so I responded saying I’d be on my lunch for the next half hour and I would love to talk to her if she had the time. I gave her my number, within minutes she was calling. We spent the next 15-20 minutes on the phone. She asked me about my design story, my aesthetic and other bits about me. I mentioned to her that I had applied before but didn’t feel like I brought the drama. She laughed and said, I had the personality for the show. She gave me instructions to submit my video and look book that evening. She then asked what the closest city would be for me if I made it on to the interview portion. I bluntly replied, “New York”. Confused by this answer and proximity to where I live, she asked about New York restating that I was from New Mexico. I told her I could get there via red-eye and for less than many of the other cities they were interviewing in. She pushed Austin and I finally, begrudgingly obliged. LOL.

That day was filled with meetings, clients and after work planning sessions. The first meeting after work, I met with two incredible chefs, Tristan and Bryan, my fabulous, event planner extraordinaire, George and right hand for Macy’s events, Lee. Sofi showed up early for our Paris Fashion Week discussion and joined in the conversation. This meeting was to plan an awesome event raising funds for hunger issues utilizing Macy’s products and support and tapping into the talents of our local culinary geniuses. Within the hour, we had the chefs in place, judges, venue and theme, 86ing Hunger. I love people that aren’t just idea people but also get shit done. Sofi, Lee and I continued our conversation into Paris Fashion Week and again the Coronavirus came into question. I reinstated that no matter what happens, if the airlines are flying and the production company is hosting, I will be showing my work in September. I had also shared what had happened earlier in the day. Although, Lee had witnessed my conversation and the smile on my face throughout that phone discussion. I had asked Sofi if she would take the video for that portion of the application. The casting director told me not to spend money on having a professional video done…that an iPhone video of me and my personality and some of my work would suffice. By the end of the conversation, and because it was a Tuesday night, I told her not to worry about it.

I got home and decided there wouldn’t be a better time than now to do the video. I went into my dinning room, aka Atelier, and started filming with my iPhone….and of course, Kiki started whining in the back ground. Because I didn’t want my video to sound like I was beating babies in the background, I moved her to my bathroom just for the video. I had originally tried holding her and holding my phone to video, but I couldn’t do both. After take twenty-nine, I finally got a few segments to work with. Exhausted I went to bed, thinking I’d get up early to edit the video and finish my look book.

That didn’t happen. Kiki had a rough night and that meant me too. I had three hours of sleep, a radio interview for a prom event I’m co-hosting with Locker #505 and Macy’s district VP visiting. Project Runway would have to be put aside until my next day off, Thursday.

Refreshed the next morning, I got to work on editing the video, creating my look book and completing the application. There was so much thought put into the images for the look book. It made me contemplate where I’ve been, where I’m at, and the possibilities of where I can go. Yes, I am a fashion designer (and as someone once told me to quiet that mind fuck called impostor syndrome, “Fuck yeah, I’m a fashion icon bitches.” STILL HARD FOR ME TO REPEAT). Yet, I am humbled because I KNOW I could not have accomplished what I have all on my own. I need the models, beauty teams, photographers, event producers, right hand production managers, but most importantly patrons, to bring my creations to life…to breathe individuality, beauty, empowerment and to live a dream into reality. And that was heavy…but in a powerfully good way!

I went on to complete the application. It was different this time around. No questions were found asking about restraining orders. The question about what those closest to you would say is your best and worst quality was found again (I’m interested to learn what you think…you can comment below). I completed the entire package within two hours and sent the casting director the link for my video and the look book.

Here’s the super dorky video.

Here’s the look book…

PC: Terrance Clifford
Models: Kristen Olguin, Rhea McKay, Cassandra Rochelle Fetters, Renaya Justine, Sofia Lou
Beauty Team: Lydia Doudnik White, Amanda Serafin, Kim Romero — at Downtown Albuquerque.
London Fashion Week:
Models: Hui Ying, Leticia J, Carolina Perez, Aleksandra Baranova, Isioma, Christina Hiemeyer, Proscovia, Abbi Haynes — in London, United Kingdom.
Published: ELEGANT Magazine
Creative director // makeup // model: Elise Marie LeckPhoto: Kyle Devlin
Gown: Hopeless + Cause Atelier
Jewelry: ENVE Designs
Hair: Combs n Contour
Location: Kansas City, MO

Published: WeWork Creator Magazine
PC: Katelyn Perry
Model: Cati Ambriz
Location: Bryant Park, NYC

Published: Conceptual Magazine
PC: Lauren Shipman
Model: Addy Nicole
Hairstylist: Joshua Halladay
MUA: Francine When
Flower Crown: Miri boheme
Location: Albuquerque Bosque

Headshot PC: Erin Killion Photography
PC: Erin Killion Photography
Models: Sofia Lou, Kristen Olguin
Beauty: Mark Pardo SalonSpaLydia Doudnik White, Amanda Serafin, Yvoneé Gonzales — at Scalo’s Bar.

I had been posting the turn of events on social media with wonderful support. I went out to Facebook and a memory from 5 years ago appeared. It was the first time I had applied.

I shared the memory and added, “Wow, this memory just popped up…5 years ago today, I applied to Project Runway for the first time. It wasn’t under Hopeless + Cause Atelier. I almost gave up on this dream only a few months later until my 💜 wouldn’t let me quit. Since then, I’ve accomplished more than I could have ever dreamed. I’ve stumbled. I’ve gotten my ass kicked more than once. But, I’ve also achieved new heights and now, I’m soaring because I’ve followed my deep pigeon red, lopsided heart. ♥️ Who knew?!?” It was now in the casting team’s hands.

I went on to contacting clients, planning events and enjoying life. Friday came and as I went to take the pups for their morning walk, I dropped my phone. Completely cracked, I couldn’t use it. Grrr! I returned to work to find out that my much anticipated trip to Dallas to learn more tips for succeeding in my role and seeing all my incredible colleagues, was postponed due to the Coronavirus. What the heck?!? Was someone going to come in and kick me in the shins next. That morning, I talked with a model friend about an event she is producing and wanted to know if I would outfit DV survivors. Honored, I jumped at the opportunity. I ran over to the phone “fix it” store in the mall. Ran back and met with one of my favorite couples in getting some items they needed. I went on and worked on other appointments when again that afternoon I was stopped in my tracks.

I received notification that I was moving on to the next round. I tried not to scream as I was suiting a gentleman for Kentucky Derby. While he was in the fitting room, I sent a text to those closest to me. Then at the register, I blurted it out to this complete stranger. He thought it was incredible…I just couldn’t help it. I posted later that evening…

PC: Kate Rodriguez Duran
Hair: Ignacio Ortega
MUA: Angelique Taylor
Models in shot: Brook Benham, Smitha Giano Addy Nicole
Jewelry: MINU Jewels
Graphic Design on Hera dress: Meri C Fox-Szauter
Location: Downtown Contemporary Gallery
#hopelesscauseatelier – first show November 5, 2015

“I had no idea where I’d be in 5 years but I had a dream, the work ethic and the tenacity to believe I deserve it. I’M MOVING ON TO THE NEXT ROUND #projectrunway. Thank you for all the love and belief. Keep the positive energy coming please. There’s still a long way to go. More to come!! 😘”

I am moving on to the next round and it’s almost unbelievable. I’ve learned to so appreciate those who support me and tune out those that I thought would, yet are silent in moments like this. I’ve started the planning process and have found that I have an incredible leg up with one of my favorite models nearby and available to showcase my work (plus recruiting others). I can’t share the inner dealings of the process, but I will be journaling my adventures and will share more soon. I just REALLY hope the Coronavirus doesn’t ground flights. And since my pug is sleeping, I think I’m going to take a nap.

Thank YOU for the love and support…and if it’s not too much to ask, please keep sending those prayers, love, support and good juju. It helps immensely.

With light and love,

Dara Sophia Romero


My all-time favorite place to work in NYC, The Hudson Commons

Yesterday, I ran to a local fabric store looking for last minute embellishments for a dress I’m working on. Going through the rows and rows of material, nothing spoke to me. Even as I sit in front of my computer, I am at a loss of words. I am not feeling inspired and it is the worst feeling. I know why; I am lacking miles.

While I have not become an international traveler just yet, I have been fortunate enough to travel out of state at least once a quarter. In fact, last year because of my work obligations, my yearning to see friends and spend quality time with my kids, I clocked 28,722 miles, visited 8 states and the District of Columbia. I provided a glimpse as a tour guide to friends and family members who hadn’t visited some of my favorite places. I worked on a mountain top and near the coast line. I had one-on-one time with each of my kiddos (I decided for their birthdays that they would receive gifts of experiences and memories, not material items). I witnessed their grins from ear-to-ear as they were able to enjoy their passions of musical theater and outdoor art and beauty. We, the three amigos, traveled a trifecta of times together as a pack, and they were able to sit front row for one of my shows on a hotel rooftop on a beautiful, CLEAR afternoon in San Francisco and got to experience the magic of NYC during the Christmas season. I was able to take them along because of the gifts I received throughout the year and the points I had accumulated.

A travel must…fresh flowers from local markets like these peonies from Seattle’s Pike Market.

My daughter taught me that I should ALWAYS book a hotel room with a freestanding tub and fill it with flowers and local bath products because that, in itself, is a vacation even when it is a work trip.

Taking Reservations for NYFW SS19 and AW19 seasons. Inquire within. 🙂

Nothing makes me smile more than giving someone a glimpse of my New York and definitely, love when I get to show my travel companions Fashion Week.

But the best thing about traveling is immersing yourself into the location. Do you ever travel and just people watch? I do this ALL THE TIME. Either sitting at a café, patio or walking around the city with my earbuds in and shades on. I love hearing the languages swirling around my head and seeing the street fashion (it’s just as incredible in Denver as it is in NYC). And when I don’t have the budget to travel afar, I travel to my little piece of Europe–Santa Fe, NM. I sit on the patio at Mangiamo Pronto, with my Prosecco and Caprese Salad and watch what is happening around me.

Why do I love to travel? It opens up a world of possibilities in my creativity. It gives me sanity and it reminds me of the freedom I have to explore new places. I actually enjoy the open road more than traveling by plane when I can. My reason: I get to explore hidden places along the way, see the beauty of the landscape and skylines, listen to my favorite music while playing Carpool Karaoke AND if I am the passenger, dance in my seat (well sometimes, when I’m driving solo on a long stretch of highway I dance in the driver seat). Once I reach my destination I try to take advantage of what my destination has to offer: cuisine, art, outdoors, music, sports and relaxation.

Air travel is not glamorous in my mind. Gone are the days of dressing up and the customer experience; it’s more like a cattle round up (I’ll let you know if that changes when I get my own private jet). I have to be careful what I pack, plan on being at the airport two hours early (I don’t like running to the gate…I missed more than one flight because back up at security). In certain airports, I need to be prepared that once I do pass through security, that the gate will change and I’ll have to run through the airport to the right gate like Home Alone, or even better, my flight will be delayed and my original arrival time of 8:00pm becomes midnight (or more like the red-eye pushed out an additional hour and a half on the day before your fashion show).

Traveling, I only stop at exits
Wondering if I’ll stay (stay)
Young and restless
Living this way, I stress less – Nelly Furtado

Travel is not without it’s pitfalls. As I mentioned missed flights and delays, I’ve also dealt with lost luggage, getting lost in general, and if you read, I Scream. You Scream., sometimes it doesn’t start off on the right foot. One time, I actually forgot my purse at home on a west coast road trip. I didn’t realize it until we reached Gallup, NM and went to pay for something. Thank God it was my birthday (my actual birthday), so my wish that year was that no one could be mad at me when we had to turn around to get it (it added 3 hours to our first destination, Las Vegas, NV, and became comedic story later).

So when I saw the AirBNB commercial in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban on certain countries’ citizens traveling to the United States, it made me realize how important it is to us, as human beings, to travel to different places. We learn about cultures through the experience of sights, sounds, touch, taste and feels. We learn to appreciate differences and similarities that we all have. Our country from the very beginning was made up of explorers: from the first citizens who crossed over the Bearing Strait to the Europeans conquerors. I can’t believe we aren’t welcoming ALL just because a select few have done harm. If that was the case, I’m surprised we, as Americans, haven’t been banned from traveling to most foreign countries because of the current administration’s isolationist and divisive attitudes, and the treatment of migrant families seeking asylum.

From my view at NYU’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Festival to Urban Chicness in Nob Hill (ABQ photo via Erin Killion Photography)

My design has been influenced by the places I’ve visited. The colors, the access to fabric and materials, the sights and structures all play a role and that influence is from traveling stateside. Sometimes my photos are even printed on the materials I use.

And here I am today, again feeling the need, no, the intense craving to travel. I went into 2018, visiting NYC once again for fashion week and again being able to see NYC for the first time through the eyes of one of my best friends, Laura. A month later, I was playing at Universal Studios with my kids and enjoying the sound of the ocean. I layered this leisure with work in the LA garment district.

I went into the year planning to show for the first time internationally with an invitation to London Fashion Week, immediately contacting the BG to get to work on teaching me French because I was definitely going to cross the Chunnel into Paris for a spell.

And then life happened, as it normally does, my contract ended. The lack of income stability, car problems and other unexpected expenses zapped my bank account. Fortunately, the start of a new position is helping me get back on track and catch up on outstanding bills from a few months of being unemployed. However with the start of a any new role, no available paid time off yet, and the lack of seniority to ask for time off, I had to rethink how to fill this wanderlust. I’ve considered a weekend road trip–going to Scottsdale, but as hot as it’s been here, I opted to not spend time on the surface of the sun in July. I was also invited to go to Denver and nearly hit the road a few weeks ago but the stars didn’t align, so instead for the moment, I’ve been living vicariously through friends and family that have been sharing their domestic and international travel photos or even better yet, sending me post cards (P.S. I love receiving them! You can send them to me at PO Box 65035, ABQ, NM 87193 with the simple note…”wish you were here”). I love those photos more when they include a little Hopeless + Cause Atelier.

A family trip to the Badlands of North Dakota and Mount Rushmore included a H+CA tee (and a special young man who celebrates his birthday also on July 5th…happy birthday month A!)

I’m about half way through my birthday month, and who knows. I may hit the road to go hiking on my mountain or head out of state for a little escapade. Maybe I’ll just take the train to Santa Fe and play tourist in my favorite American-European town. I will get back in my travel grove soon enough and get that injection of inspiration (even blogging about it NOW has got my mind churning and I realized the dress I’m completing is traveling to Egypt). Until then, I keep this close to me:

I LOVE this but don’t know who to credit.

With light and love and a touch of wanderlust, and wondering, where are you traveling to?

Dara Sophia