Slow Fashion

An interview with haute couture designer Patricia Samaniego.

By Leslie A. Westbrook

Photo by T Christian Gapen

Patricia Samaniego works on a sequined gown with hand-sewn ostrich feathers in her Newbury Park studio. Her bell-sleeve cocktail dress is also of her own design, and features a landscape of sparkling stones sewn by hand onto the fabric.


atricia Samaniego is a haute couture designer specializing in custom evening and bridal wear. She’s currently creating her first made-to-order collection, working from her home-based studio in Newbury Park, where she personally designs and creates each individual piece. She also mentors aspiring designers in her Haute Fashion Studio. 

When did you first know you wanted to be a fashion designer?

I started sewing as a young child. By the time I was in middle school, I definitely knew I wanted to pursue a career in fashion. As a preteen, I collected fashion catalogs that arrived in the mail and I would spend hours sketching in my bedroom. As an introverted child, this was a great way to tap into my creative side that developed into a passion.

I started my fashion career making costumes in the wardrobe department on the Las Vegas strip. After that, I worked with a couture designer in London making dresses for the British royal family. My experience in London inspired me to pursue a career in designing and fabricating custom and made-to-order couture gowns. 

Who were your early influences and fashion heroes?

Hollywood actresses from the Golden Era of cinema such as Carole Lombard and Marlene Dietrich, who were the epitome of Hollywood glamour, inspired me. Costume designers Adrian and Edith Head dominated the film industry and knew how to bring glamour to the big screen, while ensuring the costumes were relevant to the story. I had a roommate in design school (the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City) that was a Turner Classic Movies fanatic! She’d always have the TV on in the background and that was my introduction to black-and-white, classic films. I was also influenced by Princess Diana’s beauty and style. I loved watching her fashion style evolve over the years. I’m now seeing the same elegance and class with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. 

Who do you admire and follow now?

Throughout my teens and early years as a young designer, I admired fashion designers such as Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix and James Galanos for their glamorous and feminine designs. I also admire Bob Mackie’s work. I used to watch The Carol Burnett Show as a kid and couldn’t wait to see the costumes. One of my favorites was the curtain dress from Burnett’s Gone With the Wind parody, “Went With the Wind.” A broke Starlet O’Hara (Burnett) tears the curtains off Tara’s windows to create a dress, but instead of emerging in the film’s iconic green velvet grown, she descends the stairs wearing the curtains intact — complete with a curtain rod thrown over her shoulders. It’s such a funny and iconic scene! 

Designers I currently admire and follow are Ellie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Ralph & Russo. The luxurious fabrics they use and couture details are breathtaking. 

Why one-of-a-kind couture and what makes couture different?

Creating one-of-kind pieces gives me the creative freedom to cater to a client’s specific needs. Couture is different than ready-to-wear because it’s 100 percent customized. We go over every detail, making changes if necessary. I get to experiment and have fun with my clients. You can’t get that level of service when buying off the rack. Couture pieces do take more time to make, but quality is worth the wait. There’s something about slow fashion that makes it extra-special and valuable to the wearer. 

How long you have been designing?

I have been designing for over 15 years in my studio and keeping up with the fast-paced fashion world, with hiatuses due to family responsibilities and life just happening. My expertise is in couture eveningwear. I’m currently designing a made-to-order collection that has been a labor of love. Some of the pieces have intricate work such as feathers, sequins and crystals. One of my gowns from the collection was seen on the red carpet at the La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival. 

Who is your typical customer?

My typical customer can range from a bride to a woman who will be walking the red carpet, attending a gala or going to a white- or black-tie event. 

Who is your favorite customer?

My favorite customer is a woman who surrenders control and allows me to design something beautiful and personalized for her. 

The materials and fabrics you use are lush — net, sequins, pearls, etc. 

I have always had a fascination with fabrics and trims that sparkle. I have a deep appreciation for hand applications, embroidery work and intricate beading. It’s a level of work that requires patience and skill. A couture client appreciates this type of work because it’s what makes a garment unique and personalized for her. 

If budget were no object, what would your dream/fantasy dress be? 

I would love to partner with Swarovski and create a one-of-a-kind red carpet gown dripping in crystals for an “A list” Hollywood celebrity. 

Dream client?

If I had one wish to pick anyone in the world to dress it would be Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. I’d love to dress her someday, if she’d ever consider wearing an American designer. Now that Prince Harry is engaged to Meghan Markle, I’ll be carefully watching Meghan’s style transformation. I’d really like to see her support American designers. 

Describe your “typical” day — if you have one!

My day-to-day routine changes depending on what I’m working on. Sometimes I can spend hours embellishing a gown or working on patterns for a new dress. I could be attending textile shows or going to L.A.’s Fashion District. When I’m not working in my studio, you’ll find me juggling motherhood and teaching aspiring designers. 

Tell me about Haute Fashion Studio and your lessons for aspiring designers.

I started Haute Fashion Studio after discovering that many aspiring fashion designers with a secret passion were afraid to switch careers. They needed guidance in getting started and I’d been in their shoes as a young designer. I didn’t have the support or the know-how when I began my career. I didn’t have opportunities handed to me, or the connections to navigate the design world, and made many mistakes along the way.

Haute Fashion Studio offers a helping hand and encouragement to aspiring designers so they can move forward with their design dreams! Some clients have left a steady paycheck and need a creative outlet. I work with clients one on one, providing tons of encouragement and information that’s often glossed over in design schools. I’ve had some talented and interesting clients, including a rock star’s wife and the daughter of a Hollywood music composer. Many of my students have been accepted into some of the most challenging design schools around the world, including Central Saint Martins in London and Parsons School of Design in New York. It’s pretty amazing to see how these students start with a dream, to then seeing them create their own opportunities utilizing their design skills.  

PATRICIA SAMANIEGO: Couture Evening Wear
HAUTE FASHION STUDIO: Fashion Design & Sewing Education for Aspiring Designers

Samaniego has a special love for feathers, sequins, beads and crystals – anything that adds a little sparkle to her one-of-a-kind gowns. “I have a deep appreciation for hand applications, embroidery work and intricate beading,” she says. “It’s a level of work that requires patience and skill.”



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