By Deyanira Martinez
Her passion for fashion goes all the way back to the village of La Piedra in the town of Cotuí, Dominican Republic, where, surrounded by old dolls and fabric scraps, Cenia Paredes embarked on what would be a great career in design.
Cenia Paredes, the eldest daughter of the only seamstress in her hometown, grew up sketching dress designs for her mother’s clients who preferred to order the drawings of a 9-year-old girl than designs from fashion magazines. Since then, Cenia knew what she wanted to be in life: a fashion designer like Oscar de la Renta, as her aunt would predict on a family visit.
With the certainty that everything is possible and that the most unlikely dreams can come true, Paredes registered at a local community college, and then at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) when she arrived at the United States at the age of 20.
She refused to listen to the naysayers who said it was almost impossible for a Latina woman to launch her own clothing line. Paredes worked incessantly during the day at a design company and spent nights and weekends creating what would be her own collection.
When she learned that Macy’s was sponsoring a program for women and minorities in fashion, she immediately applied and was selected from more than 900 participants to create a clothing line for the famous retailer.
Cenia recognized that designers always used the same measurements when creating and that there was a gap in the industry, so she conceived Cenia Fit, a design with more room in the hip area and less in the bust area, which solves the problem of women with curves.
Today, Cenia Paredes’ designs are sold around the world, her collection is available in HSN, The Home Shopping Network, and celebrities wear her designs. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wife and his mother wear Paredes’ designs too!
The story of this amazing Dominican woman is an example of determination, an example of a woman who dreams big and takes action to make her dreams come true.
LT: How are Dominicans in NY different from Dominicans on the island?
CP: The United States offers more opportunities and, when you achieve success, you do it globally. This country is a great platform to excel. I come from a poor family and did not know if in the Dominican Republic I could have the same opportunities. When you come from such humble beginnings as I did, you appreciate more the opportunities and want to improve in any way possible. “I am concerned that, in some cases on the island, there is a lack of values that is affecting society and that many young people are not focusing on education”.
LT: What are Dominicans’ greatest attributes?
CP: Our joy.
LT: Are you connected to the island and, if so, how do you maintain that connection?
CP:I travel once a year and I have many relatives there. I grew up there. That’s something that I have deeply rooted, and my Dominican essence will not change regardless of how long I’ve been out of the country. The love I have for my country is immense.