Meet Local Fashion Designer Maria del Carmen Mercado

Mercado is currently preparing for her big fashion show on Aug. 25 for her latest collection, Golden Beauty.

Maria Del Carmen Mercado’s latest designs.

Dominican Republic-born fashion designer Maria del Carmen Mercado has been making clothes since she was just a little girl. She would sew clothes for her and her friends’ dolls (in exchange for a lollipop), and because she was so petite, she would also make her own clothes in high school. When she graduated high school, she earned a scholarship to attend the pre-college program at the Rhode Island School of Design for the summer. During that summer, she put together a portfolio and continued onto the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, New York, where she majored in fashion design. In addition to attending FIT, she pursued her liberal arts degree at the Community College of Rhode Island. Now, as an adult, she’s a professional designer.

Mercado is currently preparing for her next big fashion show on Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. at Emmanuel Christian Church in Pawtucket for her latest collection, “Golden Beauty,” which was inspired by her recent trip to Kenya.

“It is inspired by African women and Afro-Latino women and how we do everything out of passion, out of need, and how we control [situations],” says Mercado. She also describes how her experience on her trip related to her own culture.

She worked with photographers Edwin Torres and Denis Dolgopolov to, literally, paint the models in gold and make her jewelry, clothing and scarves stand out. These photographers, she says, give her looks a “romantic” vibe and they just “get it” and “make it work,” no matter what piece of jewelry or clothing they are shooting.

Maria Del Carmen Mercado’s designs.

Mercado is known as a “fiber artist.” What does that mean? When she was at CCRI, she took part in an art course that involves dyeing fabric. Put simply, she combined both of her degrees in liberal arts and fashion design, and learned how to hand-dye all of her fabrics.

This particular collection that she’ll be showcasing in the August fashion show is the first that will display other textiles. All of the scarves are hand-dyed and sewed by Mercado. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it, because every piece is different,” Mercado says.

“I try to make sure that each collection – each piece – has a strong message. It comes from inspiration that is important to me,” she says. “This collection that’s coming up is especially important to me because it’s inspired by my trip; it’s inspired by a group of people that I really loved that treated me [like I was part of their culture]. It’s a tribute to a group of people, a specific tribe in a specific family in a specific country. And it’s a culture that’s very similar to my own in so many ways.”


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