This 9-To-5 Assistant Designer Is Building His Own Fashion Line, Too.
Luis Peralta tells us how he keeps the inspiration flowing for his full-time gig while simultaneously working towards the launch of his own brand.
Photography by Andrés Rodríguez von Rabenau.
My Secret Job is a column that features individuals who skillfully clock into their day-to-day jobs while juggling their secret or not-so-secret endeavors.
From an early age, Luis Peralta displayed a knack for fashion and design. As a child in his native Dominican Republic, he got his first hands-on experience with designing, cutting, and sewing while accompanying his mother to the evening fashion design course she taught at a local trade school.
Peralta ultimately found himself attending fashion design schools and graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where his post-grad designs have graced brands like Elizabeth and James and Nili Lotan.
In addition to his full-time job as an assistant designer and managing domestic apparel production, he devotes his time to his namesake brand, Peralta. Infusing inspiration from his cultural upbringing and utilizing eco-friendly practices with recycled materials, he crafts wearable art pieces with captivating narratives.
Shanna: What does your 9 to 5 look and sound like?
Luis: My 9 to 5 is working as an assistant designer and domestic apparel production manager for a women’s wear brand, which means working with [various] factories based in New York to produce for the brand. Basically, the process of what happens after the designs are sold, like how you’re going to produce it, down to the nitty-gritty of like materials, negotiating [with] factories, who’s going to make sampling. 9 to 5 involves both assisting with design and literally following up with vendors all day.
Shanna: What’s your secret or not-so-secret job?
Luis: On the side of running the production for another brand, my brand Peralta [originated in 2020] is in a baby stage where I'm also working on it, but in not such a grand stage. I just did a show for last year which was really fun, just experiencing what I want to see the brand look like, like testing the waters and just having fun. This point in my life, I wasn't involved with [any] school or educational system, so I was able to go my own path on what my designs can look like, not have an opinion or critique all the time, so that's why I say the brand started in the worst-best year of 2020.
Shanna: Between running your namesake brand and working full-time for another brand, how do you balance the two?
Luis: I mean, I’m always working. And I find myself, even in a relaxing moment, catching myself thinking about work. Now that there’s great weather, biking– setting time to experience the weather and the outdoors, as geeky as it sounds, helps a lot with processing thoughts. Also, tapping into other creative things that might not relate to fashion, like making a seashell night lamp [for himself]. I’m still [inadvertently] building my brand image through that escape.
Shanna: An unexpected work situation that seemed like a setback at first but turned out to be a blessing in disguise?
Luis: The last production job I was at for six years, I quit right as I was going to get a promotion–but I had to be more honest with myself about where I wanted to go and the things I wanted to see and feel. I was at a point where the brand went from [a stage of] medium to very high demand, and seeing that growth was important. I found responsibility to that, but once I channeled into leaving, so many [positive] things started happening. I got a studio, I was able to sell custom orders; I really dove in deep, went broke, and had fun. I used my savings and gave myself some time. I would do things on the side within the industry, like commercial styling. We should allow ourselves to go through those changes. I always say [jobs] it's like high school; if you're there past five years, you should've been graduated. Two doors down, it could be better.
Shanna: An unexpected creative situation that seemed like a setback at first but turned out to be a blessing in disguise?
Luis: It happens a lot when you doubt yourself about something that is not your norm. At that last minute, I trust myself. Sometimes it's funny, because people gravitate to those [doubted] pieces way more than something I've been thinking and sketching for a month. Design doubt comes in and out, but sometimes just fucking doing it is all that's needed.
Shanna: Crucial advice you would give to any aspiring designers or creative entrepreneurs:
Luis: Don't think you have to do everything, don't think you have to please everybody, and [realize] that everyone is trying to sell you something. Think beyond that. Build brand integrity where the customer who is purchasing your pieces also starts to feel it. Know more in-depth what you're doing, and be patient. Think of your world and try to have a strong brand image.
Shanna: A specific piece that you designed and had the thought, 'I did that!' What's the story behind creating that piece?
Luis: A friend called me in to help embroider and embellish this [Karl Lagerfeld] look for Alton Mason for the most recent Met Gala. At the time, I was coming in as a sewing hand, but when I saw the elaborate process of the fittings and my opinions being brought up, it felt like a couturier house. It was more like, ‘We did that.’ That’s been one of my proudest moments. I said yes that weekend and was there every day for 14-16 hours. We were all hand beading, cutting out bridal lace, and placing it everywhere. Last minute I was in a cab, literally making a lace flower bouquet while we were stuck in traffic on Park Ave. The fact that I was in that room, and it was for such a main red carpet; I can say ‘I did that’ with pride.
Shanna: Is there an interplay of inspiration that goes on working your 9 to 5 and having your own brand?
Luis: In a way, I can't help myself. While I'm doing market research for work, there are also things I'm not using for work that stay in my head, like ‘that will look cool for Peralta’s brand,’ so Inspiration [for example] is always around even when I'm at a fabric show. I’m working for a very small women-owned brand that is almost like an inspiration because my goal is to one day have a brand with actual [large-scale] production. In moments of doubt, I’m always like, ‘I do this for other people, so just relax.’ Just because you don't have the money doesn't mean you don’t have the creativity.
Shanna: Something luxurious you’re enjoying right now?
Luis: Napping–naps are very luxurious. Creating your home to feel relaxing, that's luxurious. And tapping into your inner child is kind of luxurious. I’ve been developing on Barbies lately a lot. If I think of a design, I find a piece of suede so it doesn't fray, and I can just tape it, and see how something like that falls, because a sketch is only 2-D. The other day I caught myself [thinking], ‘This is something I’d do as a kid in hiding,’ and it isn’t weird. It's been fun– I think for kids, going into a whole other world of playing pretend [can] literally lead to your future job or career.
Shanna: Finally, a fashion oxymoron you have thoughts on?
Luis: Everything’s been done. When I'm being creative, that pops in my head sometimes, and I’m like, but how am I gonna do it differently? It's a creative setback where you're thinking of this crazy shoot, and then you go on Google [and you realize] they fucking did this in 2006 or 2007 or whatever, and then you start doubting yourself. And it's like, ‘No, how are you going to put it in your own little world?’ It doesn’t mean copying. It’s not the end of the world. You’re going to be fine. Throughout the things you like and don’t like, you also learn.