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Angel Sanchez says success due to loyal clients

His creations show up on red carpets around the world. Stars such as Sandra Bullock and Eva Longoria-Parker have worn his designs to the altar, yet fashion designer Angel Sanchez says he prefers to keep happy his most loyal clients, those who have followed him since his beginnings in his native Caracas two decades ago.
/ Source: The Associated Press

His creations show up on red carpets around the world. Stars such as Sandra Bullock and Eva Longoria-Parker have worn his designs to the altar.

But Venezuelan fashion designer Angel Sanchez, who celebrates his first decade in the United States with a new showroom in the Big Apple, says he doesn't feel a particular attraction for dressing the celebrities. Instead he prefers to keep happy his most loyal clients, those who have followed him since his beginnings in his native Caracas two decades ago.

"I'm not very obsessive about the celebrity issue. I consider it much more important to please my client," the designer says in a recent interview, speaking in Spanish. "I owe being here, the fact of that continuity, to all those loyal clients, the clients that don't simply use you because now you are the 'it' designer and the next season use another one".

Sanchez says it's just the way he does business.

When he designed the dress for one of the most anticipated weddings of last year, Eva Longoria and NBA French star Tony Parker, he didn't attend the ceremony because he was already committed to dress another client, he says.

"I went to the wedding of my client in Greece... When my client found out she told me: 'Are you crazy? All the media of the world is going to be there!'"

"'But you have been my client for years,'" Sanchez, whose first name is pronounced "AN-hel," says he replied. "'I'm doing your wedding dress, you told me a year in advance, I have to be here, with you.'"

Sanchez, 42, who presented his spring-summer 2009 collection in September's New York's Fashion Week this fall, stepped into design two decades ago. He had planned to help the person he calls "the best seamstress of the world" — his mother — to open her own fashion business while he was studying his first passion, architecture.

"For a long time I saw my mother sewing," Sanchez says with emotion. "And the sweetest thing about her is that she's the best seamstress of the world. Not that she is my mother. But she has such (great) hands!"

"I remember myself at 7 or 8 years seeing a plain piece of fabric in my mother's workshop and a couple days later seeing a dress. I thought my mom was a magician!" he says.

His mom's designing notebooks were his comic books. The family's house her atelier.

And after spending a couple years between fashion and architecture he realized the two areas had a lot in common. But with fashion, he could see his designs materialize in hours.

"I think I studied architecture because I wanted something creative and I definitely will never regret having done that," says Sanchez, seated in his modern black and white showroom in the city's Garment District, in front of an elegant row of gowns — the color ones hanging to the left, the bridal ones to the right.

"The time I spent studying architecture I pictured myself being a great architect and I was a very good student," he said. "I didn't think I was going to step into fashion, but I always knew it was something related to design".

And his architectural studies, along with his determination to delight Venezuela's most demanding clientele, made up for his lack of formal preparation in fashion.

"Being an architect has provided me with the tools to understand that is better to tell a well-told idea than to tell four ideas at the same time. I owe the concept of proportion to the education I had as an architect and the fondness I have to the line," he says.

Sanchez gowns are noted for their impeccable architectural lines, for their classic but modern designs, for making a woman look her best regardless of her age or body type.

Is he obsessive about this?

"I believe that quality makes a good idea turn into something very beautiful. You can have a spectacular design, but if it's badly done it will never be something beautiful," Sanchez says.

He has made himself a student of his clients, his mother, his seamstresses and cutters, he says.

"The hardest problem is how to execute your ideas," he says.

Sanchez moved to New York "without thinking about it too much" in 1998 having already made a name in Venezuela, where he dressed not only socialites but celebrities and Miss Venezuela contestants.

For the designer, his famous countrywoman Carolina Herrera is "an obligated point of reference", as well as Dominican Oscar de la Renta and Cuban-American Narciso Rodriguez. Not in terms of style, he says, but in terms of achievements.

"I've known Angel for many years and I have seen his evolution. He is a very talented designer with a lot of sensibility. That is why women love to wear his dresses," Herrera says in an e-mail.

Sanchez doesn't believe he has a particular piece that defines him: "Each collection is a new story, with each collection you fall in love with your new propositions."

Rather than a piece, he adds, what defines him best is his sense of proportion.

"I don't like a dress to be too exaggerated or with a lot of elements together. I am a great admirer of the female body. I like to bathe the body, to embrace its silhouette," he says

From his native Venezuela he might, unconsciously, capture the use of color and drama.

"We Latinos are very comfortable designing for the night. We know how to design drama, we know how to design elegance," he says.

What are Sanchez' expectations for the next 10 years?

"Oh my God!", he says laughing, saying he has no time to rest. "The minute you're in a project you already have to start thinking of the next."

And his next one could include a second clothing line and even a shoe collection, he says, if all goes well.

"In such an ephemeral world as the one of fashion, the fact that I'm still around after 10 years is a big achievement."