DANBURY — Julissa Cadena believes you can be fashionable and maintain a degree of modesty at the same time.
Cadena, owner of Julissa Designs in Danbury, had an epiphany in 2014. She realized that the clothes she was designing were the same fashions everyone else was creating. The clothing, she felt, was too revealing and not sending the right message to women. She changed her design style and took those revealing fashions out of her portfolio and off her online store.
“I’m a Christian and I feel in 2014 God gave me a detour. I went to school for fashion but I was seeking my own glory,” she said. “The thing that opened my eyes was the women in the fashion industry and the way they dress. They are being used as objects. I was making those clothes, but after that I started making more modest clothing and just do everything to give God the glory.
“Artists and people in the music and fashion industry, they have so much influence over so many people,” Cadena said. “They dress very immodestly and they have little girls looking up to them. That’s why I started changing. I was almost blinded to it before. You notice in the summer the girls are wearing almost nothing and guys are wearing Polos and long shorts.”
Cadena has a small studio in the basement at 7 National Place on the Danbury Green. She designs and makes her clothing there as well as displays her fashions and new line of stamped jewelry. When the Danbury Green is bustling, she will often bring up a table and display some of her wares.
“They are a bold statement,” she said of her clothing items. “I’m very artistic and I love color. But they are also very elegant and lady-like.”
The studio is colorful, with many of her designs feature bright colors and floral patterns. Many of the items, including most of the jewelry, have inspirational messages that reflect Cadena’s faith in Jesus. There is also a poster for Compassion International, an organization dedicated to the development of children living in poverty.
Cadena, who was born in the Dominican Republic, is also fiercely loyal to her adopted hometown of Danbury. She uses all local talent when she launches a new fashion line. She held a show on the stage at Danbury Green to launch her spring/summer 2016 line.
“I’ve always had a dream to have models walking all around the Danbury Green. I used local models, a local photographer and a local makeup artist,” she said. “I don’t want just my dream to come true. The girls, they get so excited when I call them to do a photo shoot. It’s like their dream coming true, too. The photographer, the makeup artist, it’s such an experience for them and good for their portfolio.
“Some people find out I’m a fashion designer and they like my clothes and they say ‘You should go to New York.’ But this is where I live,” she added. “You start where you live. I went to high school here and this is where my first opportunity is. It’s important to me to use local talent.”
To pull off the fashion show, Cadena used models Cindy Espinal, Sviatlana Bliznets, Jessica Vera, and Rachida Hassaine, as well as photographer Christopher Ellington and makeup artist Valerie Quinn. Maria Cadena and Cher Black also helped her pull it together.
P.J. Prunty, executive director of CityCenter Danbury, happened to be walking by the Danbury Green when the photo shoot was taking place and thought it was a creative way to utilize the resources of the downtown area.
“She’s got a nice business going,” he said. “There seems to be traction building around these artistic ventures.”
Cadena dreams of seeing her fashions in major department stores someday. She feels she can make an impact in the fashion industry with her modestly styled clothing for women.
She is hoping to get a big break next month by being able to show her lines during New York Fashion Week. She cannot afford the admission and other associated fees and is turning to the Internet for help. She has a crowdfunding button on the home page of her website — www.julissadesigns.com — where people can donate.
“It’s such a bigger audience,” she said of New York Fashion Week. “A lot of buyers go there, but it’s hard to get in and so expensive.”
Whether she gets to New York Fashion Week this year or not, she will keep moving toward her goal of designing and making fashions exclusively. She currently works another job during the day and goes to her studio in the evening.
“I’m pushing for it. Even if I’m tired at night I still do it because it’s my dream,” she said. “It eventually will be my career, fully.”