This is the first in a series of profiles of Meadowdale High School graduates, written by Miranda Gillis, MHS Class of 2015
The other day as I was doing a routine scan through my Twitter feed, a tweet in particular caught my eye: “so sad seeing the people from high school doing the same stuff.” The tweet’s author is Ericka Del Rosario, a 2014 Meadowdale High School graduate who is most certainly not doing the “same stuff” as in high school. Del Rosario now resides in Los Angeles, where she is working on her second line of her brand Kakáslok.
Growing up in a family where you “either became a nurse or a dentist,” Del Rosario knew from an early age that she didn’t want a “five year plan” type of life. It was in her veins to deviate away from the cookie cutter “college, degree, slave to a subpar job” life that so many fall victim to. Her high school years at Meadowdale were instead spent delving into the arts, taking pictures for the school yearbook and participating in art class. Del Rosario built a hefty portfolio that would gain her admission into Parsons School of Design in New York.
Born in “Project Six” of the Philippines, her parents worked their way to America, and this drive and reverence for hard work stayed ingrained in Del Rosario. However, she didn’t exactly follow her parents’ dream for their middle child. When she was accepted into Parsons, her mother and father were not as thrilled as she was. “My parents consistently told me that I would not make any money if I pursued my career in the arts,” she recalls. This tempestuous clash led to arguments, tears and frustration but above all acted as the catalyst for Del Rosario to work harder to actualize her dream.
Del Rosario took on multiple jobs, often working late into the night — all while still attending school and playing an active role in Meadowdale’s yearbook. She completed high school with a 2.7 GPA and managed to make the leap to New York and commence her freshman year at Parsons. A year later, at only 19, Del Rosario would become a Parsons dropout, taking the helm of her own thriving brand Kakáslok. “I liked Parsons a lot. Being able to meet people from around the world and learning about their expertise and culture was inspiring,” she explained. “School isn’t for me in general. I’m not saying dropping out is a good idea, because it isn’t. I just thought learning from internships and my jobs benefited me more.”
Del Rosario then got her foot further in the door at Alexander Wang, one of her main inspirations with whom she still works with today in Los Angeles. Starting as a Fashion Week stylist, she worked her way up to order management at Wang, and dabbled in public relations at other companies. Public relations is where Del Rosario really learned about the logistics of the industry. Being around all of the hustle, “you learn a lot,” she said. ”Who’s doing what, who’s this person, where’s that garment going, why it’s going there.” The money earned from this job went toward developing her brand, which was wholly self-funded until recently.
Dropping out of Parsons freed up time for Del Rosario to work the way she does best: trial and error. She faced challenges such as trying to transfer her ideas to tangible items. Not being the best at sketching, she buys fabric muslin, to create “silhouettes from there and see where it takes me.” The spontaneity embedded in the early stages reflects the way in which she builds her collections. “Nothing in my collection is really planned,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s going to be the ‘in thing’… every day I’m learning.”
Also through trial and error, she honed in on the vibe that she wanted her brand to evoke. Initially inspired by the construction of garments, Del Rosario looked to menswear to emulate for her brand, noting that “there’s a lot more room to evolve in comparison to womenswear.” Del Rosario also found inspiration in the movies “Palo Alto” and “Boyhood,” and the portrait photography of Hedi Slimane.
Del Rosario wanted to make a line without frills, searching for a look that’s both “minimal and complex at the same time; Psychedelic Furs with a mix of [the band] Beach Fossils.” This look can be seen on her website, on which she shot her own lookbook featuring many high profile models from the U.K. The look book actually plays a key factor in the building of her brand, which she views as more than just a line of garments. “A visual experience is really important” she said. “It helps the customer understand more of the garment which is what I want to emphasize more on the things I make.”
Another challenge for Del Rosario was simply learning to adapt to the behaviors of a cutthroat industry, realizing that survival of the fittest had to become her mindset. With this came the acceptance that she was not the only young person with a dream, noting that “New York is filled with creatives, so you’re forced in that environment where you have to be fast and mean.” This realization compelled her to work harder and also to stay real in an industry chock-full of people trying to make themselves a bigger deal than they are. This is one of the most refreshing things about Del Rosario as a designer, there’s no air of self-importance or pretension. She simply lets her work speak for itself.
Perhaps the most admirable trait that Del Rosario has is the restlessness that enables her to not become complacent. Though Kakáslok is where her heart currently lies, she isn’t afraid to branch out and seek what else is out there beyond the fashion world. It’s this gumption that inspired her recent move to sunny Los Angeles with her boyfriend Mason Rothschild, a marketing strategist.
Though it was “for the hell of it,” she said, the move is also yet another immersive learning experience. She now has her sights set on a prospective interest in the tech industry: “I want to meet the people who created social media, who created Google, Yahoo, Apple.”
Having already experienced the nose-in-the-air fashion scene in New York, “I don’t want to just meet people who created a $2,000 jacket,” she said. “It’s cool to learn about other fields not just the one you’re interested in.” Though technology may be a future prospect for her, Del Rosario is currently working on her second line, titled Disaster Boys, as well as to planning to open a concept store that will include other brands in addition to her own.
— By Miranda Gillis