Tony Stanton engaged with fashion designer Erika Pena to talk love, clothes and a future filled with hope. Photos: Dasha Almazova.
Erika, what a vivacious and lovely person you are. Where does that all come from?
Thank you. What a nice thing to say. Basically I was raised in a loving household. I was born in Puerto Rico and at five we moved to Miami, then Fort Myers, Florida. We’re from the Caribbean Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, so we are happy people by nature! We are taught to laugh and enjoy life and to try to not get caught up in things. My mother is a strong, vivacious and charming woman, always smiling. She taught me that the most beautiful part of a woman is her smile and femininity and to embrace it.
Your hometown is having a pretty hard time of it at the moment, what’s the story over there?
Puerto Rico was hit by three storms and two of most powerful hurricanes of all time in the Caribbean, and it has really affected the island (and indeed most of the Caribbean islands). Most of the country is still without water and electricity. We are a Territory of the United States so we depend on the US for assistance, but it seems the current government doesn’t care to provide what’s needed to get the country back on its feet. Luckily our fellow American citizens have picked up where the government has failed, and I know Puerto Ricans are so grateful to the brothers and sisters on the mainland and worldwide for coming through in times of needs. This has taught me a great lesson and made me love being American.
How can we help?
You can visit my friend’s gofundme page here https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/maria-puerto-rico-real-time-recovery-fund and here https://www.gofundme.com/CenturyForPR. She’s one of the most inspiring and hardworking women I know, so I feel good knowing she’s in charge.
Tell us about your love of clothes, and how you got started in the fashion industry.
My mom said that when I was four I told her I was going to be a fashion designer and sell worldwide, so I’ve always wanted to do this. I took a summer program when I was 13 at Parsons in NYC and loved it so when I graduated high school I moved to NYC, attended the school . . . and the rest is history.
How would you define the Erika Peña style?
Bold, tribal, chic, feminine and timeless. I want women that wear Erika Peña pieces to feel and look like the goddesses we are.
Where can we buy your clothes?
We have two local stores, Erika Peña Boutiques in Canggu on Echo Beach and in Seminyak. We also sell online and ship everywhere from our website www.erikapena.com and we are stocked in stores worldwide.
How did you end up in Bali?
I went to China for production 10 years ago but didn’t enjoy my time
there or the conditions of the workplaces. So three months later my friends Allison and Grace invited me to Bali where they produced, and as soon as I set foot on the island I knew I would live here.
What makes Bali special for you?
Its people and energy. I feel creative and at peace here. I have designed my creations here, met my soulmate and created my daughter here. It’s home to me.
Of course we can’t help noticing you’re going to have a baby pretty soon! Are you excited, scared, nervous?
Very excited, grateful that she’s coming soon, nervous and yes scared, since I’ve never been a mother. But I was born to be a mother, so I feel very blessed.
Do you already have a clothing line planned out for her?
Yes! I’ve been so inspired to create beautiful outfits for Valentina Jules and would like to name the brand in her honour.
We had lunch recently and we talked about pregnancy and how it relates to a woman’s age … there’s so much pressure as a girl heads towards the big 40 … how difficult a journey has it been for you?
I’ve been trying for many years and I got pregnant but lost three babies, but finally when I let go of the idea of getting pregnant naturally and planned to start IVF, I fell pregnant. What I realised is that I needed to relax and surrender to the universe and let it come naturally with no pressure. The positive energy replaced the stressed/negative energy of the not having instead of the having. My advice to all women is to believe and let go, then it will come.
Do you think men have it easy in this regard?
Yes in some ways, but also they have it hard having to keep up with us women.
Why are the simplest things in the world often so difficult, do you think?
Because we over think them and put so much energy into things instead of letting go. Bali has taught me to let go and enjoy.
Will you be having your baby in Bali?
No, we wanted to be surrounded by family so we’re having the baby in my partner’s hometown.
When is due date?
Erika, we wish you both all the best. Stay groovy.