San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Weekend Arts Spotlight

5 questions for a Costa Rican fashion designer

Read more Weekend Arts Spotlight interviews here.

Michelle López, 27, is on a mission to defy the molds imposed by society, one bag at a time. With her brand CadaLocoConSuCosa (a common expression akin to “to each his own”), López offers bags, wallets and clothes handmade by her, each one unique. The products are made of 70% recycled material and 30% leather.

López studied fashion design at the National Learning Institute (INA), then went from making her own outfits to sharing her gift with the world. Art runs in her veins: she is also a photographer; does standup comedy, monologues and theater; sings; dances; and plays the guitar.

The Tico Times visited the soon-to-be-inaugurated CadaLocoConSuCosa store and café in south-central San José to talk with López about how she got her start, her sometimes rocky spiritual journey, and where she’s going from here. Excerpts follow.

How did you become a fashion designer?

I never thought I was going to have a store. I just studied fashion design because I wanted to make my own clothes. Then my friends started to like what I made for myself and asked to me to make things for them, too. I worked from my bedroom: I cut the silks on my bed and everything, until there wasn’t enough space. I looked until I found this house, and after that everything came to happen.

I got a job as a bartender on the weekends, and it was like the night got me. I stopped designing, I lost my purpose, I lost everything. I worked as a bartender for three years until one day I was tired and fell into depression, too much partying and drugs. I saw everything you can imagine at night. My life was a complete disorder. I turned my back to God; I’ve always been a believer, but during that time it was like God didn’t exist. It was like I had received everything on a golden tray and suddenly all of that had been taken away from me.

One day my friends invited me to the beach, and [I needed] $20 to go. I thought “I have to do something!” One friend asked me to make a bag for him but with flowers, and [it turned out] to be really cool. I invested the money he paid me in more material, uploaded it to my Facebook page and it started to get more traffic. I began to seek God again, and here I am. People ask for my secret and I don’t know. I just seek God and that’s all.

Cada Loco Con Su Cosa products

Amanda Zuniga/The Tico Times

How did CadaLocoConSuCosa get started?

I don’t know why people like the bags so much! I always have work. When I uploaded that first bag to my Facebook page, people wrote me asking for more. I started doing customized bags, because here [in Costa Rica] you can’t find a lot of cool stuff. Everything is the same or too expensive. So my friends told me “I want a bag like this and this,” or with their names, and I just did my magic and they liked them. Then I uploaded them to my page and the page got more traffic… It was only perseverance, and a lot of work. I worked every day. In the morning I made the bags and in the afternoon I did the deliveries. I used to do all the deliveries by bike around all San José; then I put in a motor so I started going to Alajuela and Heredia. Some of my friends got bikes and they started helping me to do the deliveries. I did one bag per day even when I didn’t have a client. I’d upload it to the page or have an auction.

Where did the name come from?

I’m not sure. My brothers have always told me that I’m crazy… but I don’t know really where [the idea to use it as the brand name] came from. It’s the same if you ask me where the creativity to create a bag comes from. I don’t know that, either. My secret is God: He’s my inspiration, the reason why I do everything I do. When I’m making a bag I’m thinking about the customer and about to transmit all the good vibes. I have different labels with words like “hope,” “forgiveness,” “chosen ones,” “rescue,” and I just know which label to put for each customer. When they come to get their bags, sometimes they ask me for advice and we chat and they even cry. Or people who has told me they were really sad and then felt better when they read their labels. I started working not for money, but for the people.

I think that’s the reason why things work so easily. There are many people who want to help me. There are people who want to do interviews, or there are two public relations professionals who are helping me with my website and an app. Everything just works. I thank God and let happen what has to happen. I know this will get bigger, and I know this won’t be the only CadaLocoConSuCosa store.

Amanda Zuniga/The Tico Times

What’s the main purpose of your project?

What I want is to get my friends out the buildings and get them out of the call centers, take them out of the system. They can help me here and bring their bikes and then we can all deliver the bags and do crazy stuff and hold a circus at the parks. My vision is to see three large buses of CadaLocoConSuCosa full of artists, and we go to parks and put up awnings and spread positive messages and sell our stuff, and live like that with my friends and all the people who want to join us.

It’s not just about selling a bag; it’s about trying to do something good. This world is awful. People go into a building at 8 a.m. and stay there until 7 p.m. My friends don’t have time to dream or to achieve their dreams. Sometimes we don’t even have money because know we are already born with debts… To me, there’s still hope. I can’t even believe this beautiful house is right in the middle of San José. I just want to create a different place and when people come can forget about everything and remember their real goal in life. Once my friends and I came back from a trip on a Sunday, and I said “I can’t wait for tomorrow.” They asked, “Why?” and I said, “I can’t wait to go to work.” They thought I was crazy. I wish they could say the same. The system is crushing them all. But I’m trying to make this an empire and take them all with me.

Costa Rica is a tiny country where it’s really easy to shine. You just need to be persistent. I don’t even feel I have competition, because many people can make bags, but it’s impossible to do bags like CadaLocoConSuCosa. People should stop thinking about working just for the money, because they end up all the same.

Amanda Zuniga/The Tico Times

What are you future aspirations and projects?

I want to have a restaurant here. I have always wanted to have gallery and a café, and people coming to see my clothes and exhibit my pictures. If someone pays me just $6 for a photo, I’m happy! I have many friends who studied design with me who are really talented, and they are not doing anything because they are scared. My purpose is also to boost people to do this kind of work.

 

The CadaLococonsuCosa inauguration will take place June 4, with a DJ, theater, a monologue by López, bag giveaways and food. The new store-café is located 250 meters east of the Carit Maternity Hospital on the main road toward Plaza Víquez in downtown San José. For more information, visit the brand’s Facebook page.

Our “Weekend Arts Spotlight” presents Sunday interviews with artists who are from, working in, or inspired by Costa Rica, ranging from writers and actors to dancers and musicians. Do you know of an artist we should consider, whether a long-time favorite or an up-and-comer? Email us at kstanley@ticotimes.net.

Contact Amanda Zúñiga at azuniga@ticotimes.net

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