“Vístete de Sueños” is a non-profit, civil association, founded by Alberto De Castro (renowned fashion designer) and I on May 12, 2012. Built, amongst other things, around the 3 Pillars of Sustainability: Social Progress, Economic Growth, and Environmental Sustainability. As well as 9 Sustainable Development Goals: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 3. Good Health and Wellbeing, 4. Quality Education, 5. Gender Equality, 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth, 12. Responsible Consumption and Production, 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, 17. Partnership from The Goals.
My name is Eglantina Pares, founder of Vístete de Sueños. Since I was a child, clothing empowered me and gave me strength to cope with the reality I had to live. My mother was a depressive maniac who subjected me to extreme psychological situations, which she considered to be for my own good.
Even though her intentions were good, I had no experience nor maturity to understand and interpret what she made me endure. I was orphaned at the age of twelve. My father died first in a car accident when I was 7 years old. After that, my mother decided to leave this world in the year 1975.
During my teenage years and post maturity, I found enormous joy and great empowerment when I dressed. I would spend hours trying on different outfits. This helped me to confront the shame I felt when relating to society and families, given my inability to explain to myself, let alone anyone else: who I was, my identity, where I came from, or why my mother had abandoned me.
For many years, I worked and researched with a great psychologist, Dr. Beatriz Manrique (who worked in the Ministry of Intelligence in Venezuela), on a project founded by her, on how to stimulate mothers from underdeveloped neighborhoods (aka “favelas”). This helped me understand my mother’s decision to leave this world, given her extreme sickness and lack of understanding of her crude reality, she felt no hope nor light in her life.
As the years went by, I got a better understanding of fashion, and the feelings I had as a child towards this industry. That is to say: Clothing empowers you. Because of this, I started shipping used clothes from Venezuela to Chile (where I lived during those years). I visualized the transformation and joy those women felt as they tried on clothes that would fit and make them feel special. Years later, I joined a group called “Mujeres Empresarias” (Entrepreneur Women) in Chile, who led me to SERNAM, the Ministry for Women, during the first governmental period of Sebastian Piñera. I worked within two areas, “Housewives” and “Women subject to Domestic Violence”. Both groups were very distinct, yet valuable. Alongside a group of psychologists, we discovered these women’s qualities and strengths. The Ministry asked me to start a similar project for all of Chile, so I contacted the “Inacap” school, who had presence in various regions of the country, to start teaching a cutting, sewing, and pattern making course.
After this experience, I returned to Venezuela and competed in the “Ideas Foundation” contest in the year 2012. I won the Chevron Women’s Social Responsibility award. That same year, I obtained tax exemption (which was extremely difficult to obtain) and started teaching women in Brivil, the fashion school of Caracas. Unfortunately, we could not reach an agreement with the school and our goals were not aligned, so we decided to become independent after a two-year relationship.
That was when Vístete de Sueños, a seamstress training program, was born. Our work at “Vistete de Sueños” Foundation is to train women and men in the area of cutting, sewing, tailoring, and pattern making with psychological support, to empower and give them the tools to better their self esteem and elevate their economic level. This work comes hand in hand with designers and fashion schools, which are joining and collaborating with our cause.
We have already trained more than 550 people, who are working as entrepreneurs or as seamstresses, accompanied by designers who decided to employ them. Within this growth, we have the pleasure to announce that this September 2023, five of these teachers will visit the Parsons School in “Altos de Chavon,” to improve their instruction, knowledge, and ability skills. One of the courses they will take is on recycling.
Two years ago, Vistete de Sueños won the PISCCA award, from the French embassy in Venezuela, alongside the group “Mujeres Empoderadas de Petare” (Petare empowered women), which allowed us to open a second workshop and formalize our own methodology manual to keep replicating our work over the rest of Venezuela and the world. Thanks to this manual, we signed a great deal with the “Andrés Bello Catholic University” fashion school in Caracas. Currently, our professors are teaching part of their course in this school.
On a personal level, I have made enormous efforts in different areas. On one side, I have empowered men and women in our workshops by providing psychological help (mental health). On the other hand, we created awareness on our project so designers, who needed our seamstresses, would support us by recognizing the importance of our training.
In the year 2016, I visited Carolina Herrera in NY and asked her to donate some patterns for practical education purposes for our students. With her support, we have achieved a relationship with other designers, who are slowly getting closer to us and our program.
In the year 2021, Wes Gordon had the generosity of donating fabric. With one of these, we made a suit (using the Armando Piquer design) for the Orchestra Conductor, Elisa Vegas. This suit was used at the Chevron 100th Year Party celebration, which was attended by Chevron´s United States’ CEO. It was a great honor to be a part of this event.
The Andean Chamber of Development launched a Contemporary Art Contest in November 2022, where Venezuelan women were invited to feel like creators of a visual or utilitarian work. Vistete de Sueños participated amongst more than 500 people and placed as a semifinalist along 93 other participants (@proyectocreadoras). Our work remains exhibited at the National Art Gallery, which was remodeled to accommodate this exposition, consisting of a shirt and skirt made by the foundation’s students with the use of Carolina Herrera’s donated patterns.
Vistete de Sueños seeks to make a call to the fashion industry to collaborate in these type of projects by giving importance to the ones behind each piece of clothes: the seamstresses. This translates to the empowerment and the feeling of being part of one big family.
In this moment, we find ourselves working on special projects for the Ayacucho Symphonic Orchestra: the uniforms they will use during their performances. Ensuring that they wear dignified, beautiful, and well-made suits designed by our students.
According to studies, five people benefit in the environment of each graduated student. We also have 10 professors who started out as students. In the workshop, multiple commissioned jobs have been done, which provide us with income to sustain the foundation. We are very proud of our achievements.
Finally, a great dream of mine is to replicate what my brother, Antonio Parés, is designing with the Mithun firm (which won the USA architecture prize in 2023), in Morganton, North Carolina with “The Industrial Commons (TIC) Innovation Center,” where its motto is “work for the common good.” Replicating a Venezuelan textile factory model, with human rights, innovation camps, workshops, production, amongst others.