5 Salvadorian Fashion Designers That Show Off El Salvador's Diverse Style & Global Appeal

If you've read Norma Mendoza-Denton's Homegirls, you might think El Salvador is packed with chola style, but Salvadorian fashion designers and artisans show a range of influences in their aesthetics. As a little girl playing with traditional dresses and blouses from my mother's home country, I admired the garments' careful embroidery and bright colors. What I didn't understand until I was older was that this tiny Central American country's civil war halted much of its production and commercial efforts from 1979 to 1992. El Salvador's recovery has been slow, but initiatives like The Carrot Concept — called "a world-class design collective" by the Wall Street Journalgive hope that nurturing a homegrown fashion industry with global impact is still a possibility.

Something else I didn't understand about Salvadorian fashion as a little girl is that it is and can be more than Mesoamerican traditional dress. Today, El Salvador is producing high-quality ready-to-wear and haute couture. Designers may be stirred by traditional textiles, the country's natural environment (such as Bosque El Imposible National Park), or other local influences, but the aim is to appeal to non-Salvadorians as much as Salvadorians.

Here are five Salvadorian fashion names you should know, no matter where you live.

1. Francesca Miranda

Francesca Miranda is perhaps El Salvador's best-known export. Born in San Salvador, she got her professional start in Colombia. Her big break came in 2003 when she was invited to Milan Fashion Week. Now Miranda's designs are available in shops across the Americas, as well as France, the United Kingdom, Dubai and Russia. They've also graced the likes of Rebecca Mader, Ashlan Gorse, Sofia Milos, and other celebrities. Whether designing wedding dresses or ready-to-wear for women or men, Miranda's work is elegantly crafted.

2. Geraldine Garcia

Geraldine Garcia designs for the modern sophisticate. Her signature use of lightweight fabrics gives her work an airy feel that's as much at home in El Salvador's tropical climate as it is an upscale California beach party. Garcia puts her clothes in photo shoots that are imaginative without being outlandish, persuading you to think this is stuff you can actually wear in real life.

3. Monica Arguedas

Newly graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York, Monica Arguedas opened her first shop in 2012. She designs for risk-takers not afraid to show a little skin. At Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week El Salvador earlier this month, Arguedas revealed a line of feminine, mostly form-fitting clothes that show off the back, shoulders, and midriff, and come in a range of colors.

4. SaraHDZ

SaraHDZ may punch up the hair and makeup to a fantastical level in her photo shoots but she designs for urban women on the go. Her work — which she produces for other brands, not her own — often hints at traditional Salvadorian designs or scenery (look closely at some of those patterns) but is distinctly modern, tailored for the office and after-hours.

5. Wilson

Stemming from a brand started by a Lebanese immigrant in the 1930s, Wilson does fitted menswear (and occasionally womenswear) for the young and affluent. The look updates classic boatwear with a metropolitan twist, like fedoras, Warby Parker-ish glasses, and ironic suspenders.

Images: sjb5/Flickr; Francesa Miranda; Geraldine Garcia; Monica Arguedas; SaraHDZ; Wilson.