In this series, WeWork’s director of digital community selects a WeWork member to get to know better, sharing her fun findings with the rest of the community.
WeWork member Dara Ambriz may be based in Albuquerque, but her heart is in the Big Apple—specifically WeWork Bryant Park. Or, as she puts it, “New Mexico is my heart, but NYC is my soul.” A fashion designer who creates women’s apparel, Ambriz’s company Hopeless + Cause Atelier makes one-of-a-kind creations for its customers around the world. Read on to learn about what inspires her work, who would be her dream person to dress, and her long stint in HR.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Hopeless + Cause Atelier.
I am a native New Mexican. Born in Santa Fe, raised in Albuquerque. I’ve always had a love for fashion—one of my favorite Christmas gifts was Fashion Plates, and I was always creating different outfits for my Barbies. However, it wasn’t until I was in middle school that I learned to sew. My parents got divorced when I was in 5th grade, so out of necessity, my grandmother taught me how to sew, and I made a lot of my clothing when I was in middle school.
When I got to high school, I was so excited because there was an opportunity to take fashion classes and a fashion club. Unfortunately, due to school budget cuts, the classes were canceled and there wasn’t enough interest to sustain the club. I went down another path and focused on my second passion: psychology. I spent a lot of my career in HR, managing employee engagement programs, employee volunteer programs, and corporate grants programs, as well as working to build capacity within dozens of nonprofits locally.
My path led me back to fashion when I had the opportunity to attend Fashion Week for the first time in September 2013. That reopened my eyes to fashion, and subsequently I became a partner in a local boutique. I loathed retail, but I loved spending time with my customers to understand their needs and how they would transform with my help—building their self-confidence. I had several individuals seek out my help because they hated to shop, or they had a significant life moment, and they needed that guidance on how to feel more confident. And that to me was transformative. It was so incredible to see people come in and then leave beaming because they were able to find something they felt good in and good about. I see fashion through that psychological and communicative lens.
Two years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about my work. He told me, “Why don’t you design your own clothes? You have an eye for it.” I started small, designing clothing for myself to wear because there’s a lot of social events here in Albuquerque. Every time I’d show up to an event, people would ask if I’d created my outfit, gave me kudos, but I never knew how genuine it was. I wasn’t sure if people were just being nice or truly honest! This past summer, a dear friend asked me to create a few looks for her. Attending one of the events with her (and no one knowing I created her dress), I felt like a “fly on the wall” because because people would come to her and say that her dress was gorgeous—it was a green and navy jersey knit with a plunging neckline. That’s when Hopeless + Cause Atelier was launched.
What’s your favorite item of clothing that you’ve created and why?
I think my favorite look is two pieces together—the all-white pantsuit with the long white vest. It’s my favorite because it’s so fashion-forward for New Mexico and vintage, yet edgy. Jennifer’s—my model and muse—style is vintage 1960s/1970s. The look is a faux fur vest that goes all the way down to the ground—the “Jamie” (named after a fashion and lifestyle blogger here in Albuquerque). The “Averie” pantsuit is a jacquard jersey knit, off the shoulders, wide pant leg. You have to be very confident in yourself to pull it off, and that’s what I love: when women look at fashion as an extension of themselves. Of course for the photoshoot, we picked a very urban area of town, so as to say, “It doesn’t matter where I’m at—I’m having an impact on the scene.”
How does sustainability and giving back factor into your fashion?
I call it “social wear with a social conscience.” I’m always looking for ways to source material ethically. I work with a nonprofit called Batiks for Life from Ghana, Africa, to help create Batik fabric for some of my clothes. It’s creating the ability for women in Ghana to have income that’s self-supporting. My clothes also have a giving back component. The pieces are named either after the woman I’m creating them for, strong women in history, or strong female characters. The women I create garments for choose a local nonprofit to support with their purchase—10 percent of the sale benefits that organization—and it’s perpetual, meaning if that garment is recreated, another contribution will be donated to that same organization.
Who would be your dream person to dress in your apparel?
I would love to be able to dress Diane von Furstenberg! I think that would be a dream—if she would just let somebody else dress her! I love her style and empowerment she’s given to women. Her style is classic, but edgy at the same time—a way that I design too. I call my style “edgy-demure.” I’m not afraid of mixing an A-line skirt with a tank top, lace cutouts with raw edge denim, or corduroy with feather detail—the unexpected.
Photos: Katelyn Perry