Cara Santana has a new breakthrough role.
The 34-year-old actress, activist and entrepreneur is partnering with Reunited Clothing to launch a direct-to-consumer fashion collection under the actresses’ name. The new brand, which will be available exclusively at TheCaraSantanaCollection.com, launches June 25 with the summer 2020 collection.
Manufactured in China, the brand will be priced under $100 per item. “I really wanted to play with color and create pieces that could fit simply into a woman’s already established wardrobe,” Santana said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. The collection consists of such styles as slipdresses, suits, outerwear and trenchcoats in sizes 0 to 18.
Everything is named after commonly heard micro aggression phrases such as “You’re so much prettier when you smile,” or “Toughen up,” or “You need to lighten up, “Keep it classy,” and “Just relax.”
According to Santana, it wasn’t difficult to keep the pieces under $100 and she’s very pleased with the quality. “Where my experience is lacking in production and manufacturing, they (Reunited) do it well. I didn’t want to compromise on our quality.…They made it so we didn’t have to, and we could make it accessible to the majority of women,” Santana said.
Santana is working directly with Hilda Batayneh, executive creative director of Reunited Clothing, to design the line. “Collaborating with Reunited Clothing has been a dream. They completely understood my creative vision and my desire to empower women with stylish and affordable fashion choices,” she said.
Last fall, Santana and Reunited had a fashion collaboration with Kohl’s Apt. 9 line, which was successful. That collaboration was expected to continue for two additional seasons. “We had every intention of expanding the contract but obviously COVID-19 hit,” Santana said. The deal ended after one season.
“I just thought with all the uncertainty, and the ever-evolving changes in the fashion industry, and being a woman specifically, it’s so important that we take control of our own lives and not be so reliant on corporate structure and the larger patriarchal society, and I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t I do this on my own?’”
For her new online business, Santana has already designed fall and holiday collections with Reunited. As for how frequently she’ll offer new collections, she said, “This is the first time we’ve done this. We’re sort of testing the market and seeing how interested people are in direct-to-consumer fashion and also from an emerging designer. Depending on how this goes, that will influence and dictate what we do in the future.”
She’s also thinking about expanding the business into a lifestyle brand with additional categories. When she’s in the design process, she’ll devote between 20 and 40 hours a week to design, Santana said.
Not having a design background didn’t seem to be a detriment.
Having grown up in El Paso, Tex., a small border town across from Mexico, she said the only place she had to shop was Kohl’s. “I didn’t see anyone who looked like me in the ads. As an actress, I was always interested in self-expression, and the first element of self-expression is your aesthetic. Fashion was always something I loved to experiment with and communicate through,” she said. When Kohl’s originally approached her about doing a line, she thought about what she could offer because she doesn’t have a design background. What spoke to her from her background was creating accessible and affordable fashion for all women. “There is such a void. We’re in such a really interesting social environment right now where we’re seeing the lack of representation and inclusion,” she said. She developed the collection for Kohl’s and this direct-to-consumer collection to really showcase diversity and inclusion, and the collection reflects her youth in El Paso, growing up in a diverse and multicultural environment.
She said she’s targeting women between the ages of 25 and 35. “It’s for young women starting in the workforce, coming out of college, living independently,” she said. She added that the line is designed for a versatile woman, whether she’s at home or in a work environment. She said the collection can take one from day to night and transition from home to work to out in the evening.
“We have some comfy, comfort clothes and we also have some suit wear and some cool outerwear. I really do believe there’s something for everyone,” she added.
Describing her own personal style, she said, “I would describe my own style as comfortable, fashion forward, feminine and strong. I’m a chameleon. I’m someone who likes to take risks with my fashion choices. I think that comes from being an actress and wanting to express myself.”
Santana just wrapped up her third and final season of the Starz’s series, “Vida.” She is busy producing two different projects about addiction and social media influencers, as well as developing an unscripted series about her hometown, El Paso and immigration reform.
Santana will all be partnering with Step Up, a nonprofit that assists young girls in under-resourced communities. Ten percent of proceeds from the collection will benefit the organization.
“I am asking all women to #PayItFashionForward with a call to action to donate clothing from their closet directly or though a local organization. Giving back and supporting each other as a community is an integral part of this collection,” Santana said.
Santana cofounded and was chief executive officer of TheGlamApp, an on-demand mobile beauty app which brings hair, makeup and nail artists to the homes of their clients. It has since transitioned to Glamsquad, where Santana is global engagement officer.
Reunited Clothing, which was founded in 2011, launched its influencer collaborations in 2018 with its brands and major retailers.