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A Young Designer in the Middle of an Afrocentric Fashion Explosion

By: Alice Li

This year, a major fashion show in Buenaventura used imported fabrics from Africa, which is quite rare for an event in Colombia. At the center of this fashion boom was Esteban Sinisterra Paz, a 23-year-old university student without professional design training.

Mr. Sinisterra was born into a poor family and first learned to sew from his aunt and grandmother. His dream was to study fashion and someday learn in Paris, but his father disapproved, believing that design was only for girls. Instead, Mr. Sinisterra entered a university as a social work student, and chased his dream by selling his work on social media platforms, designing intricate pieces for online customers. The highlight of his early career was when Francia Marquez, an environmental activist and lawyer, also known as Colombia’s first black vice president, requested a dress.

Ms. Marquez was also a bright jewel discovered in dirt. She used to be a child miner, later working as a live-in maid, and then eventually going to law school. Now, she is a voice for poor black and indigenous Colombians, making the topic of racism and classism a center of national conversation, rebelling against shirts and suits and encouraging an afro-Colombian look into fashion. Ms. Marquez said Mr. Sinisterra is “...showing young people that they can succeed, using their talent, they can get ahead.”

Mr. Sinisterra understands that his and Ms. Marquez’s responsibilities are going to grow from this point. They have a responsibility to help people, to bring justice to their world.

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