Founder and Fashion Designer, Tepuy Activewear
The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale
Elena Carné , Founder and Fashion Designer, Tepuy Activewear
Associate of Science in Fashion Design, 2013 The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
"Every time I meet someone that knows my story and praises my work it is very encouraging, and to be named Atlanta Apparel Favorite Emerging Designer 2016 is rewarding".
Elena Carné is a founder and fashion designer for the brand Tepuy Activewear; a company that creates activewear garments for women. She founded the company with her husband, Rene Uzcategui. Elena and Rene are natives of Venezuela. Their path to the United States began when Elena was 15 years old and living near Venezuela’s capital of Caracas. She started designing bathing suits for herself and created them on a borrowed sewing machine. They were so popular with her friends that she began receiving requests to make them for others. She applied for a government loan to purchase a sewing machine to start up her business. After just a year, she paid off the loan and began hiring others to help her fill the requests for swimwear.
Elena met Rene, an industrial designer consultant, in an English class. The two began their partnership and expanded her brand to more than a dozen of boutiques in Venezuela, as well as locations in San Jose, Costa Rica. The political unrest in Venezuela began to take its toll on the business—in 2002 alone, it was burglarized six times. Rene, who’d previously run for Congress in Venezuela, found that he’d been targeted for arrest. The couple decided to flee the country and had to carefully plan their escape—marrying before they left and buying a round-trip ticket to Miami for a honeymoon. Once they arrived in Miami, they applied for political asylum. They had to start over again, working two or three jobs to get by. Elena put aside her fashion ambitions and worked as a customer service agent during the day—and studied business at Miami-Dade College at night. When their family grew to include three daughters, the couple decided that Elena should stay at home to care for the family. During this time, Elena began her studies at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. She graduated magna cum laude and received commendation for her work—her portfolio was named “Best in Sportswear” and “Best in Digital Design” during her time at school.
Luck was on Elena and Rene’s side when their neighbors recognized their potential as a business and recommended that they leave Miami and relocate to Americus, Georgia. The family moved once more to establish a home and business—and Tepuy Activewear now produces nearly 1,000 garments each week. They also became American citizens.
Now, Elena is back to realizing her passion for design. And she takes the time to understand what attracts potential clients to a design. “I identify target markets for designs by looking at factors such as age, gender, and socio-economic status. I also visit textile showrooms to keep up-to-date on the latest fabrics,” she says. Elena adds that her job involves providing sample garments to agents and sales representatives and arranging for showings of sample garments at sales meetings or fashion shows.
She works with sales executives, management executives, and clients to discuss design ideas. Elena also determines prices for styles, develops products and markets them through venues such as boutiques or mail-order catalogs, and directs workers involved in drawing and cutting patterns for samples or finished garments.
Elena’s biggest challenge thus far was learning to speak English. She enrolled at Miami Dade College to take English classes in 2007, and earned an Associate’s in Business Administration and Public Relations. She also took leadership courses while at the school. Today, her challenges include balancing her work and family life. “Managing a family of five is certainly a consideration in building a business. I feel like I have [been committed to both my] family and career 100%. This is mainly because my career depends on the support of my family and we are able to work together.
”She works to bring creativity to Tepuy Activewear by maintaining a positive workplace. “We do not focus on mistakes. All of the workers have a great rapport and we do special things for one another. Upbeat background music keeps the atmosphere light and energetic.”
To keep on top of industry trends, Elena attend fashion shows and reviews garment magazines to gather information about consumer preferences. This helps her to be in tune with the current looks—an essential element because she sketches and designs custom clothing and accessories for individuals, retailers, the theater, television, and film productions. Elena takes pride in seeing her creations being worn around town. “But I experienced a true feeling of pride when a parent approached me and told me that I had inspired their daughter to begin sewing—and now that young seven year old is making blankets for the homeless.”
She says that a typical day begins with an overview of the production process—to ensure that things are running smoothly and that deadlines will be met. “After confirming the production process, I begin checking emails for follow up marketing or online orders. My day is then spent designing, cutting patterns and networking. Social media is an important tool and takes time to promote.”
Elena, who in 2013 earned an Associate of Science in Fashion Design from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, says that her instructors were knowledgeable professionals who motivated her to follow her design passion. She specifically names Dr. Sheila Walden, Kathleen Colussy, Irina Ivanova, Andre Milman and Kerry Szymanski—faculty at the school—for helping her to succeed as a fashion designer.
Elena recommends that current students stay the course and find joy in fashion—even when things are difficult. “Be proud of yourself and your work. Through determination, setting goals, inner talent, and personal faith you can fulfill your dreams.” She stays challenged by continuous learning and researching trends. “I attend workshops and seminars when available. A few weeks ago, I participated in Pantone’s Spring 2017 colors workshop online to view the newest trends for the upcoming season and stay up to date in a very competitive market.”
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