Among the many fabrics, multicolored threads, patterns, and scissors, Yolanda Diaz is hard at work on the eye-catching designs of Little Miss Fashion. Her humble sewing workshop can barely contain all the striking clothing that has been grouped by size – it seems as if they want to escape to reach the homes of little girls for a special event.
“Most of my designs are inspired by our Mexican people, by our indigenous communities,” said the designer who highlighted that the main material she’s using right is “Mexican manta, uniquely decorated with lace in a contemporary style.”
Diaz started making clothes ever since she was back in Mexico as a student, when she already showed her skill with a sewing machine. She made her own clothes “with whatever I had on hand.” Her start in the world of kids fashion began soon after she finished school when Diaz took advantage of an opportunity to work creating school uniforms for over fifteen years. And even though she did very well during that time, family issues made her decide to move to the United States along with her son Adrian, with a modest piece of luggage full of nothing more than dreams.
Even though Diaz had to work many jobs in the cleaning and manufacturing businesses, she always hoped to one day own her own workshop where she could create clothes for little girls. It wasn’t until 2004, and thanks to the Microbusiness Program of the Juan Diego Center of Catholic Charities, that Diaz received the training and advice needed to open La Princesita, her business aimed at the Latino community. Her dream came through when she expanded her work to a wider range of clients with Little Miss Fashion at 4601 S. 50th St..
It happened while she was busy with creating her collection as well as working as a volunteer at agencies such as the Centro de Latinas and the Intercultural Senior Center. Diaz read in the Omaha World-Herald that fashion designers were needed for Omaha Fashion Week.
“It’s the only time I can say that the language barrier helped me,” said Diaz. When she got in touch with the organizers, instead of saying “I design for children” she said “I design for little girls” which was understood as if her outfits were designed for girls between 13 and 15 years of age. Her interesting drawings were immediately approved, but when Diaz sent in her samples, they realized she designed for little children and they commissioned her to find and prepare her own models. The little girls walked down the runway like professionals, and with that they “opened the way for other designers for children to step up a couple of years later.”
Her creations caught the interest of famous online store, Zulily, with whom she signed a deal in May 2012 for them to sell her extraordinary collection that included 20 different styles for outfits with leggings, cotton blouses, and spandex.
“The hardest part of this business is getting people to like your work,” said Diaz, who regularly features at zulily.com, increasing her client base every day.
For Diaz, a good designer “must find his/her own identity,” and this can be seen on the colorful manta she uses which evoke her Mexican roots: “Being Latina has brought me a lot of good luck.”
And even though nothing stops her creativity, there have been times when extraordinary measures had to be put into motion, even so far as requiring the help of her relatives in Mexico to complete a new lot for sale. With the help of State and local authorities, Diaz has secured loans to cover the purchase of industrial grade equipment as well as fabrics, always adhering to the import and export regulations she did not know about when she began her career: “Which is very complicated, especially when you’re not familiar with all the procedures, but you do learn as you go. In our community and our State, there are many resources available for us as well as several organizations that help small businesses.”
One of said organizations is the Midlands Latino Community Development Corporation, which endorsed her nomination for the Nebraska Small Business Person of The Year, which she proudly received on May 2 in Washington, D.C. The award was presented to her by Mexican Maria Contreras-Sweet, National Administrator for the US Small Business Administration: “It was an amazing experience since I was the first woman and the first Latina to receive the award in Nebraska – two minorities in one award.”
It is because of this that Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert declared that May 3 would now be known as “Yolanda Diaz Day.”
Thankful for all of this, Diaz continues to work hard while being amazed of how she’s managed to reach markets she would have never imagined, such as Germany – she’s thankful for how technology “does wonders” to reach other continents.
Knowing how, as a Latino immigrant “when you don’t have money, when you don’t have any resources, we always have our creativity, because we are smart, entrepreneurs and very capable,” said Diaz as she put the final touches for her next winter collection that will use manta in skirts, jackets, and coats.
“One of the things I practice is not feeling guilty for my mistakes, be them in my business or my personal life. You don’t have to flagellate yourself for the mistakes you’ve made in the past. On the contrary, we must learn from them, face them, move on and never surrender,” concluded the great business person.
Little Miss Fashion
4601 S. 50th St.