ARIANA VERGOS DE ZAVALA: INTERN WITH AGATHA RUIZ DE LA PRADA
by Mina Oh
Meet Ariana Vergos de Zavala '18: the beautiful, international sophomore with an eye for fashion -- and who, at the age of 16, interned with Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, the influential Spanish fashion designer. In the interview below, Ariana discusses how she landed the internship, what it was like working for Agatha, and the time she sewed the ensemble worn by Miley Cyrus at the VMAs (!!).
Name: Ariana Vergos de Zavala
Major: Media Arts & Sciences
Hometown: Madrid, Spain
MO: Tell me about this internship—what was it like working with Agatha Ruiz de la Prada?
AV: It was the summer after sophomore year of high school, I was 16 and it was the first internship I had ever done. I worked with the confection design team, so I got to see how they worked, as they were preparing for that year’s Madrid Fashion Week. They needed a lot of time to make each piece for the show. First, I did small things like ironing clothes, preparing little stitches that had come undone, or sewing the hems of dresses. But after a couple of weeks, upon seeing that I could sew pretty well (my mother had taught me how to sew when I was 12), and had picked up some of the tips they gave me, I got to do one outfit entirely on my own -- and it was the one Miley Cyrus wore at the VMAs this year!
MO: What was your day-to-day like?
AV: I worked from 9 am to 2 pm and then I had a lunch break, because in Spain everyone has long lunch breaks. And then I worked again from 3 pm to 5 pm. The entire studio is not very big because even though Agatha Ruiz de la Prada is pretty big in Spain, it's not very big internationally--at least not yet! Yet, the office buzzed with activity: we had castings to do and when models came to try on dresses, I had to help take measurements and see if anything needed fitting. I had the job of taking a dress in or making it longer according to each model that we cast for the fashion show.
MO: How did you become interested in fashion? Were you influenced by someone in your life?
AV: When I was 8, I started saying I wanted to be a fashion designer. I don’t really know why...I think it was one of those dreams that kids have--and for me, it was fashion design. At first my parents just thought I would grow out of it, like next week I’d want to be an astronaut, or whatever. But when I turned 12 and was still really into fashion and even started doing sketches, my mom taught me how to sew. That was the first big step for me into the fashion world--the ability to make my own clothes.
Also, growing up I heard a lot of stories of my mom from her group of really close friends in Spain, and they always joked about how my mom was always the one that looked best at parties and events, but it was always with things that she had made the same day of the event. All of her friends would spend weeks preparing for an event, buying and shopping for their outfits, and my mother would leave it until the day of, and that day she would whip up some fabric and make something with it.
MO: How did you land this internship?
AV: It was through my mom’s help. She knows Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, not very closely, but they are friends of friends. In Madrid, although it's the capital of Spain and a very big city, there’s a very tight-knit community of neighborhoods. And the neighborhood where I lived was also the neighborhood where Agatha’s offices were located. We had a lot of mutual friends, she and my mom are around the same age, and we were connected through this circle of friends.
MO: What differences did you notice between Spanish and American style?
AV: I think one of the main things that I didn’t really understand when I first got to America was why people wore workout clothes as normal, everyday fashion. Like, how is that a thing? I mean, I’m wearing work-out clothes right now but that’s not the point [editor's note: Ariana had just come back from a PE Class!]. I think I have gotten a bit more lenient about it and I understand that they’re comfy, so why not? Growing up in Madrid, there are fashion standards and people always look their best. And even though people may not follow the trends, they have their own, unique styles which is really cool. And I think here, when you’re not in a big city, it’s harder to see that level of fashion. So Spain, is definitely more put-together, people place more effort into what they wear.
MO: What was a highlight of your internship experience?
AV: One thing I learned that blew my mind, was how to do proper patterns--the ones you do with paper and cardboard. They make it a lot easier to make many pieces of one clothing because you have the pattern and you can copy it with any fabric. And then of course, the outfit that they let me make on my own completely: they gave me a picture of what the design should look like, told me to make a pattern for it, gave me the fabric, and just let me loose and make it. And yes, I was 16.
MO: What was your reaction when you saw Miley Cyrus wearing the skirt you had hand-sewn on TV?
AV: Oh my god--it was crazy. I was in bed one morning, and I hadn’t watched the VMAs the night before but I was looking through my instagram feed because that’s what I do every morning. And I love Miley Cyrus, so I follow her on instagram and I suddenly see this picture of her at the VMAs. I kind of do a double take, click on it again, and take a good look at it. And then I think to myself, this is either a really weird coincidence, or I made that. But all of Agatha’s designs for fashion week runway shows are one-of-a-kind--so basically, even though I made this outfit three years ago, it's the only one that exists, so it MUST be the one Miley Cyrus is wearing in this picture at the VMAs. It was even more awesome because I love Miley Cyrus so much. I screamed and I woke up my roommate, yelling “Lily! Lily! Look! Miley Cyrus is wearing what I made!” And not only that, it was my first time seeing my work on someone else other than a model.
MO: What were the biggest takeaways from the internship?
AV: I think I got a better understanding of how the fashion world works. I know even though my path has changed a bit, and I’m not as passionate about being a fashion designer as I used to be, I still love fashion and I still see myself doing something with fashion in the future. Even more as a hobby or when I’m older and I have time for that, but not as like a clear career path. Seeing all the behind-the-scenes things that occur in the fashion world that are not as great, kind of made me step away from it.
MO: What’s your advice for students pursuing similar internships?
AV: For fashion, it is very important to be vocational. If you’re looking for an internship, you need to show that you really want it, you really love it, and you should have a portfolio with things you’ve done. Practice, practice all the time; whether it’s sketching, making clothes, or whatever it may be. I think networking is also very important, especially in a world, like the fashion business. Whenever you have an opportunity, go to an event in fashion, get to know someone, go to a talk by someone, always try to meet them afterwards. If you met someone briefly, always follow up, maybe an email, a call, I think that’s your best bet into getting a jump start into the fashion business. From my perspective, people put more weight in networking in Europe than here, where people are better at looking at someone’s achievements when it comes to giving internships. In Europe, people care more about connections which may not be the fairest thing, but it's just how things work.
MO: Are you planning on working in fashion in the future?
AV: Maybe. I still love design, not so much fashion design exactly, but MAS does a lot of designing things like product design or graphic design.
WE WANT TO KNOW...
MO: How would you describe your own style?
AV: This may be a weird way to put it, but my style is considered different for the states, but typical for Spain. My favorite store ever is Zara...I love Zara. When I came here for the first time three years ago, no one really knew Zara. So everyone would ask me where I got my clothes, and they wouldn’t know the store, so they thought my style was very unique. But when I go back to Spain, because Zara is everywhere and everyone loves Zara so much, I actually see people wearing the same things as me all the time, which is not the best thing, but at the same time I love Zara so much that I don’t really care. As for my style, I’m casual, a bit put-together, a bit grungy sometimes. I like to experiment. I like leather jackets, boots, skinny jeans. 90% of my shirts right now are crop tops. I also really like changing my wardrobe a lot, so I won’t really invest in clothes other than coats and shoes. I LOVE coats and I LOVE shoes. But for the rest, like jeans and shirts, I’ll just buy cheap things that I can replace easily.
MO: What’s one thing you can’t live without?
AV: Green tea. I used to drink about 5 cups of green tea a day, I’m trying to tone it down. After spending some time in London, I started drinking English Breakfast tea with milk and I kind of like that now, so I’ll drink that in the morning and drink green tea later in the day. But yeah, tea in general. I love tea.
MO: What does your ideal Sunday look like?
AV: Ooh. I would say it involves a great brunch, I’m not a huge fan of breakfast food, so I would prefer a “lunch” brunch. After brunch I would do some outdoor activity, go for a walk, or if I’m in Boston, go sit by the Boston Harbor and look at the sailboats. I do sailing, so I love the ocean, and I love sailboats. Then I would try and find a food market or food festival. Every single Sunday since I’ve been back, I’ve been to one of those. And then I would get back, read a book, watch a movie, and just relax.
MO: Favorite Wellesley Fresh menu item?
AV: The cookies & cream ice cream.
MO: Best thing about being at Wellesley?
AV: The community I found here. I think I’ve been super lucky in finding a group of people that I can really relate to and go to for everything. I’m an international student so I got really involved with Slater and then I joined Phi-Sig Society. These two communities are like my home at Wellesley, which I love because I’ve always moved around a lot, so I always try to find my home wherever I am around the world. Wellesley is home right now.