Mar De Urano: Sustainable Fashion and Self-Expression Through Art
Mar De Urano, which translates to Uranus’ sea, is a Costa Rican sustainable fashion brand that merges vivid and colorful art with fashion design. The brand was created by computer engineer and designer Karen Elizondo and architect and artist Ramiro Esquivel. Elizondo is in charge of the creative direction while Esquivel is the artist behind the art on the clothes.
Elizondo’s dream of having a fashion brand started when she was 15 years old. Her godmother taught her how to sew and gifted her a sewing machine. This marked the beginning of her obsession and creating her own clothes as a means of self-expression.
“The way we dress differentiates us by sharing our ideas and feelings,” Elizondo said. “It lets us share [with others] who we are. It’s a self-expression of who you are and where your mind’s at on a spiritual level.”
While honoring that self-expression, Elizondo has been in constant pursuit of finding herself in the creation of her own clothes. Before the brand’s existence, she met Esquivel and they began their romantic relationship—but also connected as a creative match. At the time, she was enrolled in a yoga teacher training program in Costa Rica. Part of the program required her to spend a month in Santa Teresa, one of Costa Rica’s most renowned beaches, located in the province of Puntarenas.
During that month in Santa Teresa, she adopted the philosophy behind the law of conservation of energy which states that “energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another.”
She went with the flow and trusted the process, and she found herself creating her own swimwear and clothing crafted from high-quality textiles. She was quickly drawn in, finding herself immersed in a wave of creativity. Every day, she created a different outfit with Esquivel’s printed art.
“I really didn’t have any expectations. I just wanted to have a good time and nice clothing for the teacher training,” Elizondo remembered. “Everyone told me that it was super cool and asked me if I had done it. I never expected to have any response whatsoever. I just wanted to materialize an idea I had had for a very long time.”
Jumping into the Fashion World
After that pivotal experience, she knew it was time to fully embark on a new adventure in fashion with Esquivel, which would culminate into a business that sells wearable art.
“When I met Rami, this idea came together and it flowed super well because he already had what I liked: the art,” Elizondo said. “[Choosing] colors is very hard for me and that’s super easy for Rami. He’s great with the graphic side of it. So, it was the perfect complement.”
That’s what encouraged Elizondo to use the $800 she had saved up, along with Esquivel’s support and art, to launch Mar De Urano. Their creative match led them to follow their bliss creating fashionable and artistic clothing.
From an artistic standpoint, Esquivel immersed himself in research on the exploration of cultural mythologies from around the world. He was particularly intrigued by Eastern and Aboriginal cultures. That was at the beginning phase of Mar De Urano. Lately, he’s been doing an internal exploration of his own roots, focusing on Central America and Mesoamerica. Esquivel has taken a strong interest in the Mayan glyphs and the representations on the pyramids’ facades, incorporating their depictions into his art.
“I’ve leaned on art as a tool for life. For me, art is like religion. It’s not a strict religion, but it’s a way in which I can create, see things, and it satisfies things that money can’t,” Esquivel said.
From Costa Rica to the World
Esquivel has understood that for his art to be successful, he needs a strong internal dialogue to achieve the self-expression portrayed in Mar De Urano’s colorful and rare clothing pieces. Esquivel has created art that does not subscribe to a specific trend or movement. Rather, it represents a real exploration of whatever he’s feeling at the moment. For Esquivel, it starts with a feeling that’s fun. Lately, their focus is on their appreciation for where they’re from— Costa Rica.
“Since we’re from Costa Rica, I’m always asking myself where I’m from or where I’m at. That’s why I really like Mesoamerican cultures, the rock spheres, and all these animals that live here,” Esquivel said. “These crazy frogs and snakes. We’re always drawn to them, especially if they’re from the tropics or from Costa Rica.”
As you can see, flora and fauna have a strong role in his paintings. His art features vibrant toucans, jaguars, scarlet macaws, coral snakes, butterflies, turtles, heliconias (lobster claws), and bananas, which are all endemic to Costa Rica.
“We’re from Costa Rica. The brand has taken Costa Rica to other places [in the world] because we’re always in contact with a lot of foreigners,” Esquivel said. “I think that most of the people who like our work aren’t from Costa Rica.”
From Oil Paintings to Swimwear and Clothes
But the artistic process doesn’t end with Esquivel’s oil paintings. Mar de Urano's work is also considered multimedia because once the paintings are chosen, they take a photo to digitalize the art to map out what will be printed onto the textiles. Elizondo is in charge of exploring whether they’ll use the whole painting or deconstruct it into fractals to create a new pattern to give their clients different alternatives.
Once they determine the design, they rely on the sublimation technique in which they use a big printer that applies heat over the textiles. As for the textiles themselves, Mar de Urano uses textiles made out of natural fibers, regenerated material, or repurposed fabric from their own stockpile.
“The fashion industry is one that contaminates a lot. For us that means being the owners of entrepreneurship in a responsible manner,” Elizondo said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to create more of the same thing. All of the textiles that we use for the clothing line are natural fibers that get decomposed with the earth.”
Choosing the textiles is just one small part of the process. When formulating clothes or swimwear, they’ve developed their own system of product design. It all begins with inspiration. Then they begin working with the patterns. They continue making samples until they achieve the desired fit, and once approved, they print the designs in different sizes. Once all of this is done, they start the production of the pieces.
This process, along with the colorful Latin American and tropical paintings on their wearable art, has also opened a lot of doors for them in a way that they did not expect. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they changed their fashion production to manufacture masks, exporting 250,000 masks per week to the United States and the United Kingdom as the result of an alliance with the U.S. company Remask America. During that time, they were able to generate 320 jobs in the midst of a global crisis.
That is just one example of how Mar De Urano has morphed into much more than just a clothing brand. After the production of the masks, they also opened up their own textile manufacturing company that helps other clothing and swimwear entrepreneurs.
Through the years, Elizondo and Esquivel have managed to transform Mar De Urano into a sustainable fashion brand that is synonymous with self-expression through art, and that stems from Elizondo’s simple desire to create with her hands.
For Elizondo, “It feels like a hug to the heart, being able to share something that comes from a very real place, especially with Rami’s art. I think that's the greatest contribution to this. More than fashion, I feel it’s all just art. Without Rami’s art, this wouldn’t be what it is. It would be generic fashion.”
To learn more about Mar De Urano’s sustainable fashion of self-expression through art, follow them at @mardeurano.
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