Patricia de la Torre is the former Editor-In-Chief for Caras Puerto Rico, a magazine that closed its doors after 25 years full of great articles targeted to intelligent and curious women. But her high profile career never went to her head. "I am the person who in the middle of meetings stand ups and looks for coffee for the person I'm meeting with", she expressed with pride. It may be that one of her mentors was the graceful (no pun intended) Grace Mirabella... but we'll get into details about that soon.
Even though you can still tell Patricia misses Caras Magazine since it closed this past winter, she is finding inspiration in her new job at Puerto Rico's Bank of Economic Development, where she feels constantly inspired by upcoming entrepreneurs. "It's kind of weird because in my generation they taught us to think about who would we work for, rather what we were going to do. Since millennials are growing up in such hard times, you've developed business skills and see opportunities in places that maybe our generation doesn't see", she expressed.
"This job has sparked an illusion in me to search for what I can do and has awaken an entrepreneurial spirit in me", expressed the also owner of Patsee, a handbag brand she hand-makes. (You can order custom handbags by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Interviewing Patricia in the beautiful rooftop at Olive Boutique Hotel, has been one of the highlights of my career since she is not only recognized for her amazing career journey, but for being a strong feminist without losing her charming personality. When I told her about my little dream of being an intern for her during college but I never had the guts to tell her, she immediately started laughing and told me that I should've emailed her. Which made me regret being so shy. So college students, take notes! This is how you make it in the magazine publishing industry:
ME: You have a BA and Masters Degree in fashion?
PT: I did my undergrad in Fashion Merchandising from Marymount College and then I did a Masters Degree in Fashion Retailing at NYU.
ME: Did you always know you wanted to work in the Fashion Industry?
PT: Definitely! When I took off for college, studying fashion was not as popular as it is today. To tell you the truth, it was difficult to find schools with fashion majors. The cool thing about Marmount is that since it was a Liberal Arts School, I had the opportunity of graduating with a minor in Creative Writing.
Then, when I graduated with my bachelors degree I was like "do I really have to go and work now?! How terrible, this can't be happening!". So it was way easier to go ahead and study a Masters Degree instead of just accepting that I had to be an adult. So I enrolled in NYU, which was an spectacular experience... It was right in the city where I always wanted to be. But of course, my parents wouldn't let me go for undergrad... which I think was a good idea because I would've been a major disaster!
ME: Tell me about your internship experiences?
PT: Since during that time, pattern divisions were huge, I worked with Vogue Patterns for a semester in college, which was amazing... it was at Vogue's same building! It was super interesting because in Fashion Merchandising we had to work a lot with seams, pattern making, sizing and so much more. They trained us to be able to choose the best garments by turning clothes inside out in order to actually see what material they were using so you would be prepared to work as a buyer for a store someday. I even took chemistry classes while I did an exchange program in London School of Fashion! It was a required two semester course that taught me to be able to understand textiles.
After that I did an Internship at Mirabella Magazine, which was wonderful! The magazine was directed by Grace Mirabella, former Editor in Chief at Vogue, before Anna Wintour took charge. To this day I still remember how hands on and what a special woman she was. It was a really small staff and she was very involved with everything.
I worked in their closet as the assistant of the assistant of the assistant of the assistant and sometimes I had to wake up at 3am to get to photoshoot after looking for everything that was needed in the office and take it to the van, go to the location and pick up the editors and models. But I still had the opportunity of being with Grace during meetings, while being an intern! She even invited me to some of her events at her beautiful brownstone home in Manhattan with all of her staff. I remember one day I found myself at Grace Mirabella's house with all of these designers and I was like "Oh my God what am I doing here?!". The thing is, this fashion world is a little intense and complicated, and she was a great person.
ME: How did you get these amazing internships?
PT: I feel like these days, finding internships is so much more difficult. In those days it wasn't very common to study fashion, so that's why I think that there were more opportunities. I really don't remember exactly how it happened, but I do remember it was pretty easy.
ME: Who did you most admire when you were growing up?
PT: My mom. I literally ended up studying fashion because of her... She sacrificed so many things so my sisters and I could have the best dresses and shoes, which I believe is to truly be admired. We were these little schmucks and she would take us to Oui Boutique and Nativa Boutique, because she loved spoiling us. She has impeccable taste and she has a lot of common sense, which are things that have really influenced my sisters and I.
ME: You mentioned on an interview that you entered the magazine world by accident. Tell me a little bit more about this.
PT: It really was by accident. I studied Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Retailing so I was supposed to be a buyer for some store, but it never happened. But I've always loved writing.
When we were kids we used to visit my dad's family in Spain and he always made us write a paper about our experiences. But not only that! When we came back to Puerto Rico, he would make us write an essay about our trip. He even copied our essays and sent them to our professors and it was horrible! But that made us develop a writing discipline that helped us express our experiences in paper later on.
That's how I started having an itch to start developing the art of writing and journalism. Then while I was doing my undergrad, I decided to minor in creative writing. And once I entered (the magazine world), I was hooked.
ME: How was your experience at Imagen?
PT: When I came back to Puerto Rico, I started working as an Assistant Fashion Editor at Imagen, and when the Fashion Editor left, they gave me the position. It was a very interesting experience! I was there for four years and I remember that during that time we didn't use Photoshop. We did everything by hand. One of my mentors was the magazine's photographer at the time, Raul Torres, because he was an artist of airbrushing with just brushes, pencils, erasers and sprays. He did everything by hand! No Photoshop.
ME: You worked for a while at GFR Media's deModa. How was that experience?
When this project started, GFR Media called me to join their team. I started as the Fashion Editor and when the magazine started taking more form and direction, they gave me the opportunity to direct it. I had the experience of seeing how a publication went from a newspaper to a newsstand and this is how my job changed from doing only fashion, to actually creating a magazine from scratch. This was also my first experience directing a magazine, which entails so many other things. You have to be in charge of graphic design, photography, client relationships, editing and everything. Even developing a brand! I stayed there for 8 years.
ME: How did you take the big leap to Caras?
PT: Marisol Malaret was the Editor in Chief of Caras for many, many years... and when a position opened I got it and stayed there for 13 years. The best thing about Caras was our staff. We had the best journalists, photographers and graphic designers. Everyone went to work with a good mood and giving it their all, because Televisa (the magazine's publishing house) gave us a lot of editorial opportunities. Caras had an international look and feel because it was made for educated women who traveled and wanted to know about everything, but it was still a local magazine. Interviews were local and fashion was local.
It was also very important for us to have a balance between articles of interest and social pages. We wanted to have a complete magazine so that any type of person could find something of interest. If you wanted to know what was the hottest restaurant not only in Puerto Rico, but in New York or Paris, we had an article about it. If you wanted a travel article we also had it... if you wanted something about art and culture, we also had it. We even had a Hollywood correspondent!
We had brainstorming meetings where everyone had to bring out a topic no matter if it was from their department or not. It was like gathering with friends... we all had different interests, expertises and points of view. That's how we payed such close attention to editorial content.
If it's not relevant for readers, it's not relevant for advertisers. A magazine is a business and the only way to make money out of it, is by having a quality product. You can't sell your soul to the devil. The moment to turn your magazine into a commercial product, you're doomed. Your readers and advertisers will leave. In order to make your articles relevant, you need to not make your articles look like a non paid political advertisement. The moment you start selling editorials, you're dead.
ME: What was the hardest part of working for a lifestyle magazine during your 13 years in Caras?
PT: I believe that in general, the media still hasn't found the perfect way to adapt to all the changes happening with the Internet and social media. They are still finding the "perfect" formula of how to work the constant changes in media.
The most important thing to think about is to look at it as a brand. Not a magazine, not a blog, not a newspaper, not a radio program or tv program. For example, Caras Magazine was part of the Caras brand. So Caras was a social event, a trip, a clothing line. Everything has to integrate with the brand and the magazine has to be part of it. There has to be a bigger picture; you need to give the customer a 360 experience... An all inclusive: web, social, events, licenses, franchises.
ME: I loved that Caras had professional profiles! You once said that "women love knowing about other women's stories" and I totally agree.
PT: Women still have a long way to go in equality when it comes to jobs. I love listening about women who are successful and specially when they form part of board of directors. Important decisions are still, in great majority, in hands of men. In Caras, we did a really great effort to find women who gave us a good story and trust me, there're a lot of them!
I highly recommend the documentary Miss Representation, which is about women leaders and the importance media has in highlighting women as professionals and as cultural and political leaders. I even had my two boys watch it!
ME: What is the best memory you have in the industry?
PT: Wow... There's a lot of them. But not too long ago, they called me to talk about fashion history in Puerto Rico for the local documentary film Anatomía de un Vestido and that felt really good! It is a very well made local film by Flora Pérez Garay.
ME: Who's the person you most enjoyed interviewing?
PT: Arnaldo Roche. Even though he's really reserved, he let me come inside his workshop. I felt like he was letting me inside his world, and once that happened, we have developed a really beautiful friendship. It felt like a privilege.
ME: What advise would you give someone trying to enter the magazine world in 2015?
PT: Learn about everything... you need to know how to do everything. Read, read, read and learn new languages and history. Travel. Be curious, have initiative... All that knowledge you thought you were never going to need will become useful when it comes to have an open mind. Even to engage in conversations with whomever! You always need a good conversation piece.
Random facts about Patricia:
- Favorite Scent: Musk oil by Kiehls
- Favorite Music: 80's rock
- Favorite Book: Everything written by David Sedaris. He's so funny!
- Favorite way to unwind: With my family and boyfriend (actor Braulio Castillo who she describes as a blessing in her life)
- Favorite Restaurant: My brother in law's restaurant Bricolage in Brooklyn New York. It's an amazing Vietnamese gastropub.
- Favorite Social Media Platform: Instagram
- Favorite Coffee Shop: Café Cuatro Sombras
- Favorite Drink: Johnny Walker on the rocks.
- Most have Home decor piece: Pictures! Of everyone. A home without pictures is not a home.
- Most have fashion accessories: A good pair of jeans. I can pay anything for a good pair.
- Most proud of: My two sons.
- Necessary luxury: A nice trip once a year.
- What's on the top of your bucket list: A nice getaway! I am dying to visit Turkey.
- Best place you ever visited: There are so many! But no matter where I am, if I am with my family, it's the best place ever.
As I said before, I feel really honored to have had the opportunity of sharing this interview with you. Patricia is someone that I've admired for so long for her career journey and grace. She never lets the industry get to her. I really wish you find the same lesson I got from this interview: Follow your dreams and surround yourself with loving and talented people. Somehow, the world will conspire in your favor.
Thank you so much to Olive Boutique Hotel in San Juan for giving me the opportunity of interviewing Patricia at their amazing rooftop. Did you know The Real Housewives of Atlanta stayed here during their visit to Puerto Rico?! For more information about bookings visit www.oliveboutiquehotel.com or call 787.705.9994. You won't regret it!