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Fashion Gets Artful in the Hands of Reyna Noriega

By Folasade Ologundudu

Illustration by Reyna Noriega, a variety of her favorite looks from the Valentino Couture collection

Reyna Noriega captured her favorite looks from the Valentino Couture collection, rendered here In her signature style.

Reyna Noriega poses in front of a doorway wearing a green printed jumpsuit

Reyna Noriega, photographed by Valentina Perez.

Reyna Noriega’s illustrations feel like an extension of her very being. The liquidy forms are self-possessed, taking up space with a colorful vibrant energy just like the artist who renders them. Here, the Miami-based artist shares where these visions come from.

You’re a published author and a poet. How does poetry and communicating through words make its way into your artistic practice?
My poems give insight to the how and why of my art. As I work to make sense of what I am growing through, I record it as poetry. I’m always on a quest to bring more peace and joy into my life and because I am able to do the work to make that happen, the themes show up in my art: joy, vibrancy, peace, self-confidence. My audience can read my poems and see a blueprint for my success.

What’s motivating you these days? What are you excited about?
Opening my own gallery! The goal is to be the first Afro-Latina of my age with her own space in one of the arts districts in Miami. The gallery will not only represent my work, but be a hub for underrepresented artists. There will be community classes, events and so much more.

What prompted you to want to open your own gallery?
First and foremost, it started as an idea based on how I can better solidify a legacy. I want to create a real space where people can come together and experience art in real time. In Miami, we don’t have a lot of spaces like that, especially because people of color have been left out.

Have you worked with any organizations or advocacy groups?
Yes—what I do is for nothing if it doesn’t help liberate my communities and other disadvantaged groups. I work with organizations that support women, children, and people of color, such as New Florida Majority, Miami Workers Center, Buddy Systems Community Fridge, Soul Sisters, Pace Center for Girls and many more.

Illustration by Reyna Noriega, woman is wearing lounge clothes in a colorfully decorated room

House Style by Reyna Noriega appeared on the cover of The New Yorker last March.

For Bal Harbour Magazine’s coverage of the Couture collections, you were asked to illustrate the looks that inspired you the most. Can you tell us a bit about the selections you’ve made?
The couture looks I picked celebrate similar themes to those in my work—they are elegant, dreamlike even. The Valentino collection was striking for the bold, beautiful colors and modern takes on some traditional couture cuts. It felt like wearable art, which I love.

On the subject of commissions, how did your New Yorker cover come about?
I actually squealed when I received the email from the editorial team! One of the editors saw my work on Instagram and the conversation began from there. If you are an illustrator or fan of illustration, you know that the The New Yorker is the ultimate get. It was a dream of mine, but one that I would have expected to come way later in my career.

What advice would you give to young artists who want to run their own business?
Keep working on you. Get to the root of who you are and want you want, work on your self-confidence. Really sit with yourself and what makes you unique. Celebrate that! The times I almost quit were because I was in a constant loop of comparing myself to others or feeling I wasn’t good enough. But, to make art that people will connect with, it needs to come from a real and authentic place.

Can you speak about your Bal Harbour Shops commission and why it was important for you to do?
The Bal Harbour commission is a full circle moment for me. The first time I went to Bal Harbour I was a 20-year-old college student and I wanted to take my little sister shopping. I couldn’t buy one thing, not even lunch. I vowed that I would not go back until I could afford to shop there. This year I bought my first Fendi purse. I can’t believe I will be a part of the historic mall’s story in this way— creating an original multi-part artwork that will debut later this year. The details are still under wraps, but it’s going to be huge! It’s a beautiful testament to how hard I’ve worked.


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