It was the night before the Met Gala and Elena Velez had a raging sinus infection. “I will take my dead body to the Met Gala tomorrow, I swear to god, nothing is getting in my way,” the designer declared as we spoke over video chat. Indeed, Velez attended the gala (very much alive) along with her guest, the artist Sasha Gordon. Both wore, of course, original pieces hand-crafted by Velez. In life and in work, the woman is a fighter, tough as nails in the most charming of ways. And despite being at the top of her game in the high-fantasy fashion sphere, she’s a pragmatic, down-to-earth Midwesterner at her core.
She’s also a 28-year-old mom of two: Freja Lucia, 11-months and Atlas, two-and-a-half. Velez’s husband Andreas Emenius is an artist and they live and work in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Her Mom, Holly, is a ship captain, as she has been for the last 35 years, in their hometown of Milwaukee. These are the beings that give Velez her spark, a family that she unabashedly, and rather seamlessly, intertwines within her work as a designer, both from logistical and philosophical standpoints. They are a part of it all, from interviews to the CFDAs to travel to deadlines to bills.
Just like she did for the first Monday in May, Velez is pushing full steam ahead on new designs and not even taking a break to celebrate Mother’s Day. As she noted via email the week before the holiday, she has “no plans for Mother’s Day, no expectations of fanfare. I don’t celebrate my personal life much. I don’t love attention and I get so much of it in other parts of my life. Feels gratuitous to keep finding opportunities to celebrate myself.”
There’s that corn-fed grit. But while Velez protests the spotlight, she really is the most inspiring kind of woman, designer, and mom. She’s honest and relatable, but still a dreamer. She doesn’t fret about bringing her little ones along on the ride, but has some anxieties and ideas around how they should or shouldn’t be raised. Her hauntingly beautiful, industrial clothes celebrate womanhood and matriarchy, but they do so with an open lens, a middle ground between what we think a modern feminist mother should look like and who she actually is—flaws, mediocrity, and all.