Yolanda Pérez Álvarez
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10è VOLUM. Biografies rellevants de les nostres emprenedores

Sra. Yolanda Pérez Álvarez

Designer and co-founder of the Yolancris brand


At Yolancris, Cristina takes care of the accounts and designs new sales strategies, while Yolanda creates original bridal and evening gowns that travel the world and are hand-picked by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Shakira. ftese two sisters are the perfect pairing who are turning heads on the catwalks of Barcelona, London, Milan and New York. fteir groundbreaking, fashion-forward and creative designs, along with their artisanal production techniques, have thrust them to upper echelons of international haute couture. fteir dream is to become trailblazers and open up their creativity to other arts.


I’ve still got my grandma’s Singer sewing machine

When I think back to my childhood, I can picture the face of Manuel, my granddad on my mother’s side, sitting on the green three-seat sofa where he loved to relax. I would sit at his feet and spend the time watching the up and down movements of the pedal on the Singer sewing machine, which I still have today, used by my grandma to give life to innumerable small household items: bread bags, sheets for the whole family, tea towels, and so on. Both my sister Cristina -only fifteen months younger- and I grew up with our grandparents, as our parents worked all day long. Although they lived on the next floor, we saw their house as an extension of ours. ftey were a huge influence on us. I remember that my grandma would spend the day singing away. She was a really enthusiastic person, with great physical and mental strength. My grandad was a country man, strict and hardworking. My mother, like him, always did piecework, from sunrise to sunset, and I think we that we’ve inherited a bit of that spirit of sacrifice and dedication: we’re constantly honing our resistance and we tend to think that we can always give a bit more. However, Antonio, my granddad on my father’s side, was the total opposite: on Saturdays, he’d pick us up and take us for a walk so that our parents could have a bit of a break. Before leaving, we’d eat the blood sausages that he brought us from his Murcian homeland for breakfast. He died recently, but he was very old: a simple and honest man.

Our mother, a well-known person in the clothing industry

Her name is Mercedes and she’s always worked as production manager for companies in the industry, as well as for her own shops. Everybody knows her. Even the founder of Pronovias, Alberto Palatchi, could talk about her. She’s sixty-eight years old and still comes to our atelier every day. Her gaze is always demanding, and she’s never praised any of my designs, although I don’t really need her to. I know how to evaluate when I should feel proud of my work and when I should improve it, but I admit that she’s the most critical professional I know. It’s the most effective way that our mother knows to teach us never to lower our guard. I’d say that she is perfection personified. Meanwhile, my father, Ginés, was a toolmaker. Like us, he was also responsible for creating custom pieces.

The luck of being able to play in the street in my native Sabadell

We lived in a neighbourhood of Sabadell, a city near Barcelona. Our apartment building looked out onto a cul-de-sac that was bordered by an orchard. Fortunately, cars were prohibited in the area, so we could run around and play at our leisure. A big group of us, boys and girls of all ages, would meet up to play together. ftere were about twenty-five of us in total. I remember that as soon as I’d get up, I’d have some breakfast and then head straight out onto the street. Right now, I live with my family in a house with a courtyard, and I love planting flowers and other plants with my three children: Sol, Lucas and Paula. I’m so aware of how important it is for children to have contact with the outdoors and with nature.

As a child, I always dreamt about belonging to Doctors Without Borders

When I was a child, I imagined myself as an adult travelling to Africa to cooperate with the NGO Doctors Without Borders. I was sure that I’d pull it off. I loved biology and medicine. However, when I had to do lab practices at secondary school with some lungs and the heart of an animal, I got all dizzy and collapsed. Every time I saw blood, I’d feel sick. I had no other choice but to admit that I had to change my career path. I’d always liked the world of needlework, so I finally decided to focus on what I was good at. It’s funny, but often it’s hard for us to realise our own gifts and we need to try out other skills. It’s as if at the beginning we didn’t know ourselves well enough or that we didn’t know how to work out if we were good at a certain type of job.

At the age of eleven, I sold my first ever dress

My mother opened up a shop in Sabadell when my sister and I were little. At the age of seven, we’d spend our Saturdays picking up needles from the floor and bothering the dressmakers. I remember that I sold my first dress when I was eleven years old. As I was the older one, I was put in charge of selling first communion outfits. fte girls liked talking to someone younger. And then, at the age of twenty, I opened my first shop, located on a bustling square in Sabadell, which I ran for seven years. At that time, the owner of the sewing company where my mother worked – which was in Hospitalet de Llobregat- retired, so we decided to take charge of the business and started designing and making dresses to sell to other stores, although in the end we only supplied our own outlets.

I learned the trade with the renowned dressmaker Teresa Sala

When I finished school, I kept on working in the store. I didn’t want to study Design because I was in a hurry to finish. What I liked was to understand the process, and if I could be working, then even better. I decided to enrol at a renowned tailoring school located on Calle Tallers in Barcelona, where you could choose between doing the course in three years or in one. I plumped for the fast track option. I learned how to design and sew thanks to Teresa Sala, an expert dressmaker who worked with us. She was famous for making the best coats in the whole of Catalonia.

If I wanted to expand my knowledge, I had to ask the right questions

I remember that when a customer would come in to buy something, I’d always tried to sell her a dress and, if she was willing, I’d promise to deliver it within a few days. Even though I still didn’t know how to make dresses, I’d take the train into Barcelona, head to the Ribes & Casals store, buy the fabric and cut it myself. Many a time, I didn’t even have card to put the patterns on, but I made do with some newspaper that I’d stick together with Sellotape. Teresa and my mum taught me how to design and sew as we went along, as in without any plans drawn up beforehand. I’d try not to disturb them while they were working, and I had to learn how to ask the right questions. If my question was too obvious, they’d reply: “But have you really studied tailoring, or what?” It was best for me to ask well- thought-out questions.

Cristina, my antithesis and my complement: a perfect partner

My sister and I are often told that we look like twins. ftere are only fifteen months between us, but we’re very different. Cristina is passionate about numbers and always excelled at maths, so she decided to study Business Administration and Management at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. When in 2005 we founded our own brand of wedding and party dresses, which we christened Yolancris, we immediately knew that each one of us would be responsible for one side of the business. Cristina would deal with the finances, sales and business strategy. And I would create the designs. I’m not the best with numbers, but I do bear them in mind throughout my creative process: I’m not going to start creating risky designs if I know they’re not going to sell. I always ask for budgets to review my ideas and I check with my sister before making any decisions. Likewise, Cristina also trusts my creative skills. fte two of us together form a perfect pairing, and neither of us ever treads on the other’s toes. However, there is something that we do have in common: we’re both dyslexic and we have an intolerant memory; we get irritated when we run into someone absent-minded.

“Imagine that my sister Yolanda is a salmon”

It took me two years to write a page to try and explain the identity of the Yolancris brand. I had it very clear in my head, but I didn’t know how to express it in words. In a meeting with our sales team, my sister explained it perfectly. She said to them: “Imagine that Yolanda is a salmon swimming upstream against the current and ends up exhausted, almost lifeless, but in the end achieves its goal: to lay eggs and give life. Like that salmon that goes against the flow, she doesn’t follow the tastes of the majority. ftat’s why she doesn’t like macro-companies or macro-sales, and you have to understand this to understand the essence of our brand”. To her words, which helped us so much, I would add some others: the real pearl of Yolancris is our team. Technology always makes our lives easier, but people are always above machines, and it should never be the other way around.

What makes us fall in love with a handmade dress is its imperfection

When a woman has woven an embroidery, following a previous design, and someone is observing how her work has turned out, she’ll perceive that there’s always a margin of error because the hand is imperfect. However, far from entailing a setback, this is very beautiful because it means that this piece has a soul. It’s a creation as opposed to mainstream production, so it can create empathy in the observer. A dress sewn by hand, even with its asymmetries, will never be the same as one made by a machine. It has its own personality that makes it stand out. ftis year, I got inspired by the exhibition that the MNAC museum dedicated to William Morris, a London-based architect, textile designer, translator, poet and novelist. He was associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement in the nineteenth century and was one of the main driving forces behind the revival of traditional textile arts. He opposed industrial production, as he believed that it made the creative side of things disappear. He wanted everyone to have the right to surround themselves with artistic elements. Obviously, this idea didn’t prosper, as people with few resources couldn’t afford to buy hand-made products. Even so, it is possible to reach a balance and keep up certain industrial processes so as not to increase the price of the product, but without eschewing the quality of a handmade piece. Although I’d love to design dresses for everyone, we ultimately end up addressing a certain type of audience with greater purchasing power.

Our atelier looks like a kitchen at full whack

Forty of us work in a building dating from the 1960s. We move around in not the biggest of spaces, where you can hear shouting, chatting and all kinds of radios blaring. We’re all a bit on top of each other, but we coexist in harmony, with the most experienced dressmakers alongside younger and less inexperienced apprentices. Sometimes it reminds me of a restaurant kitchen at full whack. If we have to adapt one of our designs to a Muslim market and shorten the neckline and lengthen the sleeves, it’s not strange to hear: “One with sleeves coming right up!” I like to work in silence, although it’s always a relative silence because I’m in the middle and I can hear the phones ringing, workmates chatting, machines huffing and puffing… It’s a strange silence, in which I manage to isolate myself. ftat’s why I like to go to work on Saturdays, when nobody is there. You could hear a pin drop.

One of our dreams: to create a school

We also give space to young people at our atelier, as we like to give an opportunity to twenty-somethings who dream about the world of design and dressmaking. Normally, they’re very dynamic people who have been floundering along with studies that have never really motivated them. fteir true desire is to offer their creativity to the world, as they have it in their blood. At Yolancris we teach them a trade and in return we require a certain attitude from them: they have to love the fabrics, look after them as if they were valuable pieces, treat them with respect and have a desire to learn. In fact, one of our dreams is to create a school. We work in a traditional way; I wouldn’t like to die without having conveyed this technique. I don’t care if our brand name disappears; what I really want is to guarantee the survival of all the knowledge inherited through the expertise of my grandmother and my mother. I believe that we have the opportunity and the duty to pass it down it to the new generations. It must be wonderful to see someone succeed who you’ve helped to train.

With an eye on haute couture

For our designs to be considered haute couture, we need major recognition and to be able to adapt to a series of requirements that we mostly fulfil, such as dressing high society women and following a handmade production process. We cut, embroider and make garments by hand. Our creations involve many hours of work. In 2006, we made a leap into the international market thanks to Collezioni La Sposa, one of the leading stores in the industry in Italy. In 2008, we presented our bridal collection for the first time on the Gaudí catwalk in Barcelona. Two years later, we debuted with our first women’s haute couture collection. In 2014, we took part in Paris Fashion Week for the first time. ftat same year, we entered the iconic Kleinfeld store in New York, considered the point of sale with the largest and best selection of wedding dresses in the world. And in 2016, we became the first Spanish label to present a collection at an American bridal event, the New York Bridal Market. ftis year, we opened our first haute couture store in Barcelona. What’s more, we’ve dressed many celebrities for all kinds of events. Christina Aguilera chose an iconic Yolancris piece -the 13-24 gown- for her long-awaited return to The Voice. We also dressed the singer Raquel del Rosario to represent Spain at the 58th Eurovision Song Contest, held in Malmö, Sweden, with her group El Sueño de Morfeo. In 2014, Kim Kardashian chose us for her bridesmaids’ dresses. Khloé, Kourtney, Kendall and Kylie all wore Yolancris at the media frenzy of a ceremony held in Florence. Two years later, we walked the Cannes Film Festival red carpet with a gown worn by German actress Barbara Meier. And Beyoncé wore one of our dresses to pick up her Video of the Year award at the MTV Video Music Awards, held at Radio City Music Hall in New York. What’s more, Lady Gaga opted for our label to appear at the 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Paris. And the famous singer Shakira last year chose one of our dresses to attend the wedding of Lionel Messi and Antonella Rocuzzo in Argentina with her husband Gerard Piqué. ftere’s one last requirement to get into haute couture: that a sponsor of the industry -a personality who is part of this consortium- invites you to enter.

Our projection has always been based on hard work

Working for celebrities was never our main goal. It came about naturally, based on a lot of hard work. When a good opportunity has appeared, we’ve taken advantage of it. We’ve never been given anything on a plate, nor have we ever tried to play the seduction game. We live far from the world of social relations and communication. We’re always free spirits, applying all the common sense that we can.

We presented the “Identity” collection in collaboration with La Fura dels Baus

Not everyone has the chance to gain access to artistic shows, as they’re not always free. To present our new collection “Identity”, we involved people in a show paying homage to artisans, along with the collaboration of the Fura dels Baus theatre company and the Veronal dance group. When I met with Pep Gatell -artistic director of the Fura- to tell him my idea, we immediately clicked. By the next day, he’d already prepared the drawings, the artistic proposal and the budgets. He was really excited. fte show took place on Avenida María Cristina in Barcelona. It only lasted ten minutes, but it was intense: giant scissors came down from the sky, forty models climbed down from a thimble, and an outstretched measuring tape was the catwalk on which twenty-five new designs were presented. ftese kinds of performances accessible to all audiences should be held more often. As a brand, we’d love to be more in touch with the artistic world. It’s another one of our goals.

Our fashion-forward look has crossed borders

All brands used to present photographic collections using models against plain backgrounds. But when you see thirty photos in a row like this, they all get a bit boring, so I chose to put them on a stage, even though I didn’t fully show the dress. I preferred to put myself in the buyer’s shoes, for example a girl attending an important social event or shopping for her own wedding. They were pioneering photographs, which triggered many criticisms in the industry. However, the Internet made it possible for them to cross borders. From then on, we spotted that more and more foreign customers were showing an interest in our work. My intuition kicked in and I suggested that we should take part in international shows, so we decided to take a risk and go out and show our creations. We set up small stands at the main shows in New York, Milan and Paris. Our work, which wasn’t too pricey and showcased a fusion between handmade production and groundbreaking design, started to whip up a lot of attention. At the shows, people would come over, feel our clothes and then head away. But after a while, they’d come back again and take away five items with them. And that’s how we started out, little by little and with some intuition.

Just two days to create Kim Kardashian’s wedding dress

Kim was getting married to Kanye West on a Saturday in May 2014. fte Tuesday before, she got in touch with us to create her wedding dress and those of her three bridesmaids: Kourtney, Khloé and Kylie. fte designer Hubert de Givenchy had been commissioned, but they weren’t happy with the result, so they were looking for an emergency solution. Coincidentally, we already knew her wedding stylist and she remembered us. In just three days, I had to give myself time to whizz over to Paris, take the measurements, head back to the atelier, start working and make the delivery. It was really crazy because the girls weren’t even going to have time to try on the dresses, which is unthinkable in commissions like these. I remember that my mother advised me not to do it, but then the Yolancris communications manager came to see me and said: “Yolanda, this is your chance, don’t let it slip by”. So, I said to myself: “Come on, let’s do it!” When I got there, they made me wait in a tiny room and finally they let me in to see them, having only half an hour to take the measurements. I flew back to Barcelona and we made the four dresses for the wedding. After this opportunity, we were contacted by celebrities such as Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. With commissions like these, we gain a greater impact. And they opened up a door for us that’s still open. However, for me they’re no better than the commission of a wedding dress for a customer’s daughter. fte same hands make the dresses for a celebrity as they do for an anonymous person. Both have to be perfect.

Beyoncé chose one of our gowns for the MTV gala

We were away on holiday, so we didn’t pick up the email that arrived on 16th August from Beyoncé’s stylist asking for some outfits. On the 20th, we got back to the office and were gobsmacked when we read her email requesting three different looks. We didn’t have time to make brand new dresses, so we tailored some outfits we already had to the measurements that the stylist sent us. Of all the ones we sent her, belonging to different brands, the stylist only selected some items. Fortunately, Beyoncé chose one of our wedding gowns to go up on stage and pick up her award for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards. Our dress was on show at a really important moment, with all the cameras zooming in on the artist. For the red carpet and the after party, she went for models from other designers. It was really exciting and a huge personal satisfaction.

We’re like a doctor who visits a patient

People tend to think that our trade is full of glamour, but the truth is that we’re like doctors treating women. We observe them naked or in underwear while they ask us which corset we’d recommend. I don’t think that’s particularly glamorous. Our mission is to make a garment that can be worn at a celebration. Meanwhile, us dressmakers don’t have time to take care of our image, we only have time to deliver our skills. Normally, when I arrive somewhere for work reasons, the people around me are all looking fabulous. ftat said, I don’t worry too much about my clothes; I have three small kids, I’m fully committed to my job and my family, so I don’t have time for anything else.

We make three hundred dresses a year

We create a collection of a hundred wedding dresses, plus a hundred evening gowns for the winter and a further hundred for the summer. In total, we make about three hundred outfits a year, practically one every day. Although we don’t have time to stop and catch our breath, we always pull it off in the end, as we’re very well organised. We present the evening wear in Paris and the wedding dresses in Barcelona. We also have customers who buy material for their department stores, look at the sample book and choose the models they like the most. However, bridal dresses are more focussed around commissions. ftat’s the normal way of working in haute couture, something intrinsic to our trade: we’re couturiers.

From the Spanish and European markets to the South American and Asian markets

We currently have around two hundred regular customers and we sell an average of 2,500 garments per year. Five years ago, the Spanish market was the most important one for us, along with southern Italy and France. However, our international expansion process has taken us to other continents with high purchasing power, such as the Asian market. Our customers are usually women who have two parties a week and need to wear a different outfit to each event. What’s more, one of our most important customers is in Brazil. She contacted us after having been attracted by our boho line, as this works very well for beach weddings, which are commonplace over there. In the United States, they tend to make a minimal investment, such as buying five items which they then squeeze the max out of. In Italy, though, a very traditional and Catholic country, the exclusive nature of the dress is valued, for which the customers pay extra. Stores often promise brides that they’re selling them a unique look that isn’t for sale anywhere else in the province. Meanwhile, the famous designer Joan Antoni Fàbregas i Casas, who dressed the British royal family, called us to ask us if we wanted to continue with his business in the UK. He liked how we worked, and he told us that we were the only ones who could keep his business running, but it wasn’t a good time for us. We couldn’t just up and leave everything in Barcelona and move over there.

Creativity is the gift of knowing how to deliver without expecting anything in return

In a creative process, you give your absolute all. Some people paint, others write novels or design buildings, and we create dresses. Inspiration comes rarely and usually doesn’t last for more than a day, but when it does come to light, it’s very rewarding. I feel that I lose all direction and that time becomes relative. I can be surrounded by a crowd and my mind keeps on creating in solitude, as if in a dialogue with myself. fte dress that I feel the proudest of in a collection is usually the first one I create. fte opposite usually happens to designers, though, as the last one always stands out. In my case, I reckon that my fears come around in the last stage. I often wonder whether the dress will or won’t sell.

My professional life is narrated in notebooks

I never make sketches, but each creation has a name and takes up a single line on which I note down the year, the collection to which it belongs and the three key features that make it stand out. Each notebook lasts me three years. I’ve got four of them now. All my professional life is recorded in them. My best time for creating is usually in the mornings, when I get up. I make myself a coffee and I smoke a cigarette, and it’s quite possible that I’m already thinking about a new look. Also, something strange happens to me: when there are people around me who are arguing, my mind takes refuge and begins to create new models.

We don’t create, we adapt

To tell you the truth, we never actually create as such. We transform the ideas that we connect with: we can’t avoid influences, as all concepts are interrelated, and information comes to us from many angles. ftis is very positive, because it means that we never stop transforming ideas, enhancing them or changing them. For example, I’m aware that I’m influenced by the art of Barcelona and by its predilection for everything organic. In nature, everything is asymmetrical, just as in a garden there are always some flowers taller than others. In my dresses, I love including and highlighting asymmetries. People aren’t the same on their right side as on their left side. However, your backbone marks an axis that we need to respect. My mum always told me that you can do what you want with front of a dress, but the back has to be symmetrical.

Creating is something intrinsic to women, as we can be mothers

Motherhood gives us an amazing power: the ability to create a human being. At the same time, it’s a moment in life that gives us great inspiration, which is why my best collections were designed when I was pregnant. I felt stronger than ever before, both physically and mentally. It was a body with two hearts beating in unison. What’s more, being a mother gives you the chance to grow up suddenly. In fact, you don’t know how immature you are until you have a child in your care.

Without my husband Óscar, I wouldn’t have been able to devote myself fully to Yolancris

When I’d get home late sometimes, my children would be waiting for me to take them to bed. Beforehand, though, my husband would have picked them up from school, taken them to after-school classes and made dinner for them. Sometimes he’s also tired and has a right to a strop: he’s a biology teacher and has lots of work, especially during the exam period or when he has to prepare new topics for his classes. It’s important to learn how to respect the path chosen by each one of us so that we can make as much headway as possible. Knowing how to find a balance is paramount.

When I’m working, I don’t miss my family

If I have to go off to Paris for a few days, I promise my family that I’ll call them to find out how they’re doing. But I don’t want them to miss me, because while I’m working I don’t miss them. When I get to my hotel room at midnight, I’m dead on my feet and fall asleep straight away. I like my children to see my absence as something normal in their lives: they know that I chose this path before they came to this world, and that’s what my profession is like. When the time comes, they’ll also have to choose how they want to live their lives.

No politician has proven to have even the slightest bit of common sense

I don’t have time to watch TV, but when I have had the chance to switch it on, I’ve never been interested in listening to political speeches, whichever the party and whether or not they’re in favour of Catalan independence. For me, and for many other people, the political class is demodé. ftey’re on a different level and they live in another world. We’re like chalk and cheese. People are tired and fed up of watching programmes in which they talk about subjects that aren’t leading us anywhere. In recent times, it seems that no politician has even the slightest bit of common sense.