Woman Fashion Designer, Veteran, and Immigrant Turns Challenges into Opportunities

July 31, 2018

Inspired by her childhood in Mexico, Carolina was destined to become a fashion designer with a purpose. Carolina said, “I used to observe my mother making clothes for my siblings and myself. Seeing her transform fabrics into garments intrigued me to the point that it motivated me to come to the United States.”

At the age of 18, Carolina left everything she knew in the hopes of attending design school in the United States. “The simple pleasures that most natives took for granted like simply understanding a movie in English was a daunting task,” she describes.

Thrust into a different culture and language was challenging — but she pushed herself to adapt to her new environment. For five years she worked during the day and completed English as Second Language classes (ESL) at night.

Overcoming her fears turned out to be good practice for what was to come.

Carolina Hernandez
Carolina Hernandez

In 2005, Carolina walked into her local military recruiting office and made a decision that would change her life.

She decided to give back to the country that had given her a chance at a career — by enlisting in the US Navy. “After absorbing the language and culture of this country, I decided to join the military, which changed my life in such a profound way.”

She deployed four times, including Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012. She reflected, “I am more thankful for who I am and the freedom I have.”

During her service, it was obvious that Carolina was different than the majority of her peers. She was a woman, and she was Hispanic. Yet again, she turned a challenge into an opportunity. Carolina explained, “It was the opportunity for me to break the stereotype of the typical Mexican female, who is viewed as co-dependent and submissive.”

Carolina Hernandez in the US Navy
Carolina Hernandez in the US Navy

“I wanted to prove that I would work as hard or even harder than most to complete all my assignments, especially in that male-dominated environment.”

In 2014 Carolina earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of California-SD, and established her own brand, Veteran Couture, the next year. As the name implies, her military service impacted her life experience and perspective and in turn, influenced her artistically.

Carolina continues to serve in the US Navy Reserves, and her fashion designs reflect her travels in the military.

Her goal is to grow her business and teach others how to do the same. To this end, she volunteered with The Bob Margett Foundation through The Mission Continues, which gave her coaching and support.

While volunteering, Carolina helped veterans get the resources they needed to pursue higher education. Her responsibilities included helping and consulting with prospective students on their benefits, generating and developing inquires and referrals to new students, and outreach at open houses and orientations.

Carolina Hernandez with models wearing her designs.
Carolina Hernandez with models wearing her designs.

Carolina has since maintained her volunteering with her local Mission Continues service platoon. She said, “When it comes to veterans, I will do anything. I have unconditional love for my military family.”

Throughout her life and career, it is apparent that she’s conquered many difficult things. But the key to her success is, as she said, “Instead of seeing challenges, I see opportunities.”

Carolina Hernandez with models wearing her designs.
Carolina Hernandez with models wearing her designs.

“As an immigrant and female veteran I would like to share the message to others in a very simple way: We only get to live once so why not become the best version of ourselves and make the best of every opportunity, regardless of the circumstances.”