Designer seeks to captivate Tampa Bay area followers with inclusive collections, fashion shows | News

Celebrating diversity during Pride Month, Morgan Isaac López, a prominent fashion designer of Puerto Rican descent born in New York, is leaving a mark on the LGBTQ+ community in Tampa.

In an interview with Centro, he shared his perspective on fashion, his role as a member of the Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities, and his future projects in the region.

Born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, López has successfully integrated the best of both worlds into his designs, blending the heritage of his roots with the splendor of New York and European fashion. This unique combination has been fundamental to his success, allowing him to create pieces that resonate both locally and internationally.

“My parents always instilled in me the pride of our roots, and that is reflected in each of my designs,” he said.

As a designer, López has had the opportunity to attend numerous events and festivals celebrated in the Tampa Bay area, including St. Pete Pride, an event that stands out as the largest LGBTQ+ pride festival in the southeastern United States.

“It’s incredible to see how the community comes together to celebrate our diversity and support local talent,” said López.

The festival not only celebrates LGBTQ+ identity but also provides an opportunity to foster bonds within a community that has grown tremendously over the past decades.

“Today’s Tampa is nothing like the one I knew years ago; as the Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities have grown, so has the city,” López said. “I remember we didn’t even have some bridges, like the Clearwater one going to the beach, which used to be very small. Now those of us living in Tampa have experienced overwhelming growth.”

Fashion as a means of expression

For López, fashion is much more than clothing — it’s is an art form and a powerful tool for self-expression. Through his designs, he has explored themes of identity, belonging, and resistance, creating pieces that tell stories and provoke reflection.

“Each collection is a narrative,” he said. “I want people to see beyond the fabric and connect with the message behind each garment.”

His innovative approach has captured the attention of the fashion industry, earning him several awards, including the Fashion Designer of the Year 2021-2022, awarded by Fashion Talents and Awards of Puerto Rico.

One of his most exciting current projects is the Metaverse Gala, an innovative event that combines fashion shows with music performances and digital art.

“The Metaverse Gala is not just a show; it’s an immersive experience. It’s not about attending a fashion show, seeing the outfits, and leaving. Now everyone wants to be part of what you’re doing, get involved, and be protagonists,” López said. “I want to take people on a journey where art and technology meet.”

The event will debut in Puerto Rico this summer and come to Tampa in September.

Challenges in the community

López has found Tampa to be a welcoming place to develop his career. However, he confesses that this season working in Puerto Rico has connected him with his roots and he feels “incredibly attracted” to Puerto Rico’s paradisiacal beaches.

“I am a resident of Tampa, but in Puerto Rico, I have seen a vibrant environment full of people with a deeply rooted culture of fashion and the fashion industry,” he said. “When I do casting here, it fills up with models immediately. They all look like they are competing in Miss Universe; Puerto Rican women are very beautiful. In contrast, in the Tampa Bay area, we need to cultivate more of that fashion and beauty pageant culture. We need to spark more interest,” López said.

The son of artists — his father, a famous Puerto Rican painter, and his mother, a fashion designer and couturier — he studied arts in Barcelona and fashion design in the same cosmopolitan city in Spain. He perfected the craft of haute couture in Paris and pursued additional studies in Milan, along with internships in Europe and America with various mentors and fashion houses.

“Each stage of my training was crucial to my development as a designer,” he said. “I was lucky to learn in Europe, the best place for the fashion industry.”

Nevertheless, he believes that fashion and the Hispanic LGBTQ+ community still face significant challenges. López has also expressed his thoughts on the bullying faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

“Bullying is a painful reality that many of us have faced,” he said. “It’s a form of violence that can leave deep scars.”

He also emphasized the importance of creating safe spaces where everyone feels accepted and valued.

“Each of us deserves to live without fear and with dignity,” López said. “It is essential to educate people about the impact of bullying and work together to eradicate it.”

It’s worth noting that Tampa and St. Petersburg, as of 2023, were among the eight cities in Florida that achieved a perfect score regarding inclusion policies and ordinances for the LGBTQ+ community, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

However, state policies are still topics of discussion and controversy for the community. They include legislation critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits teachers from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity.

“In Tampa, particularly, I have not encountered bullying actions towards me for being part of the LGBT community, but I do know some people who have had a terrible time, especially when they are Hispanic and within the same community, some refer to these people in a derogatory manner,” he said.

Creating more laws and more activism

The designer underscores the need to create stricter laws against bullying and discrimination.

“We must fight for policies that protect our community and promote respect and equality,” he said. “Acceptance and respect are fundamental pillars for building a more just and compassionate society.”

His commitment to the cause is evident in his activism and the messages he conveys through his work.

The Tampa Bay area has proven to be a progressive and receptive region.

“Tampa and St. Petersburg are cities that truly value diversity,” he said. “Here, fashion and LGBTQ+ culture find fertile ground to flourish.”

This environment has allowed López to thrive as a designer and actively contribute to the region’s cultural and social life.

The designer has seen how the fashion industry in Tampa has evolved in recent years, with an increasing number of events and platforms supporting emerging designers.

“The Tampa Bay Fashion Week is an excellent opportunity to showcase our work,” he says. However, he prefers independent events that allow him more control over his presentation and model selection.

“I like to create unique experiences that reflect my complete vision, and I think there are very few fashion shows in Tampa regarding the LGBTQ community. I want to organize inclusive activities for the fashion industry soon,” he said.

“The Metaverse Gala is just the beginning,” he said. “I have many ideas and projects that I want to carry out here.” His vision includes not only fashion but also creating safe and celebratory spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.

“I want everyone to feel accepted and valued,” he said. “Tampa is my home, and I want to contribute to making this city an even better place for everyone.”

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