We had the good fortune of connecting with Mabel Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mabel, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I don’t think I chose to go into a creative career. Being creative is just something you’re born with and choose you. When I was 3 years old, I had fashion shows with my dolls and stuffed animals. As I grew older, I always knew I wanted to be in the fashion industry somehow. I grew up watching my grandmother sew couture dresses from scratch without ever having a formal education. I lived and breathed fashion, creativity, crafting. When I went to college, for a brief moment, I thought I could be a child psychologist (lol!). I was good at it and I fell into the self doubts and other people’s voices in my head telling me I’d never make enough money in a creative field. I tried for one semester and quickly realized that you can’t force a creative person to do something they don’t love, just like you can’t teach someone to be creative, they just are! So I go my degree in fashion and somehow ended up as a footwear designer, which I absolutely love. I never imagined I’d end up designing shoes, especially men’s dress and athletics which I’m doing now. I won’t deny, I often fantasize about doing something different career-wise, but even then, they’re always creative careers. I couldn’t imagine not having art or creativity in my life!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Making it in a design field is tough in general, but footwear is even tougher because it’s such a small industry in many ways. A lot of the “people in charge” don’t understand the creative process and how to work with people like us. We might have the skill set to create something, but creativity doesn’t always come and a lot of factors can affect it. I struggled with very deflating environments and situations and I’ve learned something that helped me along the way to deal with those tough moments when I felt stuck or un creative. Channel your energy. If work was deflating or stifling, I’d channel it by being creative somewhere else…sewing, photography, cooking. It helped me deal with feeling helpless and I think that energy eventually channeled itself into a better job and work situation.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh man, this could be a long list! Everyone knows Florida for the beaches and party scene but I like exploring and checking out the local scene. I would start in Homestead working my way south. Cauley Square is a magical place in Homestead. It’s a vintage town with beautiful gardens and houses turned into shops or cafes. You can have afternoon tea (I recommend a high tea service) at The Tea Room and grab some candles and perfumes at the French apothecary Therapia by Aroma. If wine is more your vibe, check out Schnebly Winery for their locally made fruit wines. You can even pack a picnic and sit outside. Next, check out Robert is Here fruit stand. It’s a charming produce stand with the best juices and smoothies in town, plus they have farm animals in the outdoor patio and the most beautiful local sunflowers you’ll ever see. As you make your way south, check out Wynwood for the art scene. I love seeing the constant evolution of wynwood. You can go every day and see a different art piece, mural or gallery. My favorite spot to eat at is 1-800 Lucky which looks like a record shop but as you walk through, it opens up to an Asian-inspired food hall and an outdoor bar. Next, head over to Hialeah. I’m a Cuban-American born in Hialeah so it holds a special place in my heart (and stomach!). I love shopping the Flamingo shops for the best vintage and thrift store finds. It’s not fancy at all but I’ve found some gems scouring the racks here. I always visit Paraíso Tropical for Cuban food. The plantain pizza is one of my favorites. There’s a new spot that is so unexpected for this town but shows how the new generation cuban-Americans are bringing newness. La cocina coctelería is a Cuban fusion restaurant tucked in a speakeasy. The food is amazing and the cocktails are a hilarious homage to the city, plus there’s a dope mural of Walter Mercado. Next, a beach day in Ft Lauderdale is a must. A fun tip if you’re just hanging out for the day is to check out when of the hotel pools. I like the Atlantic hotel’s rooftop pool which overlooks the beach and the pizza at Primanti Brothers is a must! Finally, my favorite weekend getaway in Florida is St. Petersburg. It’s got something for everyone. If you like art, there’s a few museums in this small town, but my top picks are the Dali Museum and the Imagine glass museum. On Saturday mornings, there’s a huge Farmers Market near the museum with live music, local artisans, produce and food. You also have to check out the warehouse district for the murals and art scene. If you like wine, head to Lolita’s wine market where you can pair your wine pick with small plates of cheese and charcuterie boards and the most delicious homemade spreads in mason jars. There’s a lot of bars in St Pete But there seems to be a hidden rooftop party scene, so be on the lookout as your strolling the streets. Finally, head over to Tampa to the Wat Mongkolratanaram temple on Sunday morning. It’s a Buddhist temple overlooking a river and on sundays they have an open air market with locally made Thai food, drinks, curries and so many traditional desserts. Definitely take some time to appreciate the zen energy, the Buddhist statues and don’t forget to take home some Thai goodies!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My grandmother has always been a major source of inspiration. Everything I grew up watching her create fueled my passion to create. From watching every fashion show on tv on Saturday mornings, to sitting next to her sewing machine learning to sew. And my parents because no matter what, they always supported my creativity and allowed me to channel it. They never tried to steer me into a different career path and they have always been my biggest fans through out the years. There are plenty of designers and creative people out there I look up to, but my grandparents and parents are real to me and my story.
Linkedin: Mabel Rodriguez