Life & Health

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt: “You Have to Be an Entrepreneur and That Means Knowing About More Than Designing”

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As a kid, he ran through the streets of Liberia, and as a grownup, he exhibits his work in Guatemala and Spain, among other countries. At age 35, Oscar Ruiz Schmidt is one of the most prestigious fashion designers in Costa Rica and is the owner of the Obra Gris brand.


Ruiz is a fine arts graduate from the University of Costa Rica and has a master’s degree in fashion design from Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee, a German university. His studies have given him the legs to strut on runways such as Fashion Week San Jose and Guatemala.


When did you decide to become a fashion designer?


I had a project to reengineer second-hand clothing, which was called Pepe Grillo Cha Cha Cha. Later in 2009, I had an opportunity to go to Germany to get a master’s degree in fashion design in Berlin. I returned in 2011 and what was my graduation collection turned into my first collection under the brand name Obra Gris. They are pieces made under a design principle of not wasting material.


What would you say to young people in Guanacaste who want to study fashion design?


Training is definitely the key. I would recommend having a strong base in making clothes and a lot of practice, which just means hours of work as well as having the chance to go through an artistic and conceptual training process. There are a lot of clothes now, but ultimately my job is not just about making clothes— it has to do with generating talk from what I am doing.


Do you think you can make a living from design?


I think the industry is budding. Ten years ago, we could not have had this conversation. Suddenly now there are more schools; there is more curiosity too and there is also a more receptive audience. Many difficulties must be overcome, because the industry is nonexistent in some cases, so production possibilities and access to materials are big difficulties, but little by little, we will find solutions. You have to be an entrepreneur and that means knowing about more than designing. More training in business and finance are needed.

What projects do you have for 2016?

I hope to expand my sales locations. I am going to be in New York in September, at a fair, and the idea is to develop marketing strategies. Also, this year, I am going to present two collections, a big one that I think will be ready by April and a smaller one for September, always with the same Obra Gris style, which are multipurpose pieces.


Favorite Place in Guanacaste Who do you admire in Guanacaste? Favorite Band
Las Morrocochas The Gamboa brothers, Max Goldenberg The Smiths