We caught up with Puerto Rican native Carla Cortijo Sánchez to chat with her about her upcoming participation with Foot Locker‘s “Behind Her Label” program, an effort to help shine more light on and provide additional resources to women-owned brands that will culminate for a four-piece apparel capsule in October.
Following her career as a WNBA point guard (the first and only born in Puerto Rico) for the Atlanta Dream, Cortijo Sánchez launched clothing and accessory label Cortijo S.
Based in Puerto Rico and very much influenced by her grandmother, who herself was a designer, the label has turned heads with its super fun reconstructed sport ball bags. Over time, Cortijo S has added on apparel and will launch swimwear next month.
In our exchange below, we discussed Cortijo Sánchez putting her sewing skills to use, how her experience as a point guard has helped her as an entrepreneur and what she hopes her legacy will be.
Snobette: Your sense of style and designs are super on point! Who do you credit for helping to inform your dope aesthetic?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “I have to give credit to my grandmother. She taught me the basics of fashion, how to dress, what colors work best with different skin tones, which fabrics to use by season, she was so cool.
“She was a fashion designer back in the day and she taught me how to sew. When I stayed with her I watched her while she worked.”
Snobette: Your label Cortijo S is famous for its bags made from reconstructed sport balls. There’s a video (above) of you on Instagram making a bag. Do you hand construct all the bags?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “Yes, all of them. Each and everyone, lol.”
Snobette: How long does it take to construct a bag from start to finish?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “The basketball bag takes maybe an hour. I measure it, figure out how to cut it and then take a zipper and sew them on my machine and add the straps. At the beginning it was really hard. The process was new to me and I didn’t know how to make the bags at first. I just kept trying and trying until I finally figured a way to do it.”
Does handling the basketball inspire muscle memories of playing the game professionally?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “It always brings back memories! I make the bags at my shop which has a court. Every time I start working with the ball, I want to shoot it, lol”
Snobette: As a former WNBA point guard, how do the skills you honed at that all-important position translate to you running your label?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “Point guards call the plays, they’re the team leader and that’s how I run the brand. I see my role as helping to make the team better at what they do and and prioritizing how we can improve. Being a point guard helped me as an entrepreneur so much.”
Snobette: Who is your current favorite WNBA and NBA point guard at the moment?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “[Seattle Storm’s] Sue Bird and [Brooklyn Nets] Kyrie Iriving.”
Snobette: Athletes are known for their discipline. For a person who’s fallen off track with her goals whether fitness, wellness or entrepreneurial, what’s one tip you’d offer for getting back on track?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “Things aren’t always going to be perfect, it’s okay if you fall off track. We’re human. But don’t stay off track too long. Always remind yourself you worked so hard to be where you are. Try your best to stay focused and keep working hard until you reach your goals.”
Snobette: What shoe did you perform in as a member of the Atlanta Dream and what sneakers silhouettes are at the top of your sneaker rotation as of late?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “We were sponsored by Adidas so I mainly wore Damien Lilliard’s first signature shoe. I like Air Jordan 1 in the original colorways and I also like Reebok Classics.”
Snobette: Cortijo S is getting read to launch swimwear. What were some of the challenges of designing swimwear? When can we expect that to hit your store?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “Oh man, to be honest making swimwear has been the hardest thing but coming from Puerto Rico making swimwear is a must! It’s so hard but I have to do it for Puerto Rico. We should be launching the line in mid-April.”
Snobette: How has Foot Locker’s “Behind Her Label” program helped connect you with new people?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “Behind Her Label has given me the chance to connect with so many designers, photographers, as well as people from Reebok. In basketball I know everybody, but the fashion world is new to me. I knew four people before “Behind Her Label” and now I know 20 people. This is something I was looking for, to meet new people and have that connection and they can help me in the future.”
Snobette: What were some of the themes you wanted to convey in your debut collection with Foot Locker?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: My tagline is “Nothing is Impossible” but the Spanish version, so “Nada is Impossible.” And that’s my motto for everything. Coming from Puerto Rico, it’s hard for me to seen and to have this type of opportunity. Connecting with Foot Locker has been amazing.”
Snobette: “As a budding entrepreneur with the unique status as the only Puerto Rican-born WNBA player, looking ahead to the future what do you hope will be your legacy?
Carla Cortijo Sánchez: “Being a women, being from Puerto Rico, we have to work twice as hard. I want people me to see as a fighter who never quits and motivates women to never quit. Like I said, women can do whatever they want.”