An Interview with Uriel Saenz
(Photos: Jose Angel Castro & Moldilox)
Uriel Saenz has taken his background as a military veteran, global fashion designer, media strategist, and an LGBT person — and single gay dad — to redefine the way people experience global media and approach product development. His vision to combine media and products into one company provides his brand, US Lifestyle, with the flexibility to manage its revenues in one collective fund while staffing for maximized productivity.
The US Lifestyle Group (The USLG) houses two divisions, separated by products and media. On the product side they focus on developing and distributing luxury lifestyle products. On the media arm, they publish US Lifestyle magazine, LUXLatinX magazine and soon OPENLY, is a brand in development to connect the global LGBTQ.
The US Lifestyles Group aims to bring awareness to the issues impacting us globally, while also creating luxury products that represent US throughout the globe. We might even dare call Uriel Saenz the new face in the global luxury experience. An experience that is unfolding right before our eyes. One that brings a fresh perspective to the luxury market; that of business with purpose.
One of the most impressive things we learned from Uriel Saenz and his story is how he built his career while being a single gay dad. All this during a time when gay parenting was not seen or even accepted. He also talks to us about his new gender-neutral skincare line (Uriel Saenz SkinLAB), his SGT, SAENZ Street Couture collection and his tribute perfume (MUÑECA by Uriel Saenz).
We caught up with him recently for an exclusive interview.
Q: We’ve seen your growth through the years, but what’s new from The US Lifestyle Group and Uriel Saenz?
We have taken an aggressive approach in the first few years. In the first year alone. On the media side, we have executed events across the United States highlighting the contributions of people of various industries including Beauty, Innovation and Finance. As an addition to our media offering we launched LuxLatinX magazine a showcase of the global affluent latinx identity, aimed to inspire the gen-Z global latinx community and continue to grow our main media product, US Lifestyle Magazine.
On the product side, to extend the offering of my name sake collection, we recently launched MUÑECA by Uriel Saenz. As a tribute to my mother who passed just 4 months ago while we were in the planning and design phase of the perfume. I am grateful I was able to show her our plans and ask for her blessing.
Staying true to our global approach we opted to manufacture the fragrance in Italy, it is set to launch in August 2020. However, we are currently taking preorders exclusively on urielsaenz.com
Most recently, we launched Uriel Saenz SkinLAB a Gender-Neutral Skincare, produced in the USA. The special Gender- Neutral formula with trademarked features were intentionally designed to be shared between loved one, no matter the sex or age.
The intention is that people would share their product daily with their lover regardless of the sex of your partner, but also that the person you share your skincare with and that you love. The skin product line includes a Hydrator, a charcoal mask, a wrinkle serum, a pro repair serum (which is my personal hangover cream) and a lip plumper; plans to expand product offering, few in development.
Q: What part of The US Lifestyle Group do you gravitate to the most?
Naturally my name sake collection holds a very special place in my heart. Fashion has been a part of my life since before I was born. My parents owned a production house right on the corner of, Vin Scully & Sunset, Echo Park. That’s where my mom would work while she was expecting me and where I would play with the fabric bundles. I learned the shapes of each garment pretty early on and started to play with the industrial sewing machines at 4 or 5 yrs. old. Then at the age of 8, inspired by Oscar De La Renta, I cut and sewed my first dress, for my little sisters. The way I see it everything else stems from that.
Every part of The USLG has its special place, each peace is created with purpose. All product development starts with the why. I believe when you start with the products purpose you can seamlessly navigate through the process, its marketing and the individual partnerships.
But I will add that I also really gravitate to the name itself. The simplicity yet multilayer possibilities make it unique to my personal identity.
The US as in The United States
The US as in Uriel Saenz (fun fact: my initials are USA)
The US as in it’s for US, US together, the world is for US
Q: Your Uriel Saenz collection has been in the major runways of the world, is there one particular place you have your eyes set on?
I’m grateful to have been honored or asked to take my collection to many runways and art galleries around the world. Many fashion weeks have been building my global audience with special capsule presentations. I do have my favorites like Paris and Milan though, they have been good to me. However, I have been eyeing London and Hong Kong. My heart is till with LA though, LA has always had its own way of doing fashion week that has not been respected.
People come to LA and try to change it, to whatever has worked in other cities. LA’s fashion week doesn’t need to be fixed, its naturally quirky. I also feel people are actually afraid of what LA is. However, I been contemplating how I want to present my collections in the future, I prefer releasing a collection like a record alum and give myself time to create and really embrace my work. Especially with the supreme craftsmanship that goes into each of my pieces. It also allows for anticipation, too many brands are exhausting their audience. With that said, I plan on releasing my collections in places that make sense for the story I’m telling. No matter what part of the world it might be.
Q: Who most inspires you?
I’m inspired but many people. But the single most inspiring person in my life has to be my daughter Pricilla Saenz. Her strength and ability to adapt to any situation is admirable. She has mastered the ability to tear through life challenges with grace, all while staying true to her personal identity and goals. Seeing how she can navigate through different social circles and embraces people with differences gives me comfort.
I know the future company will take its own shape with the guided by the hands of a strong woman; who is kind but firm. At only 22 she has a unique ability to flex both her heart and intellectual ability to make decisions look effortless.
However, I’m not gonna lie, Willy Wonka gave me the ability to dream big and in Alice In Wonderland I learned that what I see is real and the ability to create individualized perspective is key. Oh yeah! Oprah and Don Miguel Ruiz.
Q: How does The USLG benefit from the multiple career touch points you’ve ventured to? Was that your planned path?
My path started off very targeted. At a very early age I knew I was going to be in Paris showing my collection as a fashion designer. My first job straight out of high school was at a Trim House in LA. Life had its own plan for me though after this I unexpectedly joined the US Marine Corps. I tried to get back to my original vision of fashion, instead ended up managing luxury brands. I sold diamonds, did Bloomingdales, and had my stint at the Max Azria design room.
Then like a true Angelino, I did some entertainment work as an extra in film and TV, because why not. During that time, I was asked to help as a proof reading for the LA Times, though it would be a side gig. Well that side gig turned into me working my way up to become the VP of Multicultural Strategy and Development.
I mention all that, to say that each of those experiences stocked my tool box and created a very strong foundation. It was never my plan to go through that boot camp of a path. Each one of those experiences were essential for the formation of The US Lifestyle Group. Eliminating any peace of my path, would eliminate the necessary pieces that make The US Lifestyle Group its own.
Q: Tell us how SGT. SAENZ came to fruition?
SGT. SAENZ is an extension of my name sake Uriel Saenz collection. As my Street Couture collection named after my last rank after leaving the USMC, with this collection I’m able to give my clients and fanbase another piece of my story through my work.
The idea of SGT.SAENZ has been simmering since my days in the military. But like my many of my ideas I stack and save them. I always wait for the right time to execute them, there is a universal signal I get to hit go. When I returned to LA from my time in Paris, I started playing with the idea again. I wanted SGT. SAENZ to represent me, a little rough and little polished.
Marines are known to wear some of the most presentable uniforms, at the same time those uniforms can be used for battle. SGT.SAENZ is a celebration of that part of my life during the armed forces. these one of a kind pieces my clients can hit the streets with unmatched swag. In the signature style of The USLG, Portion of the profits from these pieces will support veterans across the America.
Q: How would you label your own style?
Interesting enough, I don’t think I have a specific personal style I’m more focused on the style of my work. What I can tell you is I that like being polished, finished with an edge. Probably something I gained from my years in the military. I like a crisp white-collar shirt with any combination. On my day to day, I like mixing very polished pieces with vintage or distressed contrast pieces. I like playing with the duality of polished man and hobo-Rockstar.
For the most part, I’m pretty experimental while staying true to the tailored white button-down shirt and something. Some have described my style to me as dressing like modern traditional gentleman.
Q: What’s is your favorite travel spot?
From all the places I have traveled to in my life. The one place that has left a unique stamp on me is absolutely ICELAND. That place smells clean and is clean. You can smell the oxygen! The culinary treats are a gift to your pallet. The mixed drinks are fresh and the cabins are a real escape. Oh! the design and the art!
Q: How do you define Style?
Well I was born and raised in Los Angeles and since LA is the Style capital of the world. I had a first-hand preview to all of its complexities, definitions and ideologies. I would divide style into its five letters.
The Structure: I also sometimes call this the start. Because you start by defining a shape and the structure of each piece. Form is something going to take.
The Texture: What textures do your pieces have and how will you use them
The Y: Why are you doing it. Who are you doing it for. What is your statement. What you want to say or not say is key for style.
The Liberties: What liberties have you taken, will you take. Did you tear, fold, tuck. Add or eliminate a metal, a piece, a color.
The Edit: Evaluate final choices, edit, asses and edit again.
Q: How was your experience as a single Gay dad in the late 90’s early 2000’s?
Truthfully, at the time I didn’t see it as different. In retrospective I was just being a dad, looking back I can recall times when I was treated different but mostly because I was walking around with a little girl and going into the restrooms with her, rather than because I was gay. But suddenly things changed. My daughter started to go to school and people were asking her questions. I think it might have been more of unique experience for my daughter than for me.
Now as a single parent alone I went through all the same hurtles every single parent does. I remember taking my daughter to class because I didn’t have a sitter for a full semester. Luckily the other students and the professor allowed it. I can still picture her raising her hand to answer questions from the professor. I would not be in my position with-out all generous people along the way. One thing I never did, was make her my excuses. Instead I chose to show her, each step of the way, that regardless of our situations everything is still possible if you execute without excuses.
Q: How do you want people to remember you?
I’d rather have people experience me now, than remember me later, lol. To better answer this, I would like to be remembered as someone that did things because they were the right things to do. But moreover, I’d like my eternal contributions to be shaped by the people I might leave behind.
Q: Where can we find more about you and your brands?
On the Web – www.UrielSaenz.com
Instagram – @UrielSaenz @uslifetsylemag @uslifestylegroup
Twitter – @urielsaenz @theUSLifetyle
Facebook – UrielSaenzUS