DENVER (KDVR) — One of the most iconic traditions in the Hispanic culture, the quinceañera celebration, marks the moment a girl turns into a woman at the age of 15 — or quince in Spanish.
The elaborate festivity often involves an extravagant dress. And in Denver, there’s one family you go to if you want that special dress handmade.
For almost four decades, the Zamora Lara family have turned quinceañera dreams into carefully stitched masterpieces.
“We are the only ones here in Denver that actually make the dresses by hand and by scratch,” said Brian Lara, the third generation working in the family business. At 17, he works part-time at his family’s quinceañera dress shop on Federal Boulevard.
“It’s like one of the first things everyone sees … That’s why we have to make it perfect for her, so she can feel like she’s the only one there,” Lara said.
It starts with a quinceañera vision. Brian’s dad, Carlos, turns that idea into a grand design, then ultimately, into a sight to behold.
“It’s a lot of imagination you have to have: materials, colors, embroidery — so this is an art,” Carlos said.
Carlos, coincidentally, created his first quinceañera dress at 15.
“Every design has 1,200,000 stitches. That’s about what it takes to do the embroidery for a dress,” Carlos said.
He learned from his teacher and mother, Isadora Zamora. She started the family business in Juarez, Mexico, and 10 years ago, they brought their love and passion for dressmaking to the states and landed in Denver.
Today, Isadora is one of several family members who spends the days working to the constant beat of a sewing machine.
“Every quinceañera has its own perspective, so we sit down, we learn what her favorite color is, what her design is,” Carlos said.
From royal-inspired dresses covered in crystals to a traditional Mexican horseman theme, Carlos wants to create something special for every client who walks into their store.
It’s why his family insists on doing all the work under one roof.
“It’s very rare that a girl comes in and likes one dress entirely. No, every girl likes a piece of several dresses. So we like to make it to her taste, make it to her liking,” Carlos said.
The once-in-a-lifetime quinceañera celebration is a centuries-old Hispanic tradition Carlos and his family want to help keep alive in Denver and beyond.
“I would like for everyone in the U.S. to feel the joy we feel in the quinceañera tradition,” he said. “I want to expand that joy.”