“As soon as my eyes see a sketch, I know exactly what needs to be done.”Zoila CruzFounder
“As soon as my eyes see a sketch, I know exactly what needs to be done.”
Zoila Cruz’s love for sewing dates back to her childhood in Cuenca, Ecuador. When she was only nine years old, instead of running around with other children, she would spend hours handmaking clothes for her parents and younger sister using any extra fabric that she could find around the house. At just nineteen years old, Zoila started her sample making business and hired six employees to help pleat skirts, fabricate shirts, and develop school uniforms. It is in 1993 that she decided to leave Ecuador to pursue new opportunities in New York City.
While working in various Garment District factories for designers like Morgane Le Fay and Miguelina, she started working as a contracted sample maker after regular business hours, creating samples for top designers, including Libertine. With time, Zoila started getting larger orders, and her apartment could no longer support all the clothing she was working on: in 2006, she took a leap of faith and opened her own sample shop, Zoila’s Sample Room, in the Garment District. She had some trouble communicating in English with her clients, but she was able to visually understand what they wanted by looking at any sketch. Since then, Zoila’s business kept growing steadily, and so did her name recognition.
“I Started Zoila’s Sample Room to help designers.”
Zoila specializes in everything “fabric”. Her business offers pattern creation and development, sample development, fittings and adjustments, as well as any custom sample production. Her fabric expertise allows her to produce all kinds of samples, and she deeply enjoys creating beautiful shapes.
It is because she wanted to help designers bring their sketches to life that Zoila first started Zoila’s Sample Room. Designers came to her with their ideas, but did not know how to take them from sketches to actual designs. Zoila brought the expertise and trust needed to develop their vision. In addition to knowledge and craftsmanship, she placed significant emphasis on quality and quick turnarounds.
Zoila also uses her business to pass down her manufacturing wisdom to her employees. She enjoys teaching them her skills and hopes to provide them with the tools to eventually start their own business.
“All my life, I’ve had no fears.”
Zoila has never let fear overcome her; she has simply worked relentlessly to achieve her goals and build a very solid reputation. She chooses to take on complex and difficult designs, because she prefers to feel challenged and uneasy, as it pushes her to become a better garment manufacturer. Her partnership with her husband has also been key to her growth: “He is my best friend, my best worker, and has helped me through all of this journey.” She is especially proud of Zoila’s Sample Room’s red-carpet moments, including when one of her creations was appointed 3rd place on Vogue’s top ten best red-carpet looks. Nowadays, many of Zoila’s creations can be found on magazine covers.
While Zoila’s Sample Room was doing very well pre-pandemic, business has slowed down since then and Zoila is very thankful to the CFDA, the Garment District Alliance and ITAC as all organizations have helped her business during this challenging period. The hardest part is the uncertainty around her continued ability to financially support her employees. Zoila has made it a point to avoid laying any employee off and hopes to keep her team intact. She believes that a critical part of her success is attributable to her employees, with their hard work keeping the business going.
“I look forward to working more with emerging designers.”
Zoila does not know what the future holds, but she believes the Garment District has provided garment factories with the tools they need to succeed. From the workers, to the fabric, to the designers, every integral part of the equation is located in the District. She cannot imagine a future for her business outside of NYC’s garment manufacturing community.
Some large garment manufacturers exited in 2008, leaving many of the smaller businesses to support the District. Zoila recently started working with many new, up-and-coming designers that value and look for the Made in NYC label. She hopes to see growth with these types of companies, and to keep expanding her reach in the decades to come.