After working for himself doing interior designs for over 15 years, Luis De La Cruz woke up one day in 2013 and realized the phone had stopped ringing. The bright, energetic creative—who came to New York in 1987 to study at what is now Parsons School of Design—didn’t know what to do about it. Working off referrals, De La Cruz had designed, renovated and constructed projects of his own for years. Now he had to come to terms with the fact that he owned his own business—and it was going out of business.
Thankfully he saw a segment on the news about Career Gear, an organization that provides suits and skills training for young men looking to better their lives. Although he came to their office looking for a suit, what he got was much more important. “They gave me my confidence back,” he says.
That’s actually one of Career Gear’s core beliefs, that the promise of a suit is only the beginning. Though he came in for that reason, the designer soon began renovating his business skills. “I participated in the program,” De La Cruz recalls. “They helped me with creating a better resume. They have interviews and mock interviews, budgeting and financial help. Programs on how to be better at your finances… And they have beautiful ties.”
“I recommend for people to just be patient and always believe in themselves. It doesn’t matter how dark it gets, as long as you can see your way out.”
Now running De La Cruz Interior Design, the rejuvenated pro does residential interiors for clients in New York City, the Hamptons and Florida—and even did a historic renovation of the Matthew Jansen Dutch Colonial House in Kingston, New York. The landmark residence is, according to the National Park Service, gorgeous: “With its massive limestone walls, and Dutch and English architectural influences, the Matthew Jansen House is one of the finest historical houses in Kingston.”
These days, De La Cruz is as hands-on as can be, whether it’s dealing with materials, contractors or implementation of design. “Not only do I design, but I’m creating a space,” he says. “I’m creating an atmosphere.”
Perhaps fittingly, his taste in suits informs the design choices he makes. “I love doing timeless work that 20 years from now won’t look dated,” he explains. “No budget is too big or small for me. It all reflects the client’s personality and needs. Regardless of the budget or financial product, to deliver the dream space for the client is the greatest satisfaction ever.”
And the way De La Cruz sees it, getting to that happy place couldn’t have happened without Career Gear—and a bit of perspective. “I think we all come here with a purpose,” he theorizes. “Some people don’t find that. Others know from the get-go. I recommend for people to just be patient and always believe in themselves. It doesn’t matter how dark it gets, as long as you can see your way out.”
“I’ve been through a lot in life and [I’ve learned] we must believe in ourselves,” he concludes. “There will always be competition, but you have to believe in your abilities and the qualities that make you different.”
No matter what line of work one chooses to pursue, that’s damn good advice.