A native of Argentina, Marisa Weingarten is an accomplished business woman with a passion for philanthropy and a love of beautiful clothes.
Marisa initially found success in the healthcare sector, with her company DLAFF. Most recently, she established and created the Habitat for Social Integral in Venezuela. A company that built 150 houses for low and middle income families, in both the private and government sectors in Venezuela.
Now, Marisa is bringing her business savvy into the world of fashion. She is spearheading the re-introduction of the talented designer Louis Verdad to a new generation of women as the brand’s Chief Executive and Merchandising Officer. Her goal is to highlight masterful tailoring, while offering exquisite design, all at a reasonable price.
A belief in giving back is another important element of Marisa’s business and philanthropic ventures. For two years she was the co-chairman of WIZO (Women International Zionist Organization) and is still currently an active member. WIZO helps children, women, seniors, and many more important causes in Israel. She is also involved with the Jewish Family Organization, the oldest nonprofit in Los Angeles. JFS also helps people in need, without discrimination of religion or race. They have shelters for battered women, which is one of the main causes Weingarten and her husband support. In addition, Homeboy Industries, who provide training, and support to former gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community.
In addition to building the Verdad brand, Marisa is passionate about helping young, creative women find their footing in the fashion industry. BELLA sat down with Marisa to ask this entrepreneur our top 6 questions for personal and business success.
How do you define beauty?
Beauty itself is an image that triggers the feeling of pleasure or appreciation in me. If I have to describe beauty in the fashion world I can say that beauty is the definition of being yourself with a touch of sophistication.
What’s the best advice someone has ever offered you?
When I just arrived from Argentina to Los Angeles, I was 22 years old, lonely and missed my family. I was complaining about my situation at that time to a friend who asked me: “Do you get paid for complaining?”
Of course you don’t so why do you keep wasting your time? At that moment I decided to refocus my life, set up my goals and started working very hard to achieve the success that I came here for.
Being the President and CEO of Verdad, tell us more about your love of fashion and the concepts behind brand.
Fashion has been always one of my passions. My introduction to fashion began when I was young. I used to go to my maternal grandfather’s store where he sold exquisite fabrics from Europe. I loved to help in the store and be surrounded by the silks and soft chiffons. I strongly believe that women who dress in clothes that fit well feel beautiful and can achieve any goal they may have.
At Verdad we believe that the millennials are very savvy about fashion and how to shop so my partner the acclaimed designer Louis Verdad and I decided to bring a clothing line that is created for the modern woman. A woman who is looking for statement pieces and everyday essentials with a fresh perspective but at a more affordable price.
As a business woman, what are your go-to pieces for business and casual? What go-to-pieces should every woman have in their closet?
My view in how to dress to go to work has changed so much in the last five years. I remember always wearing a suit and high heels. Now my key pieces for business are still formal but chic such as high waisted black pants, a sleek skirt, a silk blouse or a tailored solid color dress that I can wear with different accessories. I’d rather invest in a few great pieces than have my closet full of clothes that I’m never going to wear.
For casual clothes my new look is to wear jeans with high heels and an amazing top. At Verdad we have this pair of black denim jeans that makes me look like I’m still in my 20’s and they are so comfortable at the same time.
Being an immigrant and a woman in the US, what was your journey like to get where you are today?
More than 30 years and many stories to share. Each of those good and bad experiences helped me to become the person I am today. It was never easy. I came with $400 in my wallet, I didn’t speak any English and the only person I knew was my brother who arrived a few months before I did. I cried every night for a long time, but in the morning I was the first one at work and the last one to leave the office. On the days that I felt like giving up, I kept reminding myself that I left my family, my friends and my native country to reach the American Dream. I made a board that I hung on my wall with the goals I wanted to reach so I could look at it every day before I left my apartment.
Some people thought that I was young and naïve and could take advantage of me, but even like anyone else I have made mistakes in my life but am proud to say that I’ve always stayed true to my values and believes.
Creating the Habitat for Social Integral in Venezuela and building 150 houses for low and middle-income families sounds like a huge undertaking. Can you tell us more about your Philanthropy of giving back and where it stems from?
My husband and I strongly believe in the Law of Giving. We feel very blessed and grateful for what we have. We also feel that we have a responsibility in the world to help those ones in need. Not everybody has the resources or the opportunities that we have. As human beings we can’t live in a bubble and ignore what is happening around us. I grew up in a small city where my father was the only cardiologist in town. As a child I witnessed my dad helping people day and night even if they didn’t have any money to pay for his services.
About thirteen years ago I got the opportunity to start developing houses in Venezuela. I thought this was a great opportunity not only from a business perspective but also to provide “homes” to low income families. So I talked to my husband and we decided to move forward with the project. Years later someone wrote an article with a title for that chapter in my life, “She ignored borders to build dreams”.
We have raised our kids to be active participants in nonprofits as well. Our son Daniel is 25 and our daughter Vanessa is 23. In their efforts of discovery, they have found themselves not only donating the funds they have available, but they have also started to donate their time and physical efforts. Daniel has focused his attention on two charities, Creative Visions and Young Story Tellers with efforts that include cultivating creativity and the arts and education.
Vanessa has become passionate for the cause of women’s empowerment; “I Am That Girl” and the “Feminist majority Foundation”. FMF works for women’s equality, reproductive health and non-violence. I Am That Girl is ‘a movement inspiring girls to love, express, and be exactly who they are.’ Being able to raise our children with awareness and passion for philanthropy, and seeing them blossom into active participants in the quest for change, has truly been the greatest gift of all.
by Denise Weaver