Luna May: A Fashion Oasis in Paradise

Tucked away in the tropical lushness of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, you will find a fashion gem called Luna May that draws heavy inspiration from its Caribbean surroundings. Below you will find my interview with designer and owner, Luna Salcedo. Full disclosure: my family is from Costa Rica and my grandmother grew up in this beautiful oasis so I’m pretty biased. If you grew up going to a place with EMPTY sandy beaches, perfect waves, and the best fried whole snapper in all the land, you’d be biased too…

The materials used in Luna May clothing are perfect for keeping cool in hot and humid climates. What type of materials are used?

“We only use materials made from natural fibers which we dye and stamp completely by hand. We are proud to say that we support several small companies with our products.”

What is your favorite part of having a company like this?

“The ability to translate my ideas and see people wearing the images I wanted to share and also to convey my message that we are all beautiful, we are like cats or dogs, we come in endless variations and the same way that a small breed cat is as beautiful as a large breed cat, so are humans, all different, all beautiful.”

Luna May is part of a company that began in Spain. Can you explain some of the history of the company?

“I began designing in London at age 21, without any training, working for a company and our pieces were included in alternative fashion shows of the time, at the London Design Center. Later we participated in the famous show "40 Degrees.” I learned on the fly, loved color and from the beginning succeeded in creating interesting color combinations. In 1997, I opened my first shop in the Costa Brava of Spain and the following year in Ibiza, where we’ve been for 13 years. Now my brother has a shop with my designs in Barcelona, in the famous neighborhood of El Borne.”

How did you end up in Costa Rica, and Puerto Viejo and Cahuita in particular?

“We are five siblings, who grew up in the Caribbean, and had all been living in Europe for several years until Maria, one of our sisters, opened a store in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia to sell my designs. It was great and seeing it I decided to leave Ibiza (where due to weather my designs could only sell half of the year) and open the Luna May store in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica because I love the Caribbean and had always wanted to return. We gradually all returned except for one brother who is still in Barcelona. My sister Eva opened Eva Luna in Cahuita and my sister Hada opened a store called Samoa.”

Puerto Limon (the province Puerto Viejo is located in) has a distinct landscape and culture. How does this culture and landscape inspire the designs of Luna May?

“In recent years I've been incorporating more and more images of the sea and surrounding nature in Puerto Viejo in my prints and color mixtures. Sometimes I go to Limon and get inspired watching the beautiful Limon women boldly dressed in contrasting tones …”

Owner Luna Salcedo poses with some of the models from her most recent collection,

Owner Luna Salcedo poses with some of the models from her most recent collection,

I know you just debuted a new collection. What was the inspiration for this new collection and how is it different from previous collections?

“Each collection is different, every new edition of our prints changes the tone, therefore for each store there are different prints and color palettes, in the last collection in Luna May in Puerto Viejo I tried to evoke the gold and blue of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and I gave it a fun twist with a print made with a collage of photos of people from Puerto Viejo.”

Do you intend to  expand to other places in the area?
‘Last year I opened a store in Playa Chiquita but after a few months I closed it because I realized that it wasn’t worth it to have so many stores in such a small area. I would like to open a store in Limon as it is close and I go there a lot. A few years ago we opened a store in San Jose but it turned out that we could never find the time to go and we could not run it from afar. In terms of the business we've kept it just within the siblings; I made the decision to not take on more partners as a result of some not so great experiences selling to other stores in the past.”

Where do you see  Luna May in five years? What do you think is the future of the company?

“I hope to gradually become part of the landscape of this friendly Caribbean country that is Costa Rica, and to share our philosophy that we should love each other and be proud of who we are to more and more people.”

A perfect showing of the diverse inhabitants of Costa Rica's Caribbean coast (in Luna's designs of course).

A perfect showing of the diverse inhabitants of Costa Rica's Caribbean coast (in Luna's designs of course).

If you are ever in Costa Rica take a drive to the less touristy (and more adventurous) Caribbean coast and check out Luna's stores in Puerto Viejo and Cahuita. This region is Costa Rica's best kept secret, although Europeans have been clued in to this cultural hotspot for decades. The result has been a melting pot of traditional Afro and indigenous culture with Italian, French and Spanish. Feel free to stop by Selvin's or Elena Brown for that snapper too...

By: Daniella Henry