Natalie | The Founder

Born and raised in a small community in New Jersey, Natalie grew up with a large yet close-knit family. Still located in her childhood home, Natalie’s Peruvian-born father and Colombian-born mother always made sure she and her four siblings felt a deep connection to their Latin roots. As the youngest of the four, Natalie was often cared for by her older siblings as her parents worked hard to provide for their family. Even with their busy schedules they still aimed to maintain a warm and colorful environment that encouraged independence and creativity. From her father and his family nearby, Natalie learned about her Peruvian background and discovered her love of fixing things. To him, if it was broken, it could be fixed; there was no need to throw it away. From a chair or table to computers and clothes, Natalie enjoyed learning new skills and working with her hands. From her mother, she learned the importance of pride for her Colombian culture primarily through food. Making meals for family, especially during the holidays, was a way to bond and learn more about her culture through customary Colombian dishes, such as natilla (similar to pudding) and buñuelos (cheese surrounded by fried dough). 

As a way to connect with their heritage on a deeper level, Natalie’s family traveled on a yearly homage to Colombia, specifically the Risaralda region, to visit her mother’s extensive family. A child of seven herself, Natalie’s mother hoped to impress upon her children the incredible traditions she grew up with and proudly share the region she called home. Natalie easily connected with her extended family and their community, with idyllic memories of horseback riding and throwing large family gatherings on her grandfather’s farm. 

At an early age, she noticed the difference in the quality of the life she had and the life of her cousins. Wanting to express love and kindness for her family, she made a special effort to bring clothing, toys, and handbags whenever she was fortunate enough to visit. Her cousins’ gratitude made it clear to Natalie that this was her opportunity to do more; not just for her family but for the people she knew and loved in this community. She explored the region with wide eyes and an open heart and appreciated the local way of life while looking for a way to share this culture she loved so much with others. With frequent visits to local markets and shops of Santuario and Jeríco, who made a variety of daily-use and specialty goods, Natalie was particularly drawn to the locals’ penchant for wearing a leather crossbody satchel. Whether man or woman, they used this bag daily for various tasks, making it incredibly versatile; and the perfect way to introduce a Colombian legacy into the American fashion market.

It became apparent to Natalie that this is how she could make a difference to this community that meant so much to her. Thus, Santuario was born; to connect Colombian tradition with mainstream fashion in a new and unique way.