Should Making It in Fashion Be This Hard?

These views come in part from the clarity that being a mother has brought to her own life. She became pregnant with her son, Atlas, at 25. Her second child, Freja, is almost 1. She has their names tattooed in tiny print on her cheek and neck. Earlier this month, she married their father, Andreas Emenius, a 50-year-old Swedish painter with whom she shares studio space in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint.

“All my friends back home have kids, they own real estate, and I come here and I’m like a teen mom,” Ms. Velez said. I feel very much like I have to keep the struggle of motherhood back-of-house. Nobody really wants to see it.”

Still, she’s often seen with at least one of her children nearby: napping on a couch at an industry cocktail party, sitting on her lap at a friend’s downtown fashion show, being rocked in a stroller by her side while she speaks on a Parsons alumni panel. She’s been told, she said, that it’s “such a cute P.R. stunt.”

But Ms. Velez is also aware that her inability to pay people could be a much bigger problem than some of her more outspoken views. She has joked about someday getting hit with the “inevitable toxic workplace allegations.”

In April, after the Fashion Trust U.S. awards, she estimated her debt to be about $90,000. Her creditors include factories that are starting to get mad, she said, but also people central to her team, like the designer Andrew Curwen, who is owed a few months’ worth of invoices.He helped create some of her February show’s most memorable pieces, like a bomber hoodie with bulbous, fungal-like quilted sleeves. (Most models in that show agreed to trade their services for exposure and clothing rather than be paid a fee.)

“I know that when money comes through, I will get paid,” Mr. Curwen said, comparing working for Ms. Velez to working for Alexander McQueen in the early days (a company that was later sued for unpaid intern wages).

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