The internationally renowned Colombian designer, sits down with Kirna Zabete talk about her transition into fashion from interior design, how she brings her designs to life, and her love of color.
Tell us about your childhood and how you got started in the fashion industry. I think that fashion has always been in me. I can remember since I was very young, I was always playing in my mother’s closet, trying on everything. I would try on my father’s big shirts put on a show for my friends. I remember that I didn’t like playing with dolls, I preferred to dress up.
When did it solidify as a career for you? I started 25 years ago as an interior designer. Because of that I feel my progression into fashion was very natural. For me, interior design and fashion design are tied together. I love colors, proportions, and volume; I love beautiful things. It’s in the same way as fashion. For example, I love to dress like a boy, but I love to dress like a girl as well. I decided to launch my collection 25 years ago; I remember I designed a white t-shirt embellished with sequins and leather and it was amazing. It was a success with my friends and the friends of my friends. That t-shirt was my first approach in fashion, it was my beginning.
I know you are published author, how was that process for you? I have two books. The first is a coffee table book with Random House and it was images from the past 10 years of my career. The second book is titled The Little Treasures: Effortless Elegance. Since people ask me all the time about fashion tips, I decided to write a book about it. The book is now in curriculums in universities in Colombia. It’s a small book but I put all my experience into it and it was a success.
Do you feel that your upbringing in Colombia has infiltrated your collection at all? Is Colombia an ongoing inspiration to you? Well, I design for an international woman. But, my Latin flare is in my spirit; it is my environment. I am Colombian-Caribbean and for me, fashion is in there. I love color; I love playing with colors. People ask me how I pair red with fuchsia, it just comes natural to me. We always support the Colombian woman and have been for more than 10 years by working with artisans from Colombia.
If you could describe the aesthetic of the collection in three words, what would those three words be? In two words, effortless and elegance. But, if you ask me more about the brand, I would say it is classy, chic, no pretentions, you know… effortless.
My Latin flare is in my spirit; it is my environment. I am Colombian-Caribbean and for me, fashion is in there. I love color; I love playing with colors.
How much would you say the brand has changed or evolved since you first started it all those years ago? We started with our stores, we have 16 stores now. Before we were the owner of our ideas--of everything. Now, my son started to work with us and started to wholesale a year ago.
How do you feel about that? It seems both complicated and exciting. I am so excited because without [my son] we could not have achieved that. It is so different because in one year we have achieved many things and suddenly I am in many parts of the world. So yes, I am so excited.
How would you describe the woman you have in mind when you design? What is her life like? Definitely a woman like me. A woman that is not a fashion victim. She's well traveled; she’s in Paris, then Brazil, then Colombia. She doesn’t have an age, she doesn’t have seasons. She loves femininity and contrast. I play with opposites, like pairing a very feminine top with a very masculine pant. This woman dresses for herself.
Let’s talk specifically about this collection (Fall 2018). Is there any particular inspiration or anything that you were thinking about while designing it? This collection is for day and night, my inspiration came from fabrics. It is very feminine but strong. I love to included unexpected details. This collection shows embroidered flowers throughout.
I play with opposites, like pairing a very feminine top with a very masculine pant. This woman dresses for herself.
Do you feel like your love for fabric drives your collections? Without a doubt.
That’s interesting because many designers that I have spoken with have said the exact opposite. They start with a sketch and then find the fabric. You know, I don’t like to sketch. I don’t believe in sketching; I believe in the real. For me, I have my model and I dress her like my doll. I design from her body. Sometimes you can give the same idea to a different person and then they sketch it and they come up with a completely different idea than my own.
Do you have a favorite piece in the collection? I am obsessed with the cutout jackets. I find them to be very masculine and very cool. Big shoulders, which reminds me of the 80's.
For me, I have my model and I dress her like my doll. I design from her body.
What do you do when you have time for yourself? I take 10 days off in the summer, normally I spend those days with my family. Additionally, my husband and I go with some friends to Italy or some other beautiful destination, but even then I am still working.
Where are you living now? I am normally between Miami and Colombia. I moved to Miami 15 years ago because of the situation in my home country and for my work it was impossible to go to Colombia. It was easier to see my clients by living in Miami. Miami is also perfect geographically because it is two hours from Colombia and eight hours from Paris.
Is there anything in particular that you are working on at this moment that you can share with us? We are planning a really cool trip to Cartagena with influencers and editors from various publications. We will take the group there and they will take over a hotel that I did the interior design for. It will be with people from all over the world. We feel that Cartagena is a great to place to show the press our world and where we come from. It is an hour away from our hometown.
When is that happening? For the launch of Spring 2018, so the second weekend in April.