Sep 26, 2019 | By Jane Boddy
Aug 03, 2019
Seemingly all at once, Colombia was on my radar as the next influential fashion destination to visit. From the envy-inducing vacation photos on friends’ and influencers’ Instagram feeds, to the bevy of talented Colombian designers popping up in recent retail travels to Miami, the Colombian aesthetic has been playing a pervasive part in the new wave of vibrant tropical fashion sweeping the States. The industry has taken note as well, with a dedicated Colombian fashion pop-up appearing at the February edition of Coterie this year. So when the opportunity came to attend Colombiamoda in Medellin, I jumped at the chance to further explore the talent stemming from this influential area.
Celebrating its 30th year anniversary, the jam-packed fashion week, hosted by Inexmoda, offered part catwalk presentation, part direct-to-consumer market, and part trade show – all with a healthy dose of street style and the collective energy that comes with a centralised fashion week location. (Say what you will about the New York shows disbanding, one thing is for sure: the excitable energy of a single fashion week destination makes me a bit nostalgic for the old tents at Bryant Park.)
Over 11,800 buyers attended Colombiamoda, with 12% hailing from international countries including the United States, Ecuador and Mexico, and 88% being native buyers. The prominence of Colombiamoda in the LATAM world is undeniable, offering one of the largest and most highly attended fashion weeks on the continent. Located in the city of Medellin, the cultural, touristic and retail attributes of this fashion week locale exponentially increase the general sense of inspiration, from picture-perfect shopping on lush tropical streets such as Via Primavera, to the graffiti-laden cityscapes tucked into the hillsides of Comuna 13. The city overall plays a major role in the tone of the week, emphasising the importance of looking outside the ‘big 4’ for global fashion week inspiration.
While incredibly difficult to narrow down, here’s the top five designers you need to know:
Ortiz is largely responsible for establishing the flounce and ruffle craze across Colombia and beyond, with a vast majority of her export business taking place in the US. As with any signature look however, it must be constantly reinvented, and for S/S 20 this came via subtle nods to the 1980s. Big, pouffed shoulders, sweetheart necklines and exaggerated bow details updated occasion and party frocks, often in tapestry jacquards, organza, and silk. The commercial applications here are ripe for the picking, ranging from high-end contemporary jumpsuits to a mainstay in many summer wardrobes: the wedding-guest dress. A collaboration with Tabitha Simmons produced the accompanying footwear collection, pairing these dreamy dresses with disco-worthy platforms and tall equestrian boots.
This local favourite closed out the fashion week, with a show that truly mastered the cohesive art of set design, apparel, hair, and make-up. Designers Andres Restrepo and Alejandro González chose terracotta as the theme for S/S 20, a tribute to pottery, ceramics and porcelain, riffing on the meeting of the hands with the clay, and how it gradually become a piece of art. The connection to cultural craft was evident in this choice, with models navigating a catwalk dotted with life-size urns and pottery – the rich tones reflecting the earthen pinks and scorched clay notes peppered throughout the collection. Accessories were a standout here as well, with beaded sunglass chains and mini terracotta pots reimagined as statement earrings.
As might be expected from a collection titled Timeless, the frills and flounce of many other labels are noticeably absent here, bypassed in favour of minimalist, monochrome dressing, subtle tailoring and elevated basics. The genius lies in the simplicity, with wearable but interesting basics offering one of the most difficult tasks for any designer to master. Standout items include softly tailored summer suits with fabric-matching waist belts, and languid knit jumpsuits with cape-like details and artful asymmetry. If an Eileen Fisher, Theory-loving audience is your main attraction, look no further. Designers Adriana Arboleda and Johanna Ortiz are currently working with sustainable textiles and washing processes that reduce consumption of water and energy, adding low environmental impact to Filosofy’s list of attractive attributes.
This mainly menswear brand offers its distinctive take on ‘tropical tailoring’ with pieces that fluctuate between statement looks and quiet sophistication. Twin brothers Daniel and Alejandro Lugó were inspired by the hypothetical situation of Marco Polo travelling to the Indies, with a focus on the botanical relationships between the people and their landscapes. This is evident in their original prints, which were standouts of the S/S 20 collection. An array of tropical foliage and critter designs, from armadillos to insects, can be found across silk camp shirts, robes and suiting. Khaki-coloured blazers and safari jackets are given a sense of ease mixed with piped pyjama pants and silky tassel accents, embodying the spirit of casual luxury that Colombia is known for.
A focus on one of Colombia’s biggest exports was a central inspiration for Bueno’s S/S 20 collections. References to coffee, and the local nomadic women who source the best variations, guide the collection. Lightweight linen, cottons and chiffon allow the voluminous silhouettes to take shape, with the puffed-sleeve silhouettes now synonymous with Colombian fashion playing out in spectacular form. A strong focus on denim balances out the feminine frocks, representing one of the brand’s most signature strengths. Again, we see 1980s influences play out in small doses, from the ruched denim leggings to the balloon-sleeve tops.
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