Inspired by the transformative effects of beautiful fabrics, Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz creates collections that are feminine and elegant, inviting women “to have fun” with ready-to-wear. Her prints are lovable, color palette is fresh yet wearable and the use of ruffles is flattering. Ortiz has a great sense for glamour. With her latest collection La Divine SS20 Johanna Ortiz presented the elegance that recalled the 1930s.
Please tell us how did it all start?
I studied fashion design at The Art Institute in the USA. Dreaming about my perfect wardrobe, I came back to Colombia and started the brand with Cruise collections. Soon it all evolved to a ready-to-wear brand inspired by the Latin, elegant festive style for a global woman.
I can see you are very much inspired by the beauty of your homeland, the 1930s and Art Deco, and for Spring the raffia midi heels took their shape from traditional thatched roofs that trace the tropical landscape.
Yes, Colombia and the tropics are always part of my inspiration. But the woman I design for is an aesthete lover, the woman with an effortless divine festive self, lover of beauty and a collector of stamps in her passport always curious of embracing and mixing my culture with other cultures. I realized about the influence of Art Deco architecture in Colombia. And specially in Cali, where I’m from. The influence arrived late, in the 50s. The buildings weren’t the decorative referent for the movement but they had a lot of tropical soul. I also found about Carolina Cardenas through a friend. Cardenas was a Colombian artist in the 1930s. She was raised in London and in her 20s came back and introduced the modern style to the artistic circle of Bogotá. She was known as Miss Deco. She was revolutionary not only in the artistic way. She broke the paradigms of how women in Colombia should be, how should they look, how they have to behave and what they should do with their lives. She was AN AESTHETE who loves beautiful things, smoked and had flapper hair. She married and divorced three days later. She was the best dressed of Colombia wearing only her charm and personality. And she was true to herself, compromising only to her whims and not to a specific role dictated by society. And that’s the woman I envision for Spring 2020: courageous, beautiful and with the good taste. And of course, that woman is festive. Nobody likes a party more than her.
Tell us about your La Divine SS20 collection.
It all started with my infatuation with Art Deco. Loie Fuller and her orquidea-like dance, the organic, the natural, the divine, the ethereal. And, just like history is meant to repeat itself, I moved through an unexpected direction and suddenly I was breathing DECÓ. Still living for aesthetics, still exuberant, but more modern, more straightforward and surprisingly, more sober. During the creation of the collection we were living historic and revolutionary moments: our Amazons crying for help, climate change strikes, immigration emergencies...We know it’s all wrong and wanted to recreate the old SALONNIÈRES where intellectuals gathered for a purpose but with our tropical heritage of the GOLDEN AGES of Latin America. ‘It takes a tribe to change the world’, so that’s why we are here today. Creating positive things, something for you to delight. To keep alive that utopía of beautiful while being responsible and trying our best to make a change.
A key piece of your latest collection?
The tropical mola maxi dress is my favorite!
No matter where in the world you are, there’s no avoiding the issue of climate change. For SS20 you have incorporated recycled fabrics into your line for the first time, and the textured midi skirts and draped tops in pale pink were some of the strongest pieces in the collection. Even small steps toward sustainability like this are well worth celebrating. What is your take on the issue of the climate change and the fashion industry?
As the most of the world companies, we are also making a big effort in changing habits, materials, etc. But being conscious about it is the best start. It will take some time to change everything we humans are doing wrong, but we can not ignore the fact that we need to act, and we need to do it together.
We are investing and focusing our efforts to create more conscious and sustainable collections. Grow the ”semillero” a school in our atelier that offers education at no cost, to woman that want to pursue a professional-level as seamstress and embroidery courses. We are adding more accessories to our collections and we will continue to grow bridal and vacation collections.
Your thoughts that you want to share with our readers.
Art is beauty, charm, elegance. Live by aesthetic. Even sadness, but live it beautiful and with grace.
All Images: Courtesy of Johanna Ortiz
This story first appeared in the February 2020 issue of L'Officiel Arabia.