Esteban Cortázar designs summer collection for Desigual
Summer, the 1990s and melting-pot Miami Beach, where Latino culture meets fashion supermodels, eccentric retirees and gay and drag-queen icons, are the backdrop to a summer collaboration that is unexpected to say the least. It is the first joint project between Colombian designer Esteban Cortázar and Barcelona-based label Desigual, who together have created a capsule collection called ‘Cada día es para siempre’ (Every day is forever). The collection will be available for sale from May 20, and will combine the Spanish label’s international reach and logistics capabilities with the signature style and luxury savvy of the Bogotá-born designer.
“The collaboration came about naturally and spontaneously, but it was completely unexpected. I’m delighted to have worked with Desigual, and together we had a very fine time,” said Cortázar on his return to Paris, after spending the last few months in his native Colombia. “Desigual was one of those labels I vaguely knew, but I wasn’t familiar with its story nor its roots. In the last few years, I’ve had more frequent contact with [Desigual] thanks to friends who are working there, or who have worked with the label to freshen up its brand image and help it reach a new audience, like Miranda Makaroff,” said Cortázar. There is a genuine community around Desigual, and the label’s first contacts with Cortázar date back to 2019, at the Sonar electro-pop music festival.
According to Cortázar, his connection with Desigual actually dates as far back as 1984, the year he was born and the year Thomas Meyer set up the company. “I see a link with my own life story, my family, my connection with Spain and Ibiza, my [aesthetic] vision and my positive energy,” said the designer. When Desigual suggested a collaboration, he immediately saw this opportunity as “a very interesting challenge: to revolutionise a brand in my own way, while respecting its DNA and philosophy.”
The project began a year and a half ago, and has had to accommodate the pandemic. “The dynamic was very interesting. I’ve had to design the entire collection at home in Paris during lockdown, completely rethinking my idea of the workflow. It took longer, but the whole process was very cool and super creative,” said Cortázar, who is optimistic about the future of remote and virtual working, as he too has had to find new ways of working online.
“I wanted to do something very personal, something extremely authentic. I didn't want it simply to be a collaboration between a designer and a mainstream brand,” he said. He was keen to give this project “a soul” in order to connect with “the essence and roots of Desigual.” The collection’s moodboard does include references to South Beach, the Miami neighbourhood where Cortázar grew up.
“It was a period that had a major influence on my character, as a person and as an artist. I spent my childhood around the beach, with an artist father and a singer mother,” he remembered fondly. But his parents weren’t the only creative touchstones he had early on: aged 12, he met Gianni Versace. In the 1990s, he grew up amidst supermodels, photographers and eccentric characters, inspirations for this capsule collection which also includes artwork by his father, painter Valentino Cortázar, and reproductions of 1970s photos by Andy Sweet. “After all, Barcelona is a bit like the Miami of the Mediterranean,” he said.
“You spend all your life learning. I’m 36, and I’ve been working in fashion for the last 20 years. This has enabled me to evolve, to assimilate different perspectives. As a designer, I’m not afraid of change,” added Cortázar. In his opinion, collaborating with larger groups, as he has done in the past with Grupo Éxito and Seven Seven, is “a way of learning how to do things differently.” Familiar with “the luxury industry’s pace and way of communicating,” Cortázar is taking advantage of his collaborations with mainstream labels to “meet new clients” while “designing and dreaming big.”
Cortázar may not have a crystal ball at his disposal, but he can be proud of his foresight. At the start of 2019, he announced he was temporarily dropping out of the Paris fashion week, in order to focus on one-off projects and on collaborations that were more suited to current market expectations. “Without knowing it, I somehow prepared myself for the situation we are living in now. I was very worried about dropping out of catwalk shows. There’s this constant pressure that leads us to believe that if we stop showing, we cease to exist. Instead, I discovered it was quite the opposite. I gained the freedom to rethink how I wanted to go about things, and boost my creativity,” he said. According to Cortázar, there are plenty of alternatives to traditional presentations, without needing to “spend a fortune on a 10-minute show.”
“I put luxury fashion on a sort of hold. There were too many issues, and I wanted to focus on e-tail and capsule collections, leaving room for the main collection, which requires another kind of investment and creative process,” he said. Cortázar’s eponymous label has of course been affected by the Covid-19 crisis. But fashion weeks may be staged in physical format again soon, and he is optimistic: “It’s a tradition that people who work in fashion, myself included, simply adore. Catwalk shows will make a come-back, but in different ways. Major labels are always able to stage monster performances, smaller ones can only do it perhaps once a year, or only when they are able to,” he said. Cortázar is unwilling to tie himself exclusively to a rigid fashion week calendar, and is thinking about tapping the synergies within his community of followers in Paris, Colombia and Miami, continuing to put collaborations at the core of his strategy.
“One of the great lessons we have learned this year is that we must live in the present. I think we would like to pursue this collaboration further, but we must see what the future looks like,” he said about the possibility of continuing to work with Desigual in the long term, as his friend Miranda Makaroff and designer Christian Lacroix are doing. Cortázar has a positive outlook for the present and the near future: “I don’t know what is going to happen, but right now we are at least allowed the luxury of reinventing ourselves.”
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