From Cali to Paris, Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz shows at Paris Fashion Week
Johanna Ortiz is the founder and driving force behind one of the most internationally renowned brands from Colombia. While Bogotá-born designer Esteban Cortázar has served as Colombia's representative at Paris Fashion Week over the last few years before retiring from the catwalks in 2019, it is now his compatriot Johanna Ortiz who is stepping up to the plate to represent her home country by taking part in the French capital's official fashion week calendar.
"Effortless, elegant, bohemian and fun" are the words designer Johanna Ortiz used to describe her eponymous brand to FashionNetwork.com, on the occasion of its latest fashion show held at the CoCo restaurant inside the Palais Garnier. The collection, entitled 'Le Charme Discret de la Bohème' (Bohème's Discreet Dharm), featured 48 looks inspired by French patron and muse Madeleine Castaing and rock star Mick Jagger's aesthetic.
Oversized shoulder pads, fringed leather jackets, faux-fur coats, bohemian prints and hand-painted jaguars were just some of the details in the collection, which featured a burgundy, chocolate and caramel colour palette. The show also presented the brand's collaboration with the Spanish firm The Extreme Collection consisting of blazers and jackets.
"I started the brand with resort wear and beachwear, and it wasn't long before I was dressing Colombia's First Lady, television presenters and local celebrities. I had a more Latin American style", said the designer about her beginnings, after having studied fashion design in Colombia. "I am very excited to be an ambassador for Colombian and Latin American fashion in general, with the ability to break the established patterns and make known different designs that have been less known until now," said Ortiz, well aware of her own considerable influence.
Founded in Cali in 2003, the company made its international splash in 2014, when the luxury retailer founded by Lauren Santo Domingo and Áslaug Magnúsdóttir, Moda Operandi, selected the Colombian brand's garments to be part of its online assortment. Since then, the success of the designer's glamorous handcrafted pieces featuring unique prints has been nothing short of phenomenal.
"This was the first collection that we sold abroad and, currently, 95% of our production is exported," said Ortiz, noting that the United States and the United Kingdom are her brand's two main markets. Manufactured locally in Colombia, the luxury brand currently employs 440 artisans (78% of whom are women).
Made in Colombia's online success
The designer's efforts to preserve local craftsmanship and the local community has led her to have two stores of her own in Colombia, multiple points of sale worldwide in stores such as Le Bon Marché in Paris and El Corte Inglés in Spain, as well as a strong online presence on platforms such as MyTheresa, Matchesfashion, Farfetch and Luisa Via Roma.
After having promoted the brand abroad since its inception, online sales remain central to its business, accounting for more than 60% of turnover. Recently, Ortiz launched her own online boutique to "not rely solely on what e-commerce platforms' buyers find suitable for their customers."
The Colombian brand's recognisable garments are positioned in the premium segment, with tops starting at $495 and dresses ranging in price from $1,500 to $3,250. In 2020, Ortiz ventured into the affordable fashion segment by becoming the first Latin American brand to collaborate with H&M.
"This journey so far has been extremely enriching. I have learned so much about the industry and have established my perspective on female empowerment. I am very lucky to be surrounded by so many talented women who inspire me," said Ortiz.
The firm's future plans include opening two physical stores in New York, where the brand would usually present its collections during fashion week, and to expand into Europe by participating in Paris Fashion Week.
"Fashion has to be fun. We don't work in banking or medicine. Our job is to celebrate life and women," concluded the renowned designer, before heading to Madrid, where she will receive an award for her outstanding career this week.
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