During the New York Resort 2016 season, Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz was the name tagged ’round social media — you couldn’t scroll through Instagram without catching an artfully crafted snapshot of at least one look from her most recent collection. She isn’t new to the game — she launched her label in 2001 — which means all of Colombia is probably like, Hello, we’ve been telling you this for a while. Totally understood, slightly apologetic, but you know what they say, right? Better late than never. Here are 8 questions and answers to introduce you to the next designer whose eponymous label you need to know.
1) Your designs are sexy, but not “obvious.” They’re feminine, powerful and command a certain presence. Can you elaborate on your vision?
I imagine that the women I design for are powerful and strong. They mix the sex appeal and femininity of Brigitte Bardot with the elegance of Jackie O. It’s a balancing act. You have to show the right amount of skin, use the right amount of volume and the right amount of color. It can never be too much of any one element for me.
2) How does your culture play a role in your designs?
I grew up in Cali, Colombia — the Capital of Salsa — a city with a lot of tradition and ethnic diversity. This mixture of cultures result in a rich blend of colors, music and spices.
3) A girl can only choose ONE item from you: what would it be and why?
Any one of my tops that reinterpret a men’s shirt. I love the effect that these masculine pieces have on a woman’s body. They can be paired with jeans for a casual night out, or a long skirt for a black tie event.
4) Who would be your favorite fictional character to dress?
Doña Fermina Daza, one of the main characters from Gabriel García Márquez’s novel, “Love in the Time of Cholera.” She’s sophisticated, strong and very romantic.
5) The best music to play when wearing Johanna Ortiz?
A whole range, from Son Cubano to rock. In my Resort 2016 show, we mixed beautiful female vocals with reggae for the runway soundtrack.
6) What’s it like to run your own business in fashion? Tips for young women getting started in the design world?
As a designer, taking risks and having your own style is key. Be passionate and dedicated. I enjoy my work. I truly look forward to going to my office each day, to working with beautiful fabrics and drawing my ideas out onto paper.
When I go onto Instagram and see women I admire wearing Johanna Ortiz, I feel so flattered. But I feel pressure as well. My next thought is, how can I create the next piece that they will want to wear?
7) Fill in the blanks: Always ____, never ___, sometimes____.
Always be true to yourself. Never wear a size too small. Sometimes take a walk on the wild side.
8) The most underrated thing every wardrobe needs?
And on that note, we’re going to bed. What?
Photos Courtesy of Johanna Ortiz by Andrea Swarz