This is the story of how a Colombian designer conquered the world one ruffle at a time
If there’s a name that’s widely associated with the Caribbean style and with Colombia’s emerging fashion scene, it has to be Johanna Ortiz.
Following her graduation from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Ms. Ortiz returned to her native Colombia before establishing in 2001 her eponymous label. After building her business for 3 years, in 2004, Ms. Ortiz presented her collection at Colombiamoda (Medellin), gaining both national attention and a new customer base. Years later, she established the Pink Filosophy brand- a creative collaboration which saw her partnering with former model and longtime friend, Adriana Arboleda. Nowadays the Johanna Ortiz collections can be acquired at the most exclusive department stores in the world- Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods, and of course online through the luxury fashion platform- Moda Operandi.
The Cali native has become one of Moda Operandi’s instant successes and a favorite among celebrities and socialites. She is known for her feminine aesthetic and a sultry elegance, often associated with the Latin American fashion. Her signature features are tropical prints, ruffles and off-the-shoulder necklines. These characteristics are typical for the South American trend and they don’t set Ms. Ortiz apart from her colleagues (e.g.: see the design duo Leal and Karen Daccarett or Kika Vargas); nonetheless, what makes Johanna Ortiz a favorite of the more exclusive customer is her ability to find new meanings to these styles, while constantly reinterpreting them.
Obviously, Ms. Ortiz didn’t invent the Latin American aesthetic, but she surely found a new understanding of the Latina concept. Through her use of luxurious textiles which come in unexpected color combinations, Ortiz creates garments for women who value versatility and comfort, while still personifying the social aspirations of the elites. Sophisticated touches uncover her impeccable craftsmanship and create an unforgettable style.
She took elements from her beloved Colombia and incorporated them in her collections, and if Gabriel García Márquez brought Cartagena alive through his writings, Ms. Ortiz put the coastal city's beauty on display through her garments. The designer’s love for her native country might very well be the source of her artistic genius.
Her collections have transformed the national and regional design landscape, imprinting them with a Latinity which is in stark contrast to the androgynous aesthetic promoted in Europe and United States. Women look like women when they wear Johanna Ortiz’s eponymous label. They embrace their curves and femininity, while emanating confidence and a serene beauty.
Johanna’s love for her native country is also seen in the fact that she produces all her collections in an atelier in Colombia, refusing to move the production operations overseas. Additionally, she created a foundation that imparts classes on high-end sewing techniques to women who come from unprivileged families. Her efforts to both enhance Colombia’s image globally and assist her native country weren’t ignored and the designer received the recognition she deserves. Colombia’s chic First Lady, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez De Santos wore some of Ortiz's designs on different occasions, catapulting her career to new heights.
Latin American Post | Adina Achim
Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda