Theorizing Fashion: Short Review of Colombiamoda 2016

[ Spanish]

In many ways, Colombiamoda 2016 reflected the state of contemporary creative culture in the country. This, culture influenced by the legacy of “easy-doing” promoted particularly during the last half century by drug trafficking and violence, seems to be carried in the veins of the Colombian peoples since the settling of Mozarabic Spaniards during the Colony. And, despite seeming ready to face the world, especially in terms of fashion, the Colombian creative culture is yet to wake up. But more that highlighting some of the problems of Colombian fashion, something that “critics” trying to find their 15 minutes of fame have already done for me, I want to highlight the good things, those that make me believe that someday—hopefully not too far away—fashion will become an aspect of Colombian pride, both inside the country and abroad.

Fashion, wrote Werner Sombart over a century ago, is “capitalism’s favourite child.” As such, fashion reflects the structures, virtues and, most importantly, vices of capitalism. Under this economic structure under which we live, Colombian is nothing more than a small fragment of a periphery that, only until recently, had entered a relatively globalised economy. But if Colombia has received attention in terms of business and production, it has to do, in great part, with the economic instability faced by Europe—the center of the world, until not too long ago—and the recent turmoil in Brazil, South America’s greatest economy.

Colombiamoda 2016 Pasarela Renata Lozano

No wonder why, in fashion as in many other aspects, Colombia has concentrated on imitation.

But to leave the analysis there would mean following the failures of fashion historians and theorists throughout the ages, by mistakenly arguing that fashion, as a Capitalist phenomenon, is exclusively Western/European—with the United States entering the discourse only until the 20th century—, that all fashionable trends are produced in Paris—the center—and the rest of the world—the periphery—limits itself to imitation, that Madame Fashion doesn’t exist anywhere outside Europe and the US, where the only dress worth paying attention to is folkloric in style.

Fashion—and Colombiamoda 2016 testifies to this—is present everywhere around the world. And, although Colombia is only starting to wake up in terms of fashion, this is a phenomenon of identity-construction that we must recognise, value, and exploit, by negotiating the external pressures of a more globalised economy and fashion system with our own ways of seeing the world, which has been passed down to us in history from the multiple cultures that make us Colombian, with out own types of creativity and their reflection in our aesthetic language.

*

Perhaps one of the designer that better managed to feed some Latin-American flavour to the trends of international fashion was Jorge Duque, in the opening show of Colombiamoda 2016. He combined the floral prints and tartans—the seventies revival trend of which Alessandro Michele’s creations are only one manifestation—with a tropical aesthetic with notes of the Caribbean, present in the vaporous fabrics, the ruffles, the cleavage.

Mónica Holguín, designer for Pepa Pombo, also managed to fuse key elements of today’s fashion into her collection, albeit in a relatively different way. Borrowing inspiration from 1940s Rio, she reminded us that Europe’s reign as the Queen of fashion is long forgone, while also reminding us fashion’s greatest current obsession: nostalgia for a past Latin America. With the series of fashion shows and related events that have taken place this year in Cuba and Brazil, Holguín’s collection does not lie outside of these discourses that, in the creation of the contemporary, revive the idea of a—somehow better—past.

Carlo Carrizosa, on another note, brought exoticism to an already exotic country. By restructuring traditional shirtmaking techniques, this magician showed a completely modern aesthetic, somewhat Asian but without losing its Latin American identity—and with a very clear influence of his training at Parsons—, evidenced in the consideration of the feminine curvature in conjunction with the structured body of the garments. This young designer holds a great future in his hands.

Another wonderful way of reworking traditional craftsmanship was presented by Andrea Landa, who transforms artisanal weaving techniques with a curious material selection: leather. Acting as a skin over the skin, leather evokes a variety of tactile sensations, reason for it being one of the most fetishised objects, in terms of dress. But, far from being sexual, Landa’s creations are chic, with a sensuality that speaks to the confident woman, and which can be worn on a day-to-day basis.

Johanna Ortiz doesn’t require introduction. She has become the greatest ambassador of Colombia to the world of fashion—and totally deserves the title!—with her designs selling out in retail giants such as Moda Operandi and even decorating the world-famous window displays of Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue. Ruffles and floral prints, which make us travel to tropical lands just by looking at them, have become her brand identity, and continue maintaining fashion lovers from around the world in awe. In this collection, the mix of texturised fabrics with floral patterns and the exquisite combination of stripes and flowers are the main highlights.

But the most exquisite combinations were in Renata Lozano’s creations, which closed this version of Colombiamoda. Borrowing elements so varied that they extensively reflect Latin American multi-culturality—based on the native American nature, mixing black heritage with indigenous tradition and the aesthetics of Sevilla—, and revealing them in an exquisite combination of textures, patterns and colours, Lozano presented a collection with silhouettes to dress the cosmopolitan, traveling, adventurous woman that describes, increasingly, Colombian femininity.

Photography via Inexmoda.