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Style File

Fashion Designer Johanna Ortiz's Colombian Roots Inspire Her Designs

Feminine silhouettes are indicative of designer Johanna Ortiz's eponymous collections. Pieces feature distinctive ruffles and prints; bold color pairings; and a playfulness that warrants a twirl. It's all part of the vision Ortiz set out to create when starting her namesake label in 2001. Prior, she left her South American roots to study at the Art Institute of Florida.

“Back in those days, you couldn't find a school for fashion design in Colombia,” Ortiz says. “Florida has always been in my heart. I grew up going there every summer and still have my vacation home in South Florida.”

An encounter with the online fashion discovery platform, Moda Operandi, and its owner, Lauren Santo Domingo, would later lead Ortiz to feature a trunk show on the site. Numerous collaborations followed, thus officially launching the line internationally in 2014. Today, the designer label is carried in more than 73 stores globally, including South Florida retail locations like Kirna Zabête, The Webster, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

We recently met up with the Colombian designer during a trunk show in partnership with Kirna Zabête at The Royal Poinciana Plaza. Donning her Mysterious Soul One-Shoulder Georgette Dress, she showcased her Spring-Summer 19 and Pre-Fall collections. Here, she talks inspiration, her role in dressing women and what's next for her brand.

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On designing the new collections...

I'm always an advocate that there are no frontiers. You can mix cultures and make it look beautiful. For Spring-Summer 2019, the starting point of the collection was Paul Jacoulet, a true Renaissance man. [He's] French but born and raised in Japan. A good calligrapher and a recognized butterfly collector, his favorite clothes were kimonos. The muses of Jacoulet and his daydreaming scenarios set the color palette for the collection.

For Pre-Fall 2019 it was the nymphs of John William Godward laid down over a decadent leopard fur blanket... It's all very hedonistic. Also, our beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains near the Caribbean Sea. There you'll find jaguars still in their natural habitat—wild, elegant, fearless.

On her Colombian culture's influence on designs...

My Colombian roots will always be the inspiration of the collections. Latin America is a rich culture driven by authentic aesthetics. I live in the Pacific of Colombia. The Pacific coast has a lot of heritage, and it has a lot of cultures. It's a festive city. We're known as the capital of the salsa dance.

On dressing women...

I want the brand to be part of the modern woman's closet. I use most of the long dresses or kimonos as my everyday uniform. It's not about dressing up only for evening or cocktails, but to make your every day a little more special. That's my goal each time I sit and design.

On upcoming adventures...

I would love to do a home collection. I love prints. I love fabrics. Decoration has been one of my passions, and I do it for my houses. But I've never [done] it as a business. Since I have a lot of prints that I develop by myself, I probably could use the prints for the house.