Esteban Cortázar channels feminine flamenco as the brand pursues a new pop-up strategy
A few metres away from the Odéon theatre, flamenco rhythms could be heard echoing through the halls of Paris' School of Medicine. It was the Spring/Summer 2019 runway of Colombian designer Esteban Cortázar, who returned to the official Paris Fashion Week calendar this season after an experimental run in New York. Back on home turf, he presented his most mature collection to date, a pastel-toned fiesta channelling miscegenation, sensuality and his latin roots.
The models were like a breath of fresh air, as light as the transparent gauze and silk which hung from their bodies as though carelessly draped there to reveal bare décolletage. A first series of looks in powdery, golden tones gave way to structured tops, followed by a study in black where there was even space for a touch of sportswear, explored through reimagined cycling shorts. The garments then gradated from white through different pastel tones in a collection that ended up resembling a watercolour of a sunset. "When I was little, my father always said that you have to try and find nature, so here I'm trying to contemplate a sunset, or a sunrise – to understand these colours and explore them. They're there, they go unnoticed and we only have to stop and look at them," explained an emotional Cortázar backstage after the show.
The collection's running theme was sensuality, with feminine silhouettes and dresses designed to accentuate the curves of the female body sharing the catwalk with pieces finished with fringes and asymmetric cuts that gave glimpses of exposed midriffs and never-ending legs. The beautifully worked nets and mesh on the clothes almost outshone the collection's exquisite accessories, from the hoop bags and horseshoe-inspired belts to the elaborate flat nomad sandals. All of this was presented to the rhythm of "Malamente", the hit from the musical sensation of the moment: Rosalía, aka "the Beyoncé of flamenco." Cortázar is a big fan of hers: "it's the music that I've been listening to all summer, and it's part of the inspiration for this collection," he said, alluding to the stamp of a flamenco heel – "tap, tap."
After a brief experiment showing in New York for a season, the Colombian designer has returned to his roots. "I've lived in Paris for 10 years and it's where my brand is based, as well as my team. New York was more like an invitation," he told FashionNetwork.com, highlighting his intentions to continue presenting his collections in the French capital; "In New York, there's more business, things go faster and people don't pay attention to the clothes in the same way. It was a great experience but I prefer showing in Paris. I love the environment for creating runways and the way in which audiences retain information," he concluded, smiling.
Aside from being the city in which he built his brand, Paris is also the place that shot the Colombian designer into the spotlight. He was tasked with bidding farewell to iconic concept store Colette before it closed, setting up a shop window paying homage to the Colombian tiendita in the middle of Rue Saint Honoré, but he also boasted a dedicated space in Le Bon Marché last summer, a pop-up themed around the magic realism so beloved by Latin American authors. "It was a space that allowed me to create a world around the collection, show the essence of the brand and present it to new customers so that they could discover where the collection comes from, as well as the essence of who I am," he explained to FashionNetwork.com.
In fact, these pop-up projects are at the heart of the brand's current strategy. "We're planning pop-ups like that with different stores around the world. We're doing one for New Year's in Cartagena (Colombia)," said Cortázar, promising that it will stock more men's clothes – perhaps a hint that, one day, we might yet see a full menswear line from the brand. "Furthermore, the pop-ups and capsules allow us to work more with sportswear, with the aim of expanding our collections," he added. The idea is to produce clothes dedicated to each pop-up, which in Cartagena will be a mix of Colombian tiendita and beach bar. "The pop-up idea plays into the the idea of collaboration. I find it fascinating to work with different teams, on something which isn't static, which travels. It's not easy and requires a lot of work to manufacture everything, but I love doing it."
Esteban Cortázar is an independent brand, driven by the enthusiasm of an emerging talent and the control of a consummate professional. The label is following a gentle but steady growth strategy with desirable designs that play off the designer's latin roots. The future looks bright for the young Colombian – as bright as the sunrise of his flamenco dresses.
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