Johanna Ortiz on how the vibrant spirit of Colombia informs her creativity

Grazia spoke to the designer ahead of the release of her capsule collection with H&M
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Johanna Ortiz on how the vibrant spirit of Colombia informs her creativity

Ever since its first collaboration with the late, great Karl Lagerfeld in 2004, H&M has continued to reinvent the fast fashion game and re-imagine designer labels at a mass market price point.

Its latest with Colombian-born designer Johanna Ortiz is a celebration of all things feminine and floral, and features several hero dresses that make getting dressed in the morning as fool proof as it gets. While the main collection will drop in March, the designer is releasing four dresses in December, as a taster of what's to come. 

Here, she chats to Grazia about how the collaboration with the high street stalwart came about, and how her Colombian heritage has influenced her designs. 

Johanna Ortiz

What were your starting points when working on this collaboration with H&M?

The collaboration was what I call a “throwback” experience. I delved into my archive and showed the H&M team my favourite prints, and we talked through the “must have” Johanna Ortiz silhouettes: the wrap dress, the tunic and the statement top that started it all. The aim was to create a collection that captured festivity, elegance and effortlessness and was true to my brand DNA. 

How did you develop the beautiful prints in particular?

The prints all come from my obsession with the flowers, the palm trees and the beautiful colours I am blessed to see out the window when I wake up at home in Cali (known as the capital of Salsa!). In the end, it’s a natural aesthetic for me: I am from the tropics and live in the tropics. It is what I see, breathe, feel and dream about every day.

Jessica Gomes wearing Johanna Ortiz x H&M

What motivated you to launch your own fashion brand in 2001?

I have always loved playing dress-up and knew I wanted to be a fashion designer from a young age. After graduating from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, in Florida, I returned to my native Colombia, where it proved difficult to find clothes that appealed to my taste. I started making my own pieces, and people always asked what I was wearing. Eventually, friends started coming to me for advice, and I decided to set up my own label. I wanted to design a dream closet for women who enjoy fashion and who don’t take getting dressed too seriously. Every piece I create comes from a specific style I have wanted for myself. It’s about having fun while you dress up.

How does the spirit of your native Colombia infuse your designs?

The imprint of where I grew up and where I live is always there in each Johanna Ortiz design. Latin America has a uniquely festive atmosphere and I always try to capture the rhythm of the Salsa dance, the beauty of elegant orchids (our national flower), and the effortlessness of palm trees dancing in a balmy pink sunset. I hope that people are able to access the joy of exploring a new culture through my clothes, channelling the curiosity of a philosopher and the freedom of a gaucho.

Gala Gonzales wearing Johanna Ortiz x H&M

How do Colombian women enjoy fashion – what is unique about their sense of style?

Colombian women have a desire to elevate the ordinary. It comes from our joy of life. We like to embrace our femininity and our sensuality. It’s about being extraordinary without pretence and elegant without effort.

How did you develop the beautiful prints in particular?

The prints all come from my obsession with the flowers, the palm trees and the beautiful colours I am blessed to see out the window when I wake up at home in Cali (known as the capital of Salsa!). In the end, it’s a natural aesthetic for me: I am from the tropics and live in the tropics. It is what I see, breathe, feel and dream about every day.

Tina Kunakey wearing Johanna Ortiz x H&M

  • The Johanna Ortiz x H&M collection be available from December 3 online and in selected stores

Photos: Supplied