Medellin’s Transformation, Technology, and Innovation
ColombiaModa 2019 edition paid homage to Medellin’s transformation over the last 30 years, and celebrated the country’s rich cultural heritage and its fashion industry’s rising commitment to diversity, innovation, technology, and sustainability. The largest fashion event in Colombia, brought together thousands of fashion industry professionals across Latin America and beyond to showcase Colombia’s design talent.
It is not surprising that technological advancement was one of the top themes running through ColombiaModa 2019. After all, Medellin was tapped to serve as Latin America’s center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution at this year’s World Economic Forum, becoming a global hub for public and private collaboration around emerging technologies with the aim of shaping a better world.
“Textiles and fashion will play a special role in the fourth industrial revolution and it is not just about new technologies, but also the development of Colombia’s human talent,” says Medellin’s Mayor Federico Gutiérrez.
“We want AI, IoT and blockchain technologies to transform our fashion and other creative industries,” adds Flavia Santoro, the President of ProColombia, a development agency in charge of promoting Colombia’s exports, investments and tourism abroad.
The Knowledge Pavilion at the fashion week hosted lectures and talks with tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook. At the trade fair, many brands focused on their e-commerce platform, offering virtual experiences to the consumer and showing visitors what the future of shopping will bring.
Return to Indigenous Roots and Celebration of Cultural Heritage
ColombiaModa’s anniversary celebration was also a call for the fashion industry to turn to its traditional cultural heritage. Celeb-favorite Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz, whose luxury creations can be found at high-end fashion outlets such as Net-a-Porter and Bergdorf Goodman, opened ColombiaModa 2019 with a collection called “Caprice” – with more than 60 sophisticated colorful looks with the anticipated ruffles and wide sleeves a la Ortiz told a story of tropical adventure.
Grupo Éxito’s textile brand Arkitect’s “Maestros Ancestrales (Ancestral Masters)” show highlighted local artisan traditions. The collection, created in collaboration with artisans from the Embera Chai indigenous community, paid homage to ancient crafts and included timeless garments and accessories, including Embera beadwork, fringe necklaces and earrings.
The final catwalk of the week featured Alejandro González y Andrés Restrepo’s brand Alado with its “Terracota” collection. The duo paid tribute to indigenous pottery, interpreting some of the artisanal techniques, traditions, and forms, emphasizing natural fibers like linen and silk, and clay earth colors like terracotta, ocher yellows, smoky darks. The defining part of the collection were the accessories: unique ceramic pieces of jewelry, belts, and bags.
Sustainability and Style
One of the major themes at ColombiaModa 2019 was a view of the fashion industry through the sustainability lens – its environmental, economic, and social impacts. The knowledge pavilion featured talks dedicated to sustainability and circular economies and the opportunities that they bring, like new materials, markets and technologies.
“We have been approaching sustainability from the educational angle,” says Carlos Eduardo Botero, CEO of Inexmoda, a non-profit promoting the fashion industry in Colombia, “I am convinced that every piece of clothing is going to have two tags in the future: one will contain sizing and care information, the other – will tell the consumer all about where the item came from.”
On the runway, Pink Filosofy – another brainchild of Johanna Ortiz – presented a truly timeless collection “A-temporal,” with sharp tailoring and bold details like wide cuffs or belts, a simple palette of monochrome colors and natural materials such as linen and cotton. Wearable basics for looking sophisticated any day, with long-term classic appeal, Pink Filosofy’s designs seemed intended for a capsule wardrobe – an ideal choice for consumers thinking sustainably.
Renata Lozano added an elegant and sensual touch to the catwalk with her “Exotic” collection, which included lots of different textures and materials, tight dresses and skirts embroidered by hand. Most importantly, a large part of the collection was made from recycled fabrics.
At the fair, many brands told compelling sustainability stories, from UAIA’s fun-shaped handbags made using local weaving techniques from different indigenous communities, to Silvia Cobos shoes featuring sustainable materials that come from a small village, where 10 local women earn living wages in shoe design and manufacturing.
Diversity in Practice
A general push toward diversity was stressed on and off the runway. Among our favorites were fresh, innovative, and often genderless designs by La Petite Mort, Miguemo, and María Elena Villamil. The duo behind La Petite Mort – a men’s clothing brand – stood out thanks to their flawless tailoring and focus on hand-woven garments.
The Miguemo designers sponsored by the Major of Medellin’s Office brought pop culture, avant-garde, great music, and their pet sphinx cat on the runway. The brand famous for its custom-made pieces for celebrity artists continues to focus on eclectic pieces for those who fearlessly express themselves.
Maria Elena Villamil’s MEV-SER collection, inspired by architectural design, specifically the works of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, centered around the idea of clothing for any occasion. The collection’s genderless pants, jumpsuits, jackets and capes looked simple, monochrome, and wearable in cement, olive and white colors.
ColombiaModa’s framing of technological progress and innovation as tied intrinsically with cultural heritage, sustainability, and inclusion this season is relevant, as a redefinition of industrial concerns comes at a timely moment. The event recognizes the strengths and advantages of Colombia’s creative potential. Yet, to occupy a confident position on the global fashion map, Colombia’s fashion ecosystem will need to continue tackling the remaining challenges, such as moving away from the aesthetic traditionally expected from Latin America. As other emerging markets like Georgia, Russia, and South Korea have demonstrated, taking bold risks while providing institutional level support will be essential for Colombia to keep transforming its own creative for