We talk the business of Effortless Elegance with Latin America’s leading fashion designer... and by the way she is also a Knight of France.
You studied interior design, was the move into Fashion Design a natural one and why?
After I graduated with a degree in interior design, I started experimenting on T-shirts
with appliques made from exotic materials. My friends loved them and started to order them. The friends of my friends also ordered and people from other cities started to call... It was crazy! At this moment I noted that the product and the circumstances were perfect to start a new adventure. Then I started to create pieces to complement the T-shirts. So, in a natural and organic way, I was developing a vision, a brand, and a collection at the same time. When I saw how popular what I was doing had become, I decided to focus entirely on fashion and I’ve never, never, regretted that decision.
You have become one of the most acclaimed gures of Latin American fashion - how do you ensure that your vision is relevant for the millennial+ generation?
Millennials value uniqueness. They want to express their own style and are always looking for something different... And independent luxury brands like mine can offer clothes that are true originals. In addition; to keep my vision relevant, being innovative is the only way. For this reason, we are always innovating with the use of materials, looking always for something new, challenging, and exciting, partnering with creative people and other brands, thinking outside the box and always keeping an eye on the future... Also, I have a millennial son and a millennial daughter totally involved in the expansion of my brand, one on the business side and the other on the creative side, and they will be key to the brand’s future.
How do you feel about being a role model for a new generation of creators?
I was the first Latin American designer to be invited by the organizers to present my collections in the of cial calendar of Milano and Paris fashion weeks. It was a huge accomplishment, because I was not the Latin creative director of a European brand... I was presenting my own brand. In addition, my collections were “made in Colombia”. I received a lot of recognition across the globe for this success. I showed that you could create high and competitive fashion in Latin America and my success inspired a lot of young designers to ful ll their dreams and aspirations. How I feel? A big responsibility! My success motivates me to continue challenging myself, opening doors, and supporting important initiatives such as the Miami Dade College’s fashion and design program. Finally, my advice for the new generation is very clear: Keep your focus; it’s the only way to make it right. You can have talent but without focus you won’t achieve your goals... and enjoy the ride!
What has been the lasting impact of your participation at the Milano and Paris fashion weeks?
Showing my collections in the top European fashion weeks made me realize that I could be up there with the best of them, and it also got me thinking about where I could grow and branch out. I was looking for different ways to translate my vision beyond fashion. Armani, Versace and Bvlgari started the concept of fashion hotels and it was perfect for me. That was was the origin of the Tcherassi Hotels. And then, Tcherassi Home Collection was born. In 2011, following the successful opening of the Tcherassi Hotel, the Tcherassi Home Collection was of cially introduced to create an everyday “casual luxury” experience. The pieces feature details such as ribbons, stitches and pleats, signatures of my fashion. The sheets, duvets, pillows, throws, and towels were conceived as the perfect home accessories for people looking to enhance their living.
The French government awarded you the “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.” That’s quite the recognition?
It was a great honor to be recognized for my contributions to the fashion industry. It isn’t just a title. It isn’t just a medal. It’s more! This kind of honor is a huge motivation to continue working very hard and opening doors for the new generation of designers at the same time.
You wrote the book “Effortless Elegance” published by Random House – why did you write it and is it really possible to learn Effortless Elegance?
I wanted to share my experiences in the fashion business and communicate my vision at the same time, trying to answer all the questions I was receiving by mail or during press interviews. It was a great experience, putting all your ideas on paper, creating a narrative and offering advice at the same time. On the concept of effortless elegance, my approach to design is casual luxury oriented. I believe in calm and relaxed luxury, without pretensions. You can’t learn to be elegant but you can try to express yourself through fashion and create a unique style. The traditional concept of elegance is overrated. I prefer a woman with a unique style than another who is a fashion victim, dressed head to toe with trendy clothes without any identity.
Your business Altamoda S.A.S. is a prominent creative business; producing and marketing the collections of local creative talent – tell us about this work.
Accessories are one of my creative outlets and, as you mentioned, I have collaborated with local artisans in their development. My first collaboration has a beautiful story behind it because I was invited to be part of the charity project BeLive supported by Lauren Santo Domingo. Top designers from around the world received traditional Wayúu mochila bags and we were asked to do an artistic intervention. I decided on a non-invasive process being very respectful of the pattern and color scheme – opting to cover mine with Swarovski crystals in order to enhance its beauty. Afterwards I decided to work with the women of the Wayúu indigenous community on some pieces for my collection. I received some samples and worked with them in some variations of color, proportion, length of the strap, etc., always being totally respectful of their traditions and the meanings of the patterns. Most recently, I worked with the artisans of Usiacurí, Atlántico. They wear the most beautiful utilitarian pieces using the “Iraca” palm. For my Resort 2018 collection, I transformed sewing boxes, birdcages and breadbaskets into the most beautiful bags. One of them was featured recently in a WWD trend report. They are beautiful collaborations; I support economically their communities and promote their traditions and culture at the same time.
You have said: “Fashion has no age or nationality.” The internationalization of the brand is a priority – what regions are you targeting for this growth and why?
I am building step by step an independent luxury brand that reflects my own vision on fashion and style. I will continue opening my own namesake boutiques in key cities around the world following the success of the openings of Madrid and Miami and expanding my two extension brands Tcherassi Hotel Collection and Tcherassi Home Collection. In addition to our enhanced online presence, for the first time this October the brand will be available wholesale in exclusive multi-brand boutiques across America, Europe and the Middle East. My mission as founder and creative director of my brand is to keep it relevant and cohesive. When your brand has a strong foundation and a clear vision, you can translate it to different fields in a very consistent way.
You own two luxury hotels: MANSION TCHERASSI housed in a 250 year old colonial mansion and Tcherassi Hotel + Spa. Why was luxury hospitality a good idea?
The trend of fashion hotels was “tailor made” for me because of my studies in interior design and it, allowed me to “open the door”, literally and guratively, to transition my brand from fashion to lifestyle. The creative process of the first hotel (Mansión Tcherassi) was more experimental, almost a lab test to try to translate my fashion vision to interior design. We created some trademarks such as vertical gardens; a very original approach to textures and finishes, the perfect selection of design accents incorporating haute couture materials and techniques...
After the success of the rst one, we decided to open a second hotel with more rooms (42), more restaurants (2) and other amenities. The new project took these trademarks to a new context, bigger but not louder, because the calm elegance, still are the essence of the project. Tcherassi Hotels were conceived to capture the spirit of effortless elegance that distinguishes my fashion collections. The spaces were created to inspire, to activate memories and to redefine the traditional concept of indoor-outdoors. To achieve it, I collaborated with top architecture firms such as EstudioMorfo in the first and with Richard Mishaan in the second one. They translated the essence of my brand and my vision to the spaces in order to create the perfect frame for unforgettable experiences.
Colombia has had a tumultuous history in past decades – how do you feel about the country today and it’s future?
I am very optimistic on the future of Colombia and I am totally convinced that the best days of our country are ahead. If we achieved a lot without peace, now, the sky is the limit. What I love most about Colombia is our profound desire to be a better and peaceful country... In our dark days, the country produced a lot of talent in the creative fields, including art, music, literature and, of course, fashion. Talking about fashion, when I started, fashion was a topic of social pages and entertainment; today it is considered one strategic industry for our economy and the best ambassador of our creative talent. We have very good fashion “made in Colombia” and Colombian creators are very connected with our roots. Our proposals are very different because our country is diverse: A designer from the Andean region is totally different to a designer from the Caribbean.
Your brand prides itself on experimentation of the traditional and the avant-garde. Tell us about your new collections.
My designs feature haute couture materials and couture techniques, mixing traditional and avant-garde elements. It’s part of the DNA of my brand from the beginning. When I presented my rst collection at Milan Fashion Week, critics said my designs could be dubbed “prêt-à-couture”. Regarding my new collection, the next one is Resort 2018. For this collection, I wanted to go back to basics, using natural materials and a very pure color palette, and revisiting some shapes of past collections that are part of the DNA of my brand. The shapes of different varieties of owers inspired me. Flowers appear printed in luxurious cotton, deconstructed in different garments, contrasted with stripes, polka dots and squares, and incorporated in the beautiful artisan bags. To match this approach, the silhouettes and the color palette are very earthy and organic. And regarding materials, different kinds of cotton are the main attraction.
Find out more about the Tcherassi Brands: www.silviatcherassi.com