Ocean Drive caught up with fashion designer Johanna Ortiz on how the Magic City inspires her, what to pack for Cartagena, and how she reacted when she saw Beyoncé in her clothes.
If you’ve been wondering who is behind some of the most stylish ensembles of A-list celebrities, here’s your answer: Fashion designer Johanna Ortiz—whose eponymous collections perfectly fuse delicate femininity with structured masculinity—is the fierce force behind fashion icons including Beyoncé, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Olivia Palermo. The Colombian born designer studied fashion design and graduated with honors at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale before returning to her native Cali, where she passionately designs chic masterpieces coveted by women across the globe.
Last week, the designer returned to South Florida to present her Spring 2017 collection to Miami fashionistas at Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour. Before the presentation, we chatted with Ortiz on how she’s inspired by the 305, how she felt when Beyoncé took center stage while wearing her designs, and more.
You started your fashion career in South Florida. What is it like to return with such successful fashion line? JOHANNA ORTIZ: I love Miami. I have a house in Key Biscayne. I’ve always felt [a connection] and that I was a part of Florida.
How has Miami influenced your collections? JO: I relate with a lot of the people here. There is so much diversity: There are Latinas, but there are also Americans, and there’s this meeting point that I love and that I try to translate in my collections.
Any morning rituals? JO: I always pray in the mornings and give thanks for the day. Then, I [apply] my natural beauty creams. I have these all natural creams from a friend of mine that I love. I have a green juice, and I do yoga or [some kind of] exercise four times a week. And then it’s off to the atelier where I work all day.
If you had to wear one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? JO: A black dress!
The designer with models wearing her collection.
Your La Garçonne collection is inspired by the Garçonne trend—a cultural movement by women who rebelled against the classic feminine stereotypes by including masculine garments in their closets. Given the significance of this trend, would you consider yourself a feminist? JO: I’m more of a womanist. I think that women are [equal], but I’m not a feminist. I love when my husband opens the door for me. I think of [that] to be a compliment. So in whoever you choose, no matter what the sex, I think it’s just important to have this balance.
Major celebrities and fashion notables have been spotted wearing your pieces. Who was the first celeb to wear your designs? Do you remember the feeling you had in that moment? JO: The [first fashion icon] to wear my designs was Lauren Santo Domingo; she wore the Tulum top during Paris Fashion Week. However, Beyoncé was a big moment that I was not expecting. When I saw Beyoncé performing at her concert, and she was not only wearing one thing, but the whole outfit, I was like, "OH MY GOD!"
Do you have any must-dos when you’re in town? JO: Going in the ocean, being on a boat, and seeing the sun set. The sunsets in Miami are amazing!
We hear you’re traveling to the Bahamas, what’s in your suitcase? JO: Lots of pareos (sarongs). They’re so versatile. You can tie them in different ways and can pair with a simple striped shirt or a statement swim suit from my collection. Easy beach to bar attire!
Being such a global brand that’s carried all over the world, what are your favorite travel destinations and do you feel like your collections are inspired by the places you’ve traveled to? JO: After I graduated, I traveled to India and I felt a huge connection to colors there—colors are always my starting point. And it’s always great being in Paris. It’s where I show my presentations and I feel at home there as well. But I’ve been influenced wherever I go.
Cartagena is currently one of the trendiest travel destinations. For someone vacationing there, what’s a must-pack item, a must-do, and a must-buy? JO: Bathing suits. You’re always in a bathing suit in Cartagena. You need to eat at La Vitrola and order the mojito without sugar so it doesn’t give you a hangover, and then you go dancing at Café Havana, perfect for salsa dancing and seeing the locals. For shopping, definitely a colorful Mochila bag and the Panama hats they sell on the street.