White sandy beaches, palm trees and a tropical climate, Colombia’s Cartagena is a sought after holiday destination. But what if you can’t make it to the colourfully-walled hotels of the popular port city? A host of Colombian designers are bringing the country’s craftsmanship, exuberant flair and pattern to ready-to-wear, accessories and jewellery. Here we present three designers perfectly fit for sunshine and salsa nights this summer…

Bibi Marini

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Left, crystal and gold earrings. Right, crystal hoop earrings, both by Bibi Marini

‘I try not to be part of a trend,’ explains Bogotá-based Bibi Marini. The designer opened her first jewellery store in 2003, but it was a pair of lightweight hoop pendant earrings, crocheted in silk thread with tiny crystals which caught the recent attention of international buyers. ‘I wanted something to smarten an outfit which I could throw in my suitcase,’ she says of the styles which were picked up by Moda Operandi. In January, Marini also featured as part of Net-a-Porter’s Colombian collective.

‘I’ve always been in love with Pre Colombian jewellery,’ she adds of the inspirations behind her latest offering, which draw on pieces in Bogotá’s Gold Museum, and feature bracelets composed of strings of small ceramic beads, earrings with hoop pendants inspired by indigenous gold nose rings and oversized earrings dangling with unfaceted wedges of emerald.

Every piece is handmade by ten women in Marini’s studio. ‘Each maker has a different technique,’ she enthuses. ‘I love how you can see their creative fingerprint in each design.’

M2Malletier

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‘Marie Laure’ black crocodile bag with Dalmatian Jasper semi precious stone clasp, by M2Malletier

‘I wanted the handle to be like a logo,’ explains Cali-born Barcelona-based Melissa Losada, one half of accessories label M2Malletier, founded in 2012 with fellow Parsons School of Design graduate Marcela Velez. The brand is renowned for its architectural aesthetic, inspired by Ricardo Bofill and Rudolf Steiner, and its handbags feature idiosyncractic linear metal handles, which have a sculptural armour-like quality.

For A/W 2019 the label has bought a new circularity to its designs, with a bespoke handbag collection, inspired by the graphic concrete designs of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and the overlaid artworks of George Rousse. Two elegant 1940s-inspired handbags can be customised in a selection of materials, from exotic skins to saffiano leathers, and crowned with a precious stone orb in smooth Picasso Jasper, Dalmatian Jasper and Amazonite. ‘We’ve worked with a family owned Spanish factory,’ Losada explains of the designs. ‘It’s been a very difficult manufacturing process. Ensuring the clasp closed correctly and the bag carried the weight of the orb took a lot of prototypes!’

Pepa Pombo

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Pepa Pombo S/S 2019

‘It is almost a poetic process,’ says Mónica Holguín of the hand embroidered techniques which are idiosyncratic of the Bogotá-based label Pepa Pombo. The vibrant knitwear brand was founded in 1978, before being taken over by Pombo’s daughter Holguín in 2002. ‘The fashion scene has evolved a lot in Bogota’ she explains. ‘We are both opening ourselves to the world, and different cultures are arriving.’

Colour, floral details and bespoke embroidery are all signatures of the label, which for summer, has seen an expansion into lighter fabrics, bright stripe prints which nod to the work of Elsworth Kelly and intricate embellishments inspired by origami. An intarsia knitted jacket features abstract tropical blooms, while a matching white t-shirt and wide legged trousers feature a pattern of ribbons, pleated by hand into zig zags resembling folded paper. ‘Each piece has a different story, told in an individual way’. §