A vision of Colombia through Adriana Castro
Colombia is known for its diversity due to its rich, ethically diverse heritage especially in the arts and crafts centre. The country’s craftsmanship is reflected upon the coexistence of various ethnic groups including but not limited to the Zenú, the Waleker and La Chamba and finally this year we have seen a rise in Colombian designers who are bringing the country’s traditional techniques to modern day ready-to-wear, accessories and jewellery. One that has particularly caught our eye is Adriana Castro, a woman whose strong and fearless personality is meticulously displayed in her designs. She said: “In the country there has always been talent in the field of fashion, however, in the last few years designers began to explore in depth our land in terms of inspiration, materials, techniques and processes, which has turned the stare towards our work.”
Colombia’s deep-rooted heritage has played a huge role in ensuring the country’s stability in a continent that has suffered a lot politically and historically. Spanish colonisation began in the late fifteenth century with the arrival of Alonso de Ojeda in 1499 who discovered a surprising amount of gold around the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Around this time, Colombia was inhabited by indigenous peoples who came up with the myth of El Dorado, a mysterious Colombian kingdom made of gold. This kingdom was the attraction of the Spaniards who arrived almost half a century later and spent decades fighting over territories. Independence for Colombia was achieved in 1819 under the leadership of Simón Bolívar, but despite the country’s independence there is still a strong sense of Spanish influence.
“I have always felt love for fashion, but I did not want just ANY future linked to it, I wanted one that, from my perspective, empowered women and artisans and also contributed to positive changes in the world”
Barranquilla-born Castro is a renowned Colombian designer whose inspiration is drawn from the enchanting city of Cartagena, whose architecture is heavily influenced by its past Spanish colonialism. Castro said: “Cartagena, one of my favourite cities in the world, with its streets full of colours and history that are pure magic.” The elegance and structure of the city has given particular character to her designs which are combined with exotic, daring textures and motives. Art, travel and architecture are also aspects that have influenced her collections and enriched the designs with an additional creative touch.
“Some of my most treasured influences and inspirations include: the sultry and magical streets of Cartagena de Indias with its unique mix of cultures among enchanting Spanish colonial architecture; Seville Cathedral and the fragrant orange tree blossoms from within its gothic walls; Yves Klein for his daring nouveau realism vision and conceptual, bold paintings and Antonio Gaudí for his ground-breaking architecture and ornate creative vision.”
Castro has worked closely with Italian and Spanish artisans in Florence and Valencia and the majority of the collections are produced in the atelier in Barranquilla, Colombia. Her handbags and accessories are the ultimate luxurious addition to a woman’s wardrobe as the brand encompasses bold colours with exotic skins and sensual leathers. One of the most unique designs in her collection is the Azza, available in lizard, python, crocodile and snake leathers in mini and medium sizes. The Zenú is also an important part of Castro’s collection as it recalls the country’s heritage. It is handwoven by Zenú Indian artisans in Colombia and comes as a top handle bag or a belt bag. The Zenú culture has been a big inspiration for Castro, and the source of this inspiration was born out of the traditional ‘Sombrero Vueltiao’, a unique style of hat woven in caña flecha, a cane grown in the area. A third collection is called the ‘Carriel’, inspired by the traditional bags in the Paisa region of Colombia. Castro said: “It has conquered me so much that I turned it into one of the iconic bags of the Adriana Castro brand and have recreated it in different materials, colours and sizes.”
So what does the future hold for Adriana Castro? She said: “My mission is to create luxury with a purpose, timeless pieces blending traditional craftsmanship with modern classics. I will continue to focus on what I care about most: enjoying time designing and creating the best piece possible with the very finest materials, hand in hand with local artisans and tanneries. I believe that when a piece is consciously made and is of the highest quality, it is destined to survive the fast-pace of fashion and to be passed onto following generations.” Furthermore, sustainability appears to be a primary focus for the Columbian designer, as she explains that: “I want to continue to work with indigenous communities and artisans not only from Colombia, but also from other countries.
“One of my concerns in this new era of sustainability is education within the fashion industry; I have promised to walk hand in hand with future entrepreneurs, supporting them, sharing with them my triumphs but also my falls in speaking series.”