We interviewed the Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi whose avant-garde collections reveal the global woman within each of us.
Silvia Tcherassi wants women to feel confident, more than anything, while wearing her brand’s garments. The Barranquilla-born fashion designer, author and hotelier describes her collections as feminine and sophisticated; daring but not provocative. She imbues a certain sensuality into her highly pigmented pieces worn by women who are unafraid of the spotlight; blossoming bougainvillea dance across flowing dresses while carefully constructed blouses feature unconventional cutouts to showcase the female figures she creates for. “I design beyond age and nationality. I design for a woman who loves fashion and appreciates the details. I try and express a kind of elegance in my designs; effortless without excess.”
She developed her line, Silvia Tcherassi, in 1987 and has gone on to debut collections at both Paris and Milan Fashion Week; becoming a worldwide leader in fashion.
She developed her line, Silvia Tcherassi, in 1987 and has gone on to debut collections at both Paris and Milan Fashion Week; becoming a worldwide leader in fashion. Her clothing, bridalwear, swimwear and handbags have been consistently featured in Elle and Vanity Fair, and she has 15 namesake stores across Europe, and North and South America. Her work has influenced the industry through her commitment to cultural service, which led her to be recognized with one of France’s highest honors, becoming Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. These cultural contributions include her choice to make Colombia the place of all in-house production and enlisting artisans in the region to help with craftsmanship, which includes the Mocana Tribe from Usiacuri, Colombia who hand-weave the brand’s eclectic palm-fiber bags.
Although the Silvia Tcherassi headquarters are in Miami, closer to the heartbeat of the global fashion market, she has crafted a connection from her homeland in South America to the U.S., thus securing her place as an international designer.
Tcherassi Hotel + Spa, located on the tropical coast of Cartagena de Indias, is the designers first real estate property, debuting in 2009 and regarded by Vogue as “the chicest spot for the fashionable flock.” Tcherassi began her career working in interior design, so, her segue into the hotel industry was a natural progression for her art. The colonial-style hideaway flaunts her fresh and effeminate style in the form of a seven-room boutique hotel that evokes a charming ambiance that the city is famous for. Her second location, Mansion Tcherassi, which opened in 2016, proves her empire is ever-expanding.
Chrissy Teigen, Awkwafina and Jessica Alba are just a few of the Hollywood icons who don her vibrant threads.
Taking a peek at her Instagram account, you will discover a digital mood board Tcherassi has seemingly curated for a fashion-hungry audience, where flowing gowns and handwoven bags are worn by avid fans of the brand. Chrissy Teigen, Awkwafina and Jessica Alba are just a few of the Hollywood icons who don her vibrant threads. It is a reminder that her creative expression keeps the global woman in mind, crafting garments for women who may identify as metropolitan chic one day and bohemian beachcomber the next.
Tcherassi’s mostly Italian-made textiles shape-shift with each collection, contributing to her ever-evolving library of material. “I collect ideas, images, visuals and then, together with the textile producers, we refine a concept that is captured in fabrics.” Unlike the more traditional design method of sketching the aesthetic of the garments on paper before executing them, Tcherassi takes the textiles straight to the human form. “I work with a mannequin or a model because I think this process is more realistic while being almost experimental. I start creating a variety of samples and when I find a connection between the different pieces, the collection starts to take shape.”
She describes this developmental process as fluid and free—much like her summer maxi dresses. She also has an affinity for architectural construction creating some seriously striking silhouettes.
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At first glance, the more pronounced garments appear to be a bit confining to the wearer, but when looked at more closely, the high-design softens in appearance due to Tcherassi’s specific use of materials. Cotton, silk, and neoprene are predominant throughout her collections along with an unexpected use of sequins, floral motifs, and striped prints. Her signature infusion of ruffles flow from hemlines and dramatic flounces on sleeves to form unconventional shapes in everyday pieces. Consider the classic white button-up, for example, which she reinvents each season for an Avant take on the traditional. “I may reposition the collar in the shoulder, detach the sleeves or change the proportions to create a totally new piece,” Tcherassi explains. We imagine this classic blouse worn with these colorful gemstone earrings and this leather belt bag by Burberry to complete a standout look of the day.
Perhaps it’s her charismatic expression of color that is Tcherassi’s most distinct declaration of her Latin roots. Her seasonal and atelier collections seem to reflect a juxtaposition of bold buoyancy that is as distinct as her native Colombia. The diverse country has breathtaking landscapes ranging from mountains, jungle, and sea with a population full of hope as they continue to redefine themselves after decades of political and social unrest. Living proof that with vision and optimism; beauty is born.
I also have created collections inspired by the architecture and designs of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier, Zaha Hadid and Antoni Gaudí.
We caught up with the style savant to chat about her proud Colombian roots, the female pioneers who inspired her work, as well as her favorite—and least favorite—fashion trends this year.
ICONIC LIFE: How does your Colombian culture inform your clothing and accessories?
SILVIA: Colombia, and the Caribbean region in particular, inspire me and are an important part of the DNA of my brand. The beautiful colors of Fernando Botero paintings and the female characters of Gabriel García Márquez have inspired some of my most memorable collections.
During the last ten years, I have worked with different artisan communities from my country, transforming artisanal pieces in luxury accessories and promoting their craft and traditions. But my mood board is wide and goes way beyond my Colombian heritage and, indeed, I also have created collections inspired by the architecture and designs of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier, Zaha Hadid and Antoni Gaudí, as well as women who are pioneer artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Frida Kahlo and Anne Truitt, amongst others.
ICONIC LIFE: How does your Colombian culture inform your clothing and accessories?
SILVIA: Being considered the most important figure in Colombian fashion history is an honor and a responsibility at the same time. I was the first Latin American designer to be invited by the organizers to present my collections during the official calendar of Milano and Paris fashion weeks. It was a huge accomplishment because I was presenting my namesake brand as opposed to a Latin creative director of a European brand. In addition, my collections were “Made in Colombia,” and I received a lot of recognition for this success that inspired many young designers to fulfill their dreams. In general, my accomplishments motivate me to continue challenging myself, opening doors, and supporting emerging talents and institutions such as Parsons in New York, Marangoni in Miami and the Miami Fashion Institute.
ICONIC LIFE: You describe your garments as traditional and avant-garde. Has your work always followed this design ethos or has it transformed over the years?
SILVIA: Yes, it always has been this way. My garments feature haute couture techniques, but I love to work with innovative materials such as neoprene and laser cut lace. I love to synthesize opposite sides, reinvent traditional pieces and transform ordinary things into extraordinaire.
ICONIC LIFE: You debuted your 2019 fall and winter collection at Bogota Fashion Week this past April. Can you tell us about the mood and inspiration for this upcoming season?
SILVIA: This was a lyrical collection, full of poetry, nostalgia and romanticism where my organic and geometric prints shine in a new range of deep colors and rich traditional fabrics such as tweed, silk and velvet. I was not looking for the perfect rhyme, instead I took a poetic license this season to create a new glamorous and sophisticated mood: Ruffles were transformed in rhythmical layers, translucent sequins are incorporated as subtle embellishments, jackets have a new couture like silhouette, and my signature flowers appeared literally in new dimensions using feathers, fabric and lace.
ICONIC LIFE: Can you talk about your infusion of other cultures and style to craft your own statement pieces?
SILVIA: Fashion is global and today more than ever. Design needs to reach different cultures and geographies and for this reason fashion is diverse and inclusive by nature. In 2001, I created a collection called “Fusion” to reflect the multiple influences in my creative process and my designs. One of the pieces of this collection, the bambolera skirt (featuring asymmetrical ruffles) has been a point of reference of Latin design for many years and a staple of my collections. When WWD mentioned me as the pioneer of the Latin Flair trend two years ago, I immediately recognized this piece as the origin of the trend.
ICONIC LIFE: Who are some of the most memorable women you have dressed?
SILVIA: Queen Rania of Jordan, because she is a true advocate for education and a role model for many women around the world and Jennifer Lopez because she is the epitome of success based on hard work. Both are very different, but they are style icons in their own right.
ICONIC LIFE: When and why did you start designing jewelry?
SILVIA: I started designing jewelry to complement my looks. The first pieces I designed were created for my first presentation in Paris Fashion Week, which included long necklaces, featuring very innovative materials.
During the last 15 years, I have created a great variety of necklaces and earrings, but I am planning to have a full line in the future. Also, I have collaborated with very skilled goldsmiths, silversmiths and jewelry designers for my look books and some of their pieces have been incorporated into my collections.
ICONIC LIFE: You have already dominated the fashion industry and segued into hospitality and hotels. What other industries and artistic mediums are you interested in exploring?
SILVIA: After showing my collections in the top European fashion weeks, 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 tailor made for me because I studied interior design. This is the origin of the Tcherassi Hotels. And then, Tcherassi Home Collection was born. Extension brands and collaboration projects beyond your core business are big opportunities to explore, branch out and keep your brand relevant.
ICONIC LIFE: Can you tell us about any new collections coming up or product reveals we can keep our eyes out for?
SILVIA: I just unveiled my Resort 2020 collection in New York, and it’s the epitome of the concept of infusion. From South America to the Middle East, my mood board was full of images of the desert roses that were the inspiration behind the new Qatar Museum, the landscapes of the Atacama Desert in bloom, and vintage textiles. The result was soft and harmonious, showcasing sophisticated tailoring and new details such as the long pointy collars. I was inspired by the beautiful and natural formations of the sand deserts, capturing their neutral colors and sinuous patterns and matching them with floral, geometric and artistic camo prints in a very organic way.
Favorite place to vacation? Capri
Favorite architect? Zaha Hadid
Favorite author? Gabriel García Márquez
Favorite place to visit in Colombia? Cartagena
Favorite meal? Branzino al sale
Favorite way to unwind/relax? Creating flower arrangements
Favorite place to shop? Milano
Favorite fashion trend this year? The return of femininity
Least favorite trend? Normcore
One piece of clothing you always travel with? A scarf
What is your everyday look described in two words? Casual chic
If you had to choose only one handbag to carry everywhere? A Bottega Veneta pouch