Esteban Cortazar fits Samile Bermannelli for her runway look

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Luping Wang

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Veronika Vilim

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Damaris Goddrie

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Nova Orchid

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Olivia Jansing

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Dilone, Afrodita Dorado, & Hayett McCarthy

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Maria Zakrzewska

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McKenna Hellam

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Grace Bol

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Samile Bermannelli

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Esteban Cortazar

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A kaleidoscopic medley of primary colors and design references debuted at Esteban Cortazar for their Spring 2017 runway show. Inspired by his travels to India and the fluidity of the schoolkids there mixed traditional saris with bomber jackets and sweaters, Cortazar looked to bring their bold hues and distinct draping style into his own collection. Add additional references from R&B muses like Sade, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu, a dash of rastas, and personal connections to locales like Ibiza and South Beach Miami and it’s fair to assume it all to making sense might have been too difficult a task. However, the result was a cohesive evolution of his woman with a focus on one-armed silhouettes, youthful cutouts, and a mixed textile mastery between silk, leather, and paillettes that was certainly noted. had a behind-the-scenes look at the fitting process and asked about Cortazar’s design aesthetic, innovative sales process, and just what makes the city of lights special.

Photos by Melodie Jeng
Interview by Stephan Moskovic

This season seems to be very colorful compared to past season.
It’s definitely colorful and there’s a kaleidoscope of ideas. It’s extremely personal the collection and had a lot to do with the idea of losing something and what you gain. I went to India in February and that was a very special trip for me. I went with my mother, we were on this bus to this small town Tiruvannamalai, and on the bus we saw the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. I would see these young girls and guys going back from school and the girls would have their saris, but also their bomber jackets or their sweaters wrapped around. So I got to see a very authentic, traditional Indian dress and spirit. This was a very exciting starting point also in terms of colors. Then I looked at the idea of rastas and Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Sade, and that kind of sultry, beautiful, smooth, sensual music which I loved since I was a kid. I looked at the ideas of surfers, and skaters that I looked at in South Beach in the 90’s.

Bringing it back to the beginnings?
Yes because I lived a very special time there and there are always things to take from there. So I always come back to it for the collection and it’s important to always make it personal.

I’ve also noticed the big geometric shapes in some of the pieces, do they have a specific meaning?
The signs come from the script of the “om mani padme hum” which is the script for compassion, unity, for peace, for love. The message of the collection, not to sound corny or cliche, is really about peach, unity, compassion, love, and it is not to use those words loosely, but it is really what I try to instill in my team all the time. When you say I’m very nice, it’s who I am, it’s coming form me. I feel I’ve seen so much what is happening in the world, so I don’t want to have something that feels strict or aggressive. I want to put out a girl that feels happy, enthusiastic, that also feels mysterious and mystical. When I go on summer break I always go to Ibiza because it’s a kind of island where it’s not just about the party, it’s about the beautiful, incredible energy that it has, the nature, the magnetic feeling that the rock has. I have been going there for a long time, my parents married there, my father lived there in the 70’s. So I always link back to that feeling, so for example the music comes from my trips to Ibiza, my obsession with DJ’s, electronic music, and house. So that’s why I say it’s a kaleidoscope of ideas. The collection comes from an idea of loss, something that happened to me recently. There is a free spirit to it, there is a liberation in a way, that I want the girl to have.

In terms of design, the collection seems like a bit of departure for you, it seems more playful no?
Yes this is the most playful, enthusiastic, colorful, and it’s real smooth, sultry sensuality.

How do you feel Paris has influenced your work, as it’s been over 4 seasons no?
We’re on our fifth season, and I’ve been in Paris now for nine years. I think it has been an incredible city to develop myself as a designer. From a creative standpoint I think it’s the best city to do that because it pushes you to be creative, to think, and to be intellectual about what you do. It’s also a beautiful city to come back to.

How do you feel this compares to NY?
You know I used to live in NY and I love it so much. For me, I used to think it was such an incredible city to create. But now I no longer think that because it’s a city that makes you need to do more more more, and work work work, and make money make money. It’s so expensive for a starving artist to come to and create. So in that way, I think that there are other places that I go to where I feel that there is this spontaneous idea of musical creation, fashion, and art. But I do see the idea of discipline in NY, the idea of making an idea happen, the idea doesn’t get created in NY but it can happen in NY, at least for me.

In previous seasons you’ve shown the collection to buyers early, and offered the collection or parts of it available for purchase the day of the show, are you continuing that strategy?
I am continuing that but it is a strategy that I have to be honest is not the easiest strategy to accomplish all the time, because it’s not just up to me, the fabric has to be on time, the factory has to understand it, you have to deliver on time. So it’s still challenging and not all of the collection is available after the show – some pieces are, some pieces arrive one month, some after two months. But I never though of it as something that needed to be so immediate, I just thought of it as something that needed to be desirable and attainable within two months after the show, but not six. This was not about fast pace, and I think that’s one thing that was misunderstood, because it wasn’t about being so quick. I felt that way, it was more about a certain sense of immediacy.

Your runway is always very on point with a mix of favorite top models like Hanne Gaby and some of the most in demand new faces. What’s your approach to casting?
For me it’s always about diversity and it’s about characters. I like to feel like a girl is telling a story and I need it to feel a bit cinematic in the way that we tell it. I love to set the order of the show, and to cast girls into groups. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but you know there’s certain styles of girls I group into sections of the show, there’s the latin girls, and then there’s the quirky girls, and the beautiful black girls, and this gorgeous romantic blond girl, and then I group them and I tell the story like that and they speak to each other somehow. That’s how I do it. This season we’re doing a very character driven casting, every girl that we booked has been very geared towards telling the story of the collection and how they kind of speak to each other. I love that part of casting.

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