WOW! Where do I even get started on this piece? In short, I was blown away by Medellín’s fashion scene and hopefully, you will be too after reading this glamour guide.
During my stay at the ultra cool and eco-luxe Charlee Hotel, we trotted around town with one of Colombia’s top fashion influencers, Laura of Fashion Lessons. Since the Charlee is an upscale, boutique design hotel located in the heart of Medellín, it seemed fitting that we explore some of the independent designers who have helped shape the city into an emerging fashion capital.
Whether you’re shopping for a new wardrobe or simply scrounging around for one-of-a-kind souvenirs, here are 8 must-know Colombian brands that are dominating Medellín’s fashion scene.
For Special Occasion: Andrés Pajón
Let’s start with the ultra-luxe label of the bunch. The Andrés Pajón brand was established in 2008 by Pajón and Cartagena, two highly creative designers and fashion enthusiasts, and they’ve been making fashion dreams come true ever since. Pajón is definitely inspired by elegant glamour like the type of gowns you’d see at the Oscars. Their Spring/Summer collection pays tribute to Medellín, as seen in the bright garment colors and intricate flower patterns. Well-designed and expertly executed, one of his gowns is well-worth the splurge.
As gorgeous as his evening wear is, it’s his boutique that impressed me the most. Stepping into Andrés Pajón‘s two-story building (the boutique is on the ground floor and his office on the second) kind of made me feel like Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Leave it to me to throw in a Disney reference in there, right? While the streets of Medellín are magical in their own right, there’s something transformative about Pajón’s designs, and thus the entire space they occupy. Most customers make an appointment beforehand so that they get one-on-one fashion advice from Pajón and his team. After all, special occasions call for extra measures!
For statement jewelry – Innata
My next few fashion finds are all thanks to Makeno, a neighborhood boutique mere blocks from the Charlee. The store is kind of like a one-stop-shop for local Medellín and Colombian designers. The large space is located on the second floor of a building, which might be tricky if you don’t know where you’re going BUT it does add a layer of intrigue. Once inside, the space is divided into numerous sections, each nook and cranny featuring a different artisan. While that might sound a little chaotic, it’s not. Every designer has his or her own space where their wares are showcased and the staff does a great job at arranging products in a way that makes sense collectively.
OK, so *Innata! I’m a fan of birthstones, feathers and anything colorful I can get my hands on so naturally, Innate stood out. The label specialize in all things jewelry, as you might guess from the photo below. We’re talking necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings and even piercings. Ever since reading Peter Pan, I’ve had a fascination with wolves (you need to read it to understand) and Innata has several pieces depicting wolves, each carving more detailed than the next. As with many of the designers I discovered while in Medellín, Innata products are traditional yet modern.
* = sold at MAKENO.
For Tribal/Chic jewelry: MAKUA
By far my favorite label on this list is *MAKUA. I mean…can you blame me? Just look at these pieces! Bringing together ancestral techniques of indigenous communities with contemporary design, MAKUA is my style dream come true. They’ve worked with two different communities from Colombia: the Embera Chami (known for their embroideries with crystal beads) and the Kuna, who specialize in “Mola” (a colorful textile costume and art). I had already fallen in love at first sight with MAKUA but learning about their ties with these communities sealed the deal. I’m obsessed!
Every two years, they design a jewelry and accessories collection using the techniques of the communities. As you might guess, employing members of the Embera Chami and Kuna creates a huge economical opportunity for their communities. Personally, after learning how this eco-friendly line focuses on sustainable fashion, I had no trouble doubling back to Makeno and purchasing another bracelet. If you aren’t in Medellín, you can still shop for styles online and filter by Embera and Kuna community creations. I also found their prices quite reasonable. Most pieces are under $100, with a large bulk of them hovering at around $50 US.
For Swimwear: Entreaguas
Another Colombian brand giving back is Entreaguas, a label founded by fashion designer, Natalia Botero. *Entreaguas focuses on swimwear and beachwear, with each piece handcrafted by talented local artisans. I quickly saw the appeal in their swimsuits and even tried on one of their beach dresses. It was February and while Medellín’s weather was warm, I hand’t yet transitioned to summer yet in my mind. Still, I liked everything I saw. The brand is definitely going for the millennial-type who are laid-back, lead a natural lifestyle.
Natalie is involved in the entire design process and employs artisans to weave, dye, tie up and assemble the fabric into her signature style. In fact, she even started the Entreaguas Foundation to support these artisans maintain their basic needs, as several of them have physical limitations and/or Down syndrome. Others are mothers supporting their families and young people who are reintegrating into sociality. As a traveler, I’ve become more conscious about where my clothes come from, so learning how Natalie is bettering the lives of the artisan community really struck a chord with me.
For festival gear: Oropendola
I’m going to take a break from MAKENO for a moment…don’t worry, more to come! The first stop on our Medellín style tour with Laura of Fashion Lessons was indoor decor mecca, The Blue House. In a nutshell, this is THE place in Medellín to furnish your apartment, whether that literally means your entire home or dining room place settings. Having recently moved to San Francisco, I suddenly felt a sting of regret that I hadn’t discovered this interior design gem earlier. Anyway, now I know! The space is laid-out to resemble an gallery; one where you can actually touch the artwork and at any given time, there’s a mix of Colombian designers along with a few international brands.
It was here in The Blue House that I discovered Oropendola, a brand specializing in handwoven pieces that incorporate ancestral techniques with contemporary design. While they sell jewelry as well, it was a festival-esque necklace that ultimately caught my eye. Carolina Vélez is the designer behind the brand and it turns out we have two things in common. We’re both travelers AND perfectionists 🙂 For me, splurging on an Opopendola necklace seemed the perfect souvenir…although, I ended up using that excuse a lot. Seriously though, her pieces are basically wearable art and a statement necklace like I’ve never seen.
For travel totes: Tigre de Salon
I’m always on the hunt for a fabulous but functional backpack and I finally found one in Medellín…after I had purchased one a month prior. Oh well! Tigre de Salon uses high-quality materials to make beautiful yet simple bags and backpacks. Natural leather is the main material they work with and there are no dyes used during the design process. Because of this, you might see light scratches, marks or textures that show its history. All items are made by hand, one by one, in Colombia. I’m loving their “Visions of Flight” collection, which is inspired by people like me with their heads in the clouds…aka dreamers!
For stylish socks: Loopzu
When my husband asked me to buy him socks a week before jetting off to Colombia, I went above and beyond the call of duty. Maybe it was the bright colors or maybe it’s the wacky patters that first drew my eye, but I was easily hooked. I ended up buying him two pairs and I may or may not plan on stealing them from his drawer this week. *LOOPZU products are 100% Colombian manufactured by single mothers. Yes, single mothers! Designs range from classic patterns like stripes, polka-dots and camouflage, all with a modern twist. My personal favorite is the flamingo pair but alas, it wasn’t available that day.
For pastel pampering: TOY Nail Polish
For the final touch of glamour, I’d suggest *TOY Nail Polish...because, why not? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of nail polish (manicures, on the other hand, I adore) but that’s probably because I’m awful at maintaining them. That said, I took home a pack of four polishes and love the colors. The “Sweet Neutrals” collection include four polishes that are light enough for any occasion. Plus, I find that since they’re they’re soft tones, a coat or two can really compliment your outfit rather than demand attention. There are much bolder collections, too, like their “Red Smiles” and “Purple Tickles” collections.
What’s your favorite city for fashion? Tell me in the comments below!
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