Chances are, you’ve seen and are in a “total eclipse of the heart” with Johnna Ortiz’s signature blouses and epic “ready-to-dance” dresses. But more importantly, you’ve probably been wondering who is behind this internationally acclaimed brand.
Ortiz’s journey began like many inclined designers. From early childhood, she knew she wanted to design and play dress up. Her professional training started as she attended a fashion textile school in Colombia, Diseño Textile at Universidad Los Andes. Subsequently, she studied fashion design in Florida, graduating from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with honours, before returning to her native Colombia to start her namesake label in 2001.
It wasn’t until 2014, after building her business for 3 years that she started showing at Colombiamoda in Medellin and Circulo de la Moda (translated Circle of Fashion) in Bogotá — two of the country’s biggest fashion weeks — where she was met with critical acclaim. She then (via Instagram) caught the eye of Lauren Santo Domingo. Co-Founder of Moda Operandi, one of the current and most successful online boutiques. She met Santo Domingo in Colombia. Lauren Santo Domingo is married to a Colombian.
In 2015, she took the label globally, with an exclusive collection for Moda Operandi. This was the beginning of what has become (seven collections later) a vibrant collection of gowns and separates with an emphasis on evening wear and dramatic flourishes.
The designer since has become something of a fashion ambassador for Colombia while maintaining her decidedly global persona. She has been invited to show her collections at the White House in Washington and the United Nations in New York.
Colombia is known for being a very diverse country, particularly in its nature and geography. Being surrounded by its tropical landscapes, dramatic mountains, and its huge variety of plants, birds… provides constant inspiration for the designer and has a strong influence on her creative aesthetic. She and her team do all the sourcing in Italy and France and often they work with Portuguese cottons and French lace. All the manufacturing is also done in-house. And because there is no real winter in Colombia, she focuses on Spring/Summer clothing, even in her Fall/Winter collections you can see the exoticism.
Ortiz is proud of her heritage. In an effort to give back to the community, her label places a high priority on working with indigenous communities and women in Colombia. This has allowed her to teach other techniques to local artisans. Her atelier currently employs over 200 individuals, the majority women.
In the personal aspect of her life, Ortiz has been a mother of three boys since a very young age. They are now ages 18, 12 and 8. She considers family her number one priority and divides her time between her family, her atelier in Colombia and her passion for jet set traveling. She is often seen in Paris which she calls her second home and in Miami where she owns a home in Key Biscayne.
Today Johanna Ortiz is stocked at some of the world’s top retailers, 23 and counting. Including Neiman Marcus, Lane Crawford, Bergdorf Goodman, Net-a-Porter, Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrods, and Harvey Nichols in the Middle East. She has recently expanded into new categories; this year making her bridalwear debut with an exclusive collection for e-tailer Moda Operandi. A collaboration with footwear designer Tabitha Simmons, children’s wear and the brand has big expansion plans, targeting $10 million in sales by 2021 when she intends to have 50 stockists worldwide.
The Johanna Ortiz’s costumer clan has a wide range. It includes “It girls”, Jet Setters, icons and the in-the-know. Party girls, socialites, and celebrities all adore her, including Beyoncé, who recently wore a full outfit from the designer to a performance. Of course, ruffles have been around since “God was a child” but it’s the proper placing of volume that makes the brand so sought out for and so successful. Not to mention the kind heart in which the brand has derived from. Whether it is on the placing of prints or the amount of weight of fabric on the effervescent ruffles. It’s the type of product you can wear wintering in Miami or South America as well as summer in France, Spain, Nantucket or Hampton’s. It’s for women “who value versatility and comfort, while still personifying the social aspirations of what’s elite”.