DIALOGUES BETWEEN ANCESTRAL TRADITION AND CONTEMPORARY DESIGN
Interview Carolina de Oropendola
The strength of Oropendola is the artisans. His hands speak of the experience and honor of the profession; The stories of their lives woven into each thread represent the strength and passion for their craftsmanship.
Where does your love for craftsmanship come from?
I am Colombian, I was born in Medellín, and since I was little, with my dad we traveled a lot throughout Colombia, at that age I was fascinated observing the work done by hand; It generated a lot of curiosity and admiration in me to see how people had the ability to create with the simple act of joining different knots and techniques.
When I entered the Bolivarian University in Medellín to study costume design; The futuristic was very in vogue, however, I sought in each creation to go towards the ancestral. I researched different cultures, their techniques and rituals, and I focused my work by mixing textiles and ancient techniques.
How is Oriole born?
My graduation work was already planned for Oropendola. From the beginning I was very clear about the idea and spirit of the brand. I wanted to change the purchasing model, meaning that we usually consider them accessories to accompany the garments, whether they are handmade pieces that are the protagonists, and are accompanied by a more basic line of clothing.
The theme was that in order to materialize those enormous accessories that I wanted to take to the catwalk as the closing of my university career, I realized that I need to connect with artisans, and that is the beginning of a new path in my professional and personal history.
There I meet Willy who continues working with us today and is the one who leads all the artisans; from goldsmiths to weavers. At first I did the molding in cardboard, but it was impossible, so we understood that we needed to knit on mannequins to follow the lines of the body and accompany the silhouette. Finally we achieved it, but I felt that I needed one more step to learn how to manage my brand, so I went to Italy for a year to complete a master's degree in Fashion Brand Management in Florence.
I kept in touch with Willy and the communities with the intimate conviction of wanting to make a handmade brand, and I knew that my dream was going to come true. And it did! Today we have all been working together for 6 years.
How is your connection with the artisans?
I work with local artisans and the bond with them is super close and very trustworthy; I always tell them that they are like my therapy -he laughs-, because when I have strange energy I go with them not to work, but to talk.
In all these years I learned from them to live one day at a time, because they teach me to live lighter and be more flexible, because that's how they are. They don't like being given a schedule because they say it limits their creativity. And they learned the opposite from me, unintentionally, I taught them the importance of generating a certain structure to have their income, the importance of saving and thinking about the future, and they even feel more and more desire to train themselves to continue growing. They translate it into the words stability and value, that is what they feel that this venture gave them, because before they were up to date seeing what work they got without having any type of continuity, and they lived with the feeling that what they do was not valued either.
What does the fabric connect you with?
The fabric tells me a story. Many times when I receive a garment I ask them: were you angry or thoughtful? and they laugh, but it is like that, in each fabric there is the representation of the moods, of the moments they go through; the intensity they put into the knots..., for me each work is the narration of that human being who made it.
And the magic is that this bond with the threads is not only between the artisan and me, but between the artisan and our client. And that is the reason for the brand's existence.
What is the Oriole woman like?
I'm going to tell you an anecdote that is very related to this. I always said that wearing an Oropendola piece makes you feel empowered like Wonder Woman, that you can do anything, you feel big, strong, powerful and a protagonist.
When I got married, I clarify that I was never very conventional; I dressed in pants and was wearing one of my designs with many straps and very cheerful. Besides, I told my dad that I wanted us to ride a horse. Imagine! I wanted to feel that way, not because of the show, but because of the way I see women.
Suddenly I was dancing and a woman with a little girl approached me and told me: you look like Wonder Woman. At that moment I felt an emotion that I can hardly explain. That girl, from a genuine place, was confirming to me what I always sought to convey through my creations, and that the person I connected with that piece.
You decided to work with custom pieces, what is that process like?
I always believed that we had the ability to make custom garments where clients could get involved in the process, and be part of it from creation to materializing their desire.
It's all part of our philosophy, since we work with little stock while paying attention to demand. And that work, which can take up to three months from prototype to materialization, is the reflection of artisanal work, of what is done with the hands, and that manages to communicate that value to people.
I like that they can customize, because it also speaks of the nobility of the fabric and the ancestral techniques, because the threads are not always what you see, but rather what you dream you can create.
What does artisanal design represent in your life?
Handmade design is the representation of what one truly is, our strength and energy; It is embracing our origins. I feel it is true to my essence, since I dreamed about it in college until today, it is how I seek to communicate through design that logically moves away from trends and approaches the bond we establish with those garments.
In craftsmanship, each thing tells a story, and you will make it your own by knowing where that narrative comes from.
A hotel in Colombia?
It is called Madre Agua, in the department of Nuquí. You have to live at the rhythm of the tide, nothing depends on you. You never know when it's going to be down or up. It is inside the jungle, electricity is from four in the afternoon to ten at night, there is no internet signal, there are no cars, you arrive by boat. It's super exotic. The design wanted to rescue construction techniques with ancestral techniques. Everything is rescued from the region and brought to contemporary design.
Your favorite restaurant in Colombia?
Las Palmas in Envigado, Colombia. An old house that sells amazing fish. But my favorite food is chicharrón, I love it, and the best place to eat it very spicy is El Social in Medellín.
Your favorite destination in Latin America?
I tell you again, the Madre Agua hotel in Nuquí is my favorite place in the world. And I also really like Barichara, in Colombia, which is a town that preserves the stone architecture of its ancestors.
A favorite craft?
Wayúu backpacks are everything. There is the Arhuaca backpack, which is the one from the mountains, and the Guajira backpack, which is more colorful. They both fascinate me.
A ritual when you design…
I love reading, reading inspires me; but not from the visual, but the words.
Your favorite materials?
Cotton in all its representations.
Nature and its shapes, walking barefoot, the texture of the grass, the shapes of the bark of the trees.
A person who marked your path in design?
My parents, both for different reasons. From my dad I learned the desire to carry out his projects; He is entrepreneurial, multifaceted, and enjoys the thousand activities he does. I am like that, very active, very productive. And my mom is the complement; She is calm, she is always ready, and she teaches me that not everything has to be now, that it is important to be connected.