A young design prodigy, in a world where we often lose ourselves; Esteban Cortazar is one such force to be reckoned with. Born to a Columbian artist Valentino Cortazar and former British jazz lounge singer Dominique Vaughan, his childhood drifted between Colombia, New York, and Miami. The time he spent as a teen living with his father above South Beach’s News Café, Gianni Versace’s breakfast spot, proved to be a comprehensive fashion education in itself. For his design inspiration, his home was always filled with captivating muses, a fearless female presence, music and laughter. His grandmother’s wardrobe and his mother’s evocative stage outfits formed the diction of his early fashion vocabulary.
But this designer never forgot his roots and aimed to seize every opportunity to display his cultural heritage along the way through his design motifs. For him fashion became a tool of self expression, femininity, modernity and luxury. We speak to him about being the youngest designer to ever showcase his designs at the New York Fashion Week and his uninhibited style. Edited excerpts...
Who is the person, that you have in mind while you are designing a collection?
I love to think about different people when I design, because I have varied personalities of women and men in my life who inspire me. I love to observe their gestures, movements, and attitude. Ultimately I am inspired by one’s sensuality and free spirit.
You spent your early years in Miami, at the time Herb Ritts, Patrick Demarchelier and Gianni Versace were all active there. How did the exposure to these figures shape your creative process as a designer?
I grew up in a very bohemian environment early on in Colombia around artistic parents and nature. I moved to Miami in the early 90s where I grew up as a teenager and discovered fashion through all the amazing models, photographers and artists coming to South Beach to create iconic fashion moments, nightlife and culture. I feel very lucky to have witnessed this as a kid, as they left an indelible impact on me, and they continue to be my inspiration forever.
Your father Valentino Cortazar, the artist has had an ecstatic creative influence on you since childhood. Tell us something about that.
My relationship with my mom and dad are very important to me, and have inspired me since I was a child. I grew up around diverse forms of creativity, art, music and freedom of expression. I recently began a collaboration with my father wherein, we are creating prints together for my future collections, which is a project that is extremely close to my heart.
From First Lady Melania Trump, Queen Beyonce to The Duchhess of Sussex - Meghan Markle, you have dressed them all. What inspires you while creating such unique designs?
These women exuberate elegance and grace; and their ability to adorn designer pieces in such multifarious ways, makes a mark every time. Working with Beyonce and Cate Blanchett was a dream come true for me.
Some fashion critics have said, that the Esteban Cortazar woman is an extra-terrestrial creature. Who is she to you?
To me she is someone, who is very down to earth, with her own signature style and energy. She isn’t afraid to express herself and change depending upon her mood and what is happening in her life. She is sensual, kind and loves to dance.
Your runway show offers a very strong, impacting look, but every piece, when taken individually, is interesting. Is it important for you to reconcile an approach based on the product with a genuine fashion proposition?
Yes, I love finding a balance in my design compositions. The show is dream which I express without obstacles, but the runway is the reality which embarks actuality, when the pieces come alive on different people.
Who is the artist or designer, historic or contemporary; whose work you admire most?
The first designer I ever found out about and started to admire is Gianni Versace and he will always be the biggest master to me.
Your collections emphasise your taste for geometry, asymmetry, construction and cropped tops contrasting with long skirts. Is this your signature style?
Yes, I love all those elements and mixing them up. I make clothes that dance, but that also stand still. And as a child of the 90s, I love a good cropped top.
How would you relate past and present fashion trends? And how would you distinct the two fashion cities - Miami and Paris, in terms of style.
Fashion is a circle of trends that come and go, with timing being of key prominence. Its always a feeling that comes and stays around, like the 90s and early 2000s trend is happening right now. Miami and Paris are two totally different worlds in every sense. They would make for an interesting collections, as two worlds would collide to create a design symphony.
Social media is playing a major role in the world of fashion. How has it impacted your eponymous label?
This definitely holds true. For me, it is the number one communication tool today, as it eases the way in which I interact and connect with my audience in a direct and personal way.
As a creative individual looking at the world, what is your current inspiration?
I contemplate everything all the time. This summer, I am in Ibiza and Greece. While travelling, I always discover something or meet someone who inspires me. For me, the world is my inspiration.
What is next for Esteban Cortázar? Can you share something about your exciting new projects?
I am working on several collaborations for next year, both in Europe and Latin America which I am very excited about and will share more about them later. I am also developing several pop-up stores so we can have an even more direct and physical relationship with our costumers.