Text by Alejandra Perez, Illustrations by Luisa Castellanos.
“Colombia counts with the best artisans, which makes our work excel with regards to design and quality; we are an incredibly diverse country which gives us different inspiration sources for work within textiles.”
One day, scrolling through Instagram I noticed Luisa Castellanos’ account and it was love at first sight; the artist not only has an aesthetically pleasing feed, she also shows a fashion sense that is not often seen in Colombia, something which I always find refreshing when it comes to a society that focuses so much on the accentuation of women’s features. Luisa has blue eyes and porcelain skin that is beautifully covered with colourful tattoos; on most days, her illustrations will be seen on the garments she wears. Despite not having the chance to meet her in person, as soon we started a conversation I could sense a warm and kind person, even through the distance of a phone.
After a year and a half of studying dentistry due to family pressure, the artist accepted that her place was within creative industries, which lead to her changing courses to Fashion Design despite being unsure of it; luckily it was the right decision. A few weeks after starting her new course, Luisa fell in love with illustration as she already had some experience from her previous degree but had not enjoyed it as it wasn’t creative work. As the time passed and she gained more knowledge on the matter, she began to explore with different applications for illustrations within textiles and realised that this was her call.
A few years later, Luisa has presented a collection at Bogota Fashion Week, which she admits is what launched her career. “It was an incredibly enriching experience that showed me what the fashion world is like- well at least here in Colombia. I did a lot of networking, I was able to understand the pressure that comes with making a high-end collection, and it was beautiful”. The artist has also received different awards for her illustrations and designs, such as 10th Mario Hernandez’ design award, Print All Over me for design fellows and the UP award for Latin American illustration.
Although Colombia’s fashion is underrated, it has started to receive a lot of positive attention from the media. For example, Business of Fashion has written a few articles about the ‘creative boom’ the country has to offer. According to Luisa, Colombia has many things that other countries don’t, “we count with the best artisans, which makes our work excel with regards to design and quality; we are an incredibly diverse country which gives us different inspiration sources for work within textiles.”
Despite the fact that first world countries heavily dominate the fashion industry, she believes it is possible for Colombians to succeed in the field, as long as they keep true to their heritage and traditions, “I think it is necessary to never forget your roots and where you are from. It is true that we are greatly influenced by other countries and I don’t think it is a bad thing but I think a mixture of both is the perfect balance when creating your own style”. As an example, she explains that her main inspiration is Colombia and its women. Additionally, she also admits that her favourite illustrations are those with a theme inspired on the country’s beauty.
Being a patriot has not stopped her from working with other countries, in fact she admits that she prefers working abroad as the projects are always dynamic and with better communication. In the past she has worked with USA in a project for Papyrus, an organisation focused on prevention of young suicide. Currently, the artist is working in collaboration with the Spanish Embassy; the project VRMUT aims to create an alliance between Colombian and Spanish embassies to connect creatives from both countries.
Her advice to young illustrators is to practice everyday and start working on a portfolio from the beginning. “The most important thing is to be disciplined and constant”, she says. Luisa is now working on her own illustrated clothing brand, which she confesses is her favourite and most loved project to date.