The highly successful and beloved international brand Desigual is bringing some much needed optimism to the world with their upcoming collaboration with womenswear designer Esteban Cortázar. Thomas Meyer, the owner and founder of Desigual and Cortázar tell The Daily how the 16-piece collection came together and their mutual optimistic outlook on life.
How did the collaboration come about?
Thomas Meyer: At Desigual, for the last couple of years we have been strengthening our commitment to collaborating with cutting edge artists and designers. We believe that this formula forces us to step outside of our comfort zone, helps us to learn from marvelous professionals linked to the world of art and fashion, and allows us to bring freshness and innovation into our collections, while attracting the attention of younger consumers who Desigual hasn’t managed to engage with in recent years.
Esteban Cortázar: It came about in a very spontaneous way, which I love. I became friends with many in the creative community who Desigual had started collaborating with in recent years and I was also invited to come to Miami for Art Basel and to Barcelona for the Sonar music festival where Desigual was hosting events and art installations. I immediately connected with their good vibes, and became curious about their history and how the brand came to be. I was very inspired to learn that the brand started in 1984, the same year I was born, and that it had a strong connection with Ibiza when it first launched making repurposed denim pieces. It was then that they invited me to do a collaboration together and I instinctively thought it could be a great idea and opportunity to do something fun, with soul, and at the same time give a fresh new approach to Desigual.
Did you previously know each other?
TM: We hadn’t met face to face. I had been following Esteban’s work and I thought it was very admirable. His first show was at NYFW at just 18, his experience at Ungaro, the creation of his own brand. I was impressed by his energy, his drive. In a way, it reminded me of my early days in the fashion world; the feelings I had in ‘84 when something that started out as a project to reuse stock of second-hand jeans was transformed into what would become the first Desigual garment and one of the fashion industry’s first upcycled garments: the Iconic Jacket. From the first time we met, I believed in the project and in the potential of a collaboration between us. We can hardly wait to present the Esteban Cortázar collection for Desigual to the world, which will be released on May 20.
EC: The first time we met was in Barcelona for one of the initial meetings. I was captured right away by Thomas’s personality, natural elegance and the cool creative mystery that surrounds him. I was also astonished by his genius vision to create such a beautiful and inspiring environment for his teams. Many people don’t know that the Desigual headquarters are literally right in front of the beach in La Barceloneta and the whole team looks out on the ocean and beach vibe while they work in front of giant glass windows. I also connected a lot with his love for art, collage, and having an optimistic view on life. That for me was a testament to the progressive vision he has and it inspired me to translate that into my fresh approach when designing the collection.
You both seem to have a Miami connection! Did you meet there?
TM: No, no. We met in Barcelona. In fact, the first time we met in person and had the opportunity to talk in more depth and discuss our interests, ideas and projects was at the Desigual headquarters in Barcelona. Our offices, overlooking the sea in the neighborhood of La Barceloneta, are the origin of everything. The Mediterranean is one of our main sources of inspiration and, for us, it is important that those we collaborate with come to our home, get to know us from the inside and feel comfortable with our DNA. But I do love Miami, and have visited many times. For instance, the last great event that Desigual organized in December 2019 was part of Art Basel Miami Beach. We put on an exquisite performance to present our 2020 collections (SS and FW), and we invited Esteban along.
EC: I met Desigual’s team in Miami during Art Basel 2019 where they held a gorgeous event. I became friends with all of them and we had the best time! That was where we had the first official meeting about doing a collaboration together. I do have a very strong and personal connection with Miami since I grew up there during the ’90s and that was a very special and formative time for me. When the collaboration got confirmed, I thought that doing the project around the concept of my childhood on South Beach made lots of sense and felt like a great personal way to start something new with Desigual.
Miami is really having a moment. What do you think it is about this city that is attracting so many people?
Many things! For one, it’s one of the places with the most beautiful light I have ever seen. I always say that when it’s a beautiful day in Miami, it’s like no other beautiful day elsewhere. Something about the light, the calmness of the water, the sky, the movement of the palm trees, it’s so special. No wonder amazing photographers started discovering Miami back in the day to create iconic images. I think the free and spontaneous days during the 90s on South Beach, which included so many different types of creative people, really formed Miami from a cultural standpoint and it started to attract people from all over the world. There are certain amazing pioneers from those times that have literally shaped Miami into the city it is today.
Esteban, can you talk about your inspiration here?
EC: I knew right away that I wanted to do something very personal, and I had always wanted to do a project around my childhood on South Beach in the 90s, so I thought this would be the perfect project for the collaboration! It was a very special time that really shaped me as a person and as a creator. A melting pot of artists, photographers, supermodels, gay culture, nightlife and Latin heat – all happening on a beach. The more time passes, I realize how special those days were and how much they influenced me. I also felt it was very Desigual as a concept and that it celebrated love, the joy of life, the never-ending days of summer and that spontaneity that we are all craving and missing so much right now.
Esteban, have you spent much time in Spain?
Yes, lots of time. Spanish culture has been a huge source of inspiration for me as far back as I can remember. My father lived in Ibiza during the 70s and married my mother there, and I have been going for many years. Some of my dearest friends are from Spain. I love their music, their food, their cinema, their humor. The Desigual headquarters are the best offices I have ever seen. You are inspired the moment you walk in. It made the whole process so much fun and so easy.
Esteban, has Covid-19 changed the way you design? How so?
I think it has affected us all in so many different ways. It has definitely affected how I work in general and in a more remote way. There is a part of me that really enjoys something about that freedom, but I also love and miss working closely with my team around our creative environment. I am constantly evolving while I design and I am influenced by where I am living or what is happening in my life at that moment. I like changing and evolving my style and I don’t believe in staying within one box all the time. Change is always positive as it makes you grow so much.
What did you learn during the pandemic?
TM: We have learned a few things like, for example, the fact that even in the worst moments, life always brings you opportunities and inspiration. We have remembered who we are, what our core values should be, and something that we tend to forget: what matters and what doesn’t. We are also learning to be kinder, and we have grown as people. We have reconnected with ourselves, with other people and with the environment.
EC: That it is okay to slow down and enjoy the process more, that it is okay to change, to be more present, to spend more time with my family, to be around nature more than ever.
You both seem to want sunshine and happiness in your lives, can you elaborate on how that translated to Desigual, and then the capsule pieces?
EC: I’m always expressing love, good vibes, and Latin heat in everything I do because it’s who I am. My roots are always present, someway, somehow. There’s something very warm about Latin America and Latin Americans in general, and I think people are attracted to that. We express a lot of joy and it’s exciting to see people from all over the world being attracted to our cultures. The collection has a lot of that vibrancy and warmth.
Thomas, how have you rethought Desigual, the brand, since Covid-19? Have you changed your business philosophy? Has Covid-19 affected your business in any way?
TM: Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our business, but we remain optimistic. We had to make difficult decisions very quickly, but I believe they were the right ones. With regards to the collection, we continue to work as enthusiastically as ever, putting all our love into our garments. Our 2021 spring-summer collection is called El Now, and the philosophy behind it is talking precisely about seizing the moment, living in the now, something that I think this global crisis has taught us. Furthermore, over the course of these months I reflected deeply on what really matters: reconnecting with yourself and with nature and positivity. This reflection gave rise to the new store concept that we are now putting in place, and which mimics an art gallery, where a small number of products are displayed suspended in the air to make them the center of attention. This allows us to have large spaces accompanied by relaxing music that convey calmness throughout the customer’s journey and shopping experience. Furthermore, large panels depicting timeless landscapes have been installed to serve as windows to the outside, with the aim of allowing consumers to feel as though they are in those places. These panels are complemented by positive phrases that are part of the brand’s DNA and history, like Desigual’s slogan: “Life is awesome”.
Is the capsule limited to a month or until it sells out?
TM: Esteban Cortázar’s collection for Desigual is our commitment to kicking off the summer with energy and optimism. The launch is planned for May 20, and it will be available until the end of the 2021 spring-summer season.
Will the partnership continue past the capsule for 2022?
TM: I hope so! I hope it will be well received and that people will appreciate the care that both Esteban and Desigual have put into the creation of the pieces and the communication campaign, and also that it will be a huge success.
What was the biggest challenge in creating the collection?
We had a lot of time to work and this made things less challenging as we were able to work on it little by little and give everything the detail it needed. The biggest challenge was to be as sustainable as possible and we found great ways and new eco-friendly processes for making the collection and this was very positive.
Where can people find the collection?
TM: The collection will be available on desigual.com and in selected stores across the main markets where Desigual operates. In this case, markets like Spain, France, the United States and Latin America are key.
What’s next for both of you?
EC: I am excited to launch the Desigual collection as it’s been more than a year in the works! I have several new projects coming up as well, which are very exciting but I can’t talk about them just yet.