Ask anyone who knows her work and they’d say Johanna Ortiz’s signatures are ruffles, puff sleeves, and flowers. She built her Cali, Colombia-based business into a global brand on the allure of her going-out tops and party dresses. Lately though she’s been expanding her range; her new fall collection includes tailored jackets and jeans amidst the printed tunic dresses that are her signature.
Ortiz’s expansion is down to lifestyle changes; her customers’ shopping habits have been affected by the pandemic, like everybody else’s. “I’m always thinking of the occasion I would use things. I’m much more conscious of whether I should buy it,” said Ortiz. “Women want things that they can’t only use one time.” They’re also thinking about smaller, more intimate occasions, ones with fewer cause for ruffles. That’s why you’ll see a dress-over-pant combination in white silk jersey on her runway.
Beyond adding new silhouettes, Ortiz put a real emphasis on versatility here. Her printed tunic dresses can be worn back-to-front by anyone averse to the exposure of the slit that divides the bodice. They also come with ribbons at the wrist; tied they create a fitted sleeve, loosened they reveal their fluid, fluted shape. She began selling halter dresses with removable one-shoulder shawls for pre-fall; this time around the shawls are coming with their own removable feather trim. Those kinds of built-in options add value to her designs.
In place of her beloved flowers Ortiz created a range of mushroom motifs. She said that Fantastic Fungi, a 2019 documentary illuminating the interconnectedness of the underground world, the way one species helps another—trees communicate with each other via a “wood wide web” of mycelium—made an impact on her during lockdown. Mushrooms sprouted up all over the fall collections—thery’re trending—but few designers are doing the thoughtful work at the pattern level, mixing utility with romance, that Ortiz is.