The Colombian Designer You Need to Know

Silvia Tcherassi's sartorial flare is well-known in Cartagena and Miami. Now, she's sweeping New York.

Silvia Tcherassi's sartorial flare is well-known in Cartagena and Miami. Now, she's sweeping New York.

Inside a sunlit suite at the Bowery Hotel in New York City, Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi emerges from packed clothing racks to greet me with a peck on the cheek. Her large, gold-framed cameo earrings bounce side to side as she presents her resort 2018 collection, which, like Tcherassi herself, is as stately as it is animated. “We’re making a lot of changes in the company,” she says, signaling at her 23-year-old son, Mauricio, the company’s director of innovation, as her daughter, Sofía, 19, dresses a model for an impromptu Instagram photo shoot. Tcherassi’s multifaceted brand is a family affair.

Silvia Tcherassi's atelier in Coral Gables, Florida.

Silvia Tcherassi’s ready-to-wear label launched in 1987 and has evolved into a lifestyle powerhouse that now includes 16 ready-to-wear stores, a home collection, and two boutique hotels. In 2017, Tcherassi launched a new e-commerce store to adapt to the digital retail landscape, while opening the Silvia Tcherassi Atelier, dedicated to evening and bridalwear, in a 1,900-square-foot store in Coral Gables, Florida, that is adjacent to her mainline boutique in Merrick Park. 2017 was also the year when the designer’s resort 2018 collection hit the runway at Miami Fashion Week, receiving glowing reviews from both local fashion press and Women’s Wear Daily. In essence, she has reached new heights on the seemingly insurmountable international fashion scene—for the true and simple reason that the world outside of it gives her endless creative strength.

Like her customers, Tcherassi is a jet-setter. “For me, fashion doesn’t have a nationality,” she says. “Fashion is global.” Her design sensibility expresses an international approach to dressing. In her resort 2018 collection, familiar patterns like gingham and polka dots live alongside stylized floral motifs on voluminous blouses, deconstructed outerwear, and elegant maxis that read Capri, Italy, as easily as they do Cartagena or Coral Gables—a direct reflection of the amount of time she spends to-ing and fro-ing. Tcherassi personally oversees the development of her textiles in Como, Italy, and frequently visits her in-house production facilities in Colombia. But Tcherassi’s empire is mainly run from her chosen headquarters in Miami.

Tcherassi's hotel in Cartagena.

“Miami is a capital of the Americas,” Tcherassi says, citing the city’s rich diversity and cultural events such as Art Basel. It has been her base since 1999, when she strategically planted roots in Coconut Grove, between her home country and Europe. “At the beginning of my career, I traveled a lot,” she says, recalling the trip that set off her career in fashion. While wearing one of her inventive designs, a purely personal pursuit at the time, Tcherassi caught the eye of a boutique owner in Aruba: “He placed a large order for this shirt with leather embellishments,” she recalls. “That was the beginning.” Despite rapid growth on an international level, Tcherassi manages to stay in touch with her roots by taking a hands-on approach to each of her company’s projects.

From working with Colombian artisans who use centuries-old weaving techniques for the bags in her latest collection, to constructing garments with couture techniques for a heightened sartorial experience, the backbone of her business is thoughtful design. “I don’t believe in sketches,” she says. “If you give the same sketch to two different designers, they’ll show you two different interpretations.”

For this reason, Tcherassi creates all of her garments on a form with a fit model close by at all times. Similar attention to detail is seen in Maison Tcherassi, the 250-year-old colonial mansion transformed into the designer’s Cartagena hotel. There, light fixtures reference silhouettes of wedding gowns, and textiles from her clothing line take the form of custom upholstery. Consistency and crossover are key. “Dressing a room is the same as dressing a body,” she says. “It’s about good taste and staying true to your sensibilities.” Letting her intuition guide the process, Tcherassi creates experiences that are an extension of herself, no matter the medium.

A version of this article appears in the winter 2018 issue of Centre, a semiannual magazine produced by Surface Studios.

(Photos: Courtesy Silvia Tcherassi)

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