We had the good fortune of connecting with Claudia Gontovnik and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Claudia, what’s the most important think you’ve done for your children?
As a parent, I think I have along with my husband, been most successful at raising my sons to be good, caring human beings respectful of our differences. I have also been successful at giving them clear limits and rules so they are educated people, and most important, letting them fall and stand back up which is the best way to experience, learn and understand how to cope with what live brings. It’s not prefect of course, but they have all these tools that they can use in life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Seaming together style, social responsibility and sustainability by giving new life to discarded items, I have committed to stopping the widespread feeding of toxic chemicals into our environment through reuse and sartorial reinvention. My signature “suture” style highlights the pressing need to stitch together our differences in today’s world. The raw and honest exposure of seams and visible knotting of the embroidery thread embrace imperfection and foreground how the variegated elements of the piece are held together. The result is a collage of cultures, colors, religions, and gender identities that happily coexist in each garment. I source all the materials myself. These select fabrics are washed, ironed, and cut by local seamstresses, who welcome the opportunity to better support their families through their skilful craft. I then pin the pieces on my inspiration wall and work on them until I feel in my heart the design has come together and makes sense. The item is finally sent to Medellín, Colombia, where it is hand embroidered by a group of Mothers Head of Household, whose painstaking and beautiful work takes several days to complete, a feat that is recognized on the garment’s label, which duly credits their names and hours of labor. When I started in Colombia many years ago, I launched my eponymous fashion house to great success. I also established brick and mortar stores, custom designed for TV series and theatre, founded a digital fashion magazine, designed and produced multiple fashion shows, as well as pursuing music, styling, store window design, and other artistic endeavors. Pursuing all that was not easy! Soon after I started, my business grew so that I had a factory of 120 people and worked 24/7. I had no experience at all but a desire to do what I enjoyed and be independent and the will to succeed. Frankly, I used my common sense (the least common of all senses), and learned while growing. The secret to the success of my label was my unique style and sensibility, sophisticated clothing that made you feel relaxed and empowered. It continuous to be so. There is moment in life when if possible, it would be beneficial to stop and think about our lives and make a decision: Do I want or really need to live to work instead of work to live? We have forgotten what it means to take a break, to not work at all hours, and to not be constantly connected. We need time to just let our minds wander so we can look inside and outside, so we can have insights (epiphanies) and make changes so that we can constantly learn and evolve. So we can enjoy the only life we have.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Art, music and drinks! In the morning I would take a long walk on the beach and jump in the water! I would also take them to the Rubell and Perez museums, and other exciting exhibits. I love going to concerts at the Bandshell on Collins Ave, jazz at Le Chat Noir, hang out at the bar at The Citadel, Gramps and Center for Subtropical Affairs. If we go out for dinner, we prefer ethnic food: Zaika has the best Indian food, Ceviche 105 and Sabor a Peru for Peruvian, 1-800-Lucky, Siam Rice Thai & Sushi has the best green curry. Non are fancy restaurants, I like them more down to earth.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My first shoutout is to my parents who through their curiosity and clear rules and limits, helped me be a very curious person in many areas. That also allowed me to be a very hard-working one who strives to do the best. I don’t know how but I also learnt respect for all human beings. I want to give a shoutout to the incredible friends I have made in life, specially my BFF since I was a little girl and other fabulous friends I’ve made along the way, that have given me so much love, support, encouragement and much more! Another shoutout to Toby S. who recognized since I started working for him that I needed to have my own business and to my father who lent me the money to do so. I also want to give a shoutout to my husband who has taught me so many things that have been extremely valuable throughout my life. I am far from perfect, and I am certainly not happy all the time, but I do try to remember how lucky I have been!
Studio photos by Annie Ramone Clothing photos by Claudia Gontovnik