Andrea Landa takes on state-of-the-art techniques for Bogotá Fashion Week

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Colombian fashion designer Andrea Landa.

For over a decade, Andrea Landa has been the knowing Colombian woman’s go-to local label for edgy, sexy ready-to-wear garments. Renowned for her innovative use of leather and daring approach to design, Landa spoke with The City Paper days before her Bogotá Fashion Week (BFW) show. This marks her second participation in the fashion fair – and first actual catwalk – the first taking place in the middle of the pandemic.

The Medellín-based, award-winning talent, Landa has only ever held one proper in-person runway in Bogotá, for the now-extinct B Capital. That was back in 2018, so the upcoming show is an exhilarating prospect. “In Bogotá, that was the only catwalk I’ve had, but I started from the beginning [of the brand]”, she says. “I would do shoots and pop-ups (in Bogotá), as well as some private sales at Click Clack Hotel, St. Dom, and Casa Précis. We’ve always had a presence in Bogotá.” Landa states that, for a while, her strongest clientele was found in the capital. With outerwear being some of her most compelling pieces, one can understand why. A city with perpetual drizzle is always in need of leather jackets. Landa-worthy colors like earthy browns and black are also a big hit with city dwellers; a striking contrast to Medellín’s characteristic colorful, even patterned, palette.

Landa, a wild soul, studied fashion design in London, but only after a fruitful creative sabbatical in Paris, where she delved into analog photography and drawing. But it was in Barcelona that she made up her mind and eventually went for fashion design. “I would look at my design classmates doing their color assignments, and it just filled me with something.” Landa finished a marketing degree somewhat reluctantly and then stayed an entire year in the Catalan city interning for different local brands, perhaps the most important for her being Elena Martin’s label Martin Lamothe.

“Elena was everything to me, I got to experience what a backstage at 080 Barcelona Fashion, she took me to Paris Fashion Week”. The entire experience only cemented Landa’s desire to become a designer in her own right. Internships over, an intensive course that would turn into three years of fashion design awaited her in London’s Istituto Marangoni.

Landa uses a diverse color palatte and materials to create designs in her atelier. Photo: Courtesy: Andrea Landa

London welcomed her with open arms, but perhaps Landa, who had never touched a sewing machine in her life, did not expect older, more experienced classmates and long nights working and reworking garments. “I remember my first assignment was to make a canvas miniskirt, just to put a zipper in and bring it the next day. I didn’t get a drop of sleep that night, broke the needle three times. Don’t even know how I managed”.

Landa earned the award for best graduate collection, which even then had the Andrea Landa DNA ingrained, albeit loosely. Stunning collaborations with Johanna Ortiz and Andrés Pajón followed a couple of years later. And so a designer was born, among strips of leather, chamois, and PVC, the materials Landa had become familiar with growing up in her mother’s leather goods workshop.

The smell of leather, its feel, and its handling were not foreign concepts. They had characterized Landa’s childhood. It was only natural that she would reach for the animal fabric when her journey in design took off. But it was only after her studies that the designer began looking at her country’s artisanal techniques from a different angle. “I was abroad for nine years”, she explains “so every time I came back during my holidays, I began to look at labor, at people’s craft and their techniques in a different way.” Trips to San Alejo, an artisanal fair held during the first Sunday of every month in Medellín, went from mindless leisure strolls to fieldwork. That’s when some of the Andrea Landa label’s most recognizable ADN bits first came to be: strips of hand-cut leather, draping performed directly over mannequins, handmade lattices, and so on.

Don’t expect Landa to switch over to “vegan” (“It’s plastic”, she says) leather anytime soon: “Leather is a natural material, and its processes are so natural, from dying to cutting to fitting.” That, of course, also poses a challenge, with different batches arriving at her atelier with different textures, color variations, and grammages. Care too; Landa personally won’t wash her pieces: “I have garments from my very first collection that I choose not to wash. Leather looks better with wear.”

As far as taking strides toward sustainability, this is what she says: “The reason why I defend, and continue to use leather is that people will continue to eat meat. I work only with tanneries that use skins that come from products intended for food, and that have a double cleaning process in their waters so that they do not pollute as much — the leather dyeing process also has a lot of chemicals, and we always try to order without lead.” Yet it’s no easy feat working with it either. Because of in-house innovative and ever-changing techniques used in the making of her pieces, every single person who goes to work with materials at Andrea Landa, regardless of experience, must undergo a special training process. Landa spares no expense in honoring her priced material.

Landa, who had originally thought after her studies that she’d stay in the country for a short couple of months, is suddenly offered a runway spot for Cali exposhow after mere months back in her natal town. Faced with the challenge of growing a collection of six looks to one of, at least, fifteen, she got to work in her mother’s workshop. A tireless night of sketching, cutting, and sewing proved fruitful — and eventually led to her rapid Colombiamoda debut.

Coincidentally, during that same time, her mother expressed her intention to close her leather workshop, and the debuting designer took over: “She was going to sell it, and had people that had been working there for over 25 years, and all these things were happening to me, so that’s how it began.” Colombiamoda, for Landa, began with the fair’s modest exposure platform for up-and-coming talent, “El cubo”, and later progressed toward’s “non-stop” runways, where different brands share one spotlight, and then the “In Fashion” catwalk, solo.

The ready-to-wear designer, who claims she is undergoing one of the toughest moments of her career —largely due to the growth rate of her namesake brand,  but also because of production delays and staffing holes— has no bounds when it comes to sourcing inspiration. From art books and personal travels to origami and the Japanese Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, Landa is in a perpetual state of search.

As for her Bogotá Fashion Week show, the audiences can expect to see a reflection of Landa’s current state, which she describes as a deep personal questioning: “I’m 37, new technologies are kicking my ass, I’m very much a purist, and it’s also been a tough moment for the entire world since the pandemic.” The inspiration for “Zíngara”, this particular show? Gypsies, are “groups of people that endure, that defend their traditions and culture”. The entire show will be an homage, marked by deep contrasts between black and earth tones, and shades like white, azure, and green. Daring silhouettes with fringes, braided leather, and knots —as well as new, surprising techniques— will also be present. With Andrea Landa, expect the unexpected.

A Short Q&A With Andrea Landa:

Favorite restaurant in Bogotá? Tomodachi in Zona G.

Favorite dish in Bogotá? The ramen there, the classic one.

Your go-to spot for drinks? I haven’t had alcohol in almost six years, but I like Kaputt to go dancing with friends.

Favorite book? For many years, it was “The Catcher in the Rye”, I was a very rebellious child. I don’t have a favorite anymore, I go through stages.

Favorite singer or musical group? I love Nina Simone, but also Ms. Lauryn Hill, it pains me that she retired. Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

Favorite spot in the city? I used to really like Usaquén, but I haven’t been in a while.

Favorite thing to do in Bogotá? Whenever I have the time, I like La Candelaria

Landa works with sustainable materials to create wearable, unique apparel.