When you walk into her lingerie boutique in the upscale Zona Rosa neighborhood, it’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago María José Pardo López was a disillusioned university student, bored with her major, and contemplating leaving school. Her visual design program hadn’t panned out the way she’d expected and she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.
The only thing she knew for certain was that she loved to sew. “I’ve been sewing since I was 12 years old,” Pardo said as she perched on a chair behind the counter in her new boutique. “What I love to do most in life is sit in front of a sewing machine and sew. It was always my hobby, my passion, what made me happy.”
So when she left Universidad de la Salle, Pardo turned to sewing and started making lingerie, a garment that allowed her to express her love of details.
She quickly ended up with more underwear than she could keep, and began selling a few pairs here and there. Although she wasn’t thinking about creating her own brand, little by little as she kept sewing a business developed. Women who liked her work told their friends about Blown Away Lingerie and Pardo created a Facebook page to connect with potential clients.
Now the petite 25-year-old designer has her own boutique, a growing website, and a display in Lapercha, a store that showcases the products of up-and- coming independent designers. Her lingerie recently appeared in Tú magazine, and in February actress Marcela Carvajal wore a lacey gray Blown Away bra on the cover of Soho. This month Pardo’s designs will be featured in the bridal magazine Novias.
It’s easy to see why Pardo’s business has grown as quickly as it has and why her lingerie appeals to so many women. Unlike Victoria’s Secret and other brands that market lingerie with in-your-face sexuality, Pardo’s garments exude femininity and romance. There are no see-through leopard print thongs or bright red push-up bras in Pardo’s collection.
“Everything is based on romance and sensuality more than sexuality,” Pardo explains. “But obviously there’s a little bit of everything in lingerie. is to find a balance between these so that it’s not something crude or vulgar, but something natural.”
Although Pardo’s lingerie is certainly sexy, she doesn’t design it based on what she thinks will seduce men. She recognizes that women often buy lingerie with their boyfriend or husband in mind, but “the idea is that if a woman feels comfortable , if she likes it, it will reflect her beauty. You have to feel very comfortable in what you’re wearing to really surprise your partner and share a special night together.”
What is most impressive about Pardo’s work is her attention to detail. All of her pieces reflect a love of minutiae and every embellishment – from the placement of a bow to the amount of lace trim is carefully considered. Even though her business has grown to the point where she can no longer make each piece by hand, Pardo is committed to maintaining the artisanal quality of her garments. She now works with two seamstresses who help assemble the pieces, but Pardo insists on taking care of the finishing touches.
This love of detail extends beyond her designs and is reflected in the store layout as well as in her business style. Pardo’s boutique is tastefully decorated with roses and antique furniture, and the display window is filled with white tissue paper petals. Even the hangers are adorned – each one sports tiny silk bows. Pardo also tailors pieces for clients if they can’t find their size, and custom makes all of the bridal kits based on interviews with the brides-to-be about their tastes, relationships, and the image they want to project on their wedding day.
Although Pardo claims that she’s had to learn about business and marketing as she’s gone along, she’s clearly doing something right. Pardo attributes part of her success to a growing generation of young professional women in Bogotá who are interested in supporting Colombian designers. The majority of her clients fit this demographic – women between the ages of 25 and 35 who are willing to pay a little more for something handmade and designed in Colombia. They appreciate Pardo’s craftsmanship and style and they value the idea of entrepreneurship.
The rapid growth of Blown Away Lingerie also has something to do with Pardo’s passion for her work. For Pardo it’s not just about the design; it’s also about making women feel good. She says that it’s always rewarding when a woman leaves the shop smiling because she found something she likes. Pardo believes that wearing beautiful undergarments, even if no one else sees them, can make a big difference.
“If you’re happy or feel a certain way, your day will reflect that. You’re going to feel good. I think the same thing occurs with lingerie. If you’re comfortable with the first thing you put on , you’re going to feel great.” Clearly, a lot of women in Bogotá agree.
Blown Away: Calle 81 No.9-65