When AnnMarie Greene was growing up in Wisconsin, she used to observe how her mother stitched the family shirts and took to sewing as a tradition handed down throughout generations. It was not only a means to economize the household budget, but like many American families, before the age of Walmart and ready-to-wear fashion, a way to share quality family time, conversing before sitting down to dinner.
AnnMarie Greene left her mid-western base to get a Bachelor’s degree in French and European Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In her free time, she would visit the many fabric shops in Chicago and began to fall for the idea that she could design her very own clothing line. She then met Fabio Serpa, a young Colombian studying for his MBA at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Her life took a sudden change of direction and AnnMarie found herself with the daunting prospect of getting married, moving to Colombia and adapting to a foreign culture.
Going under her married name – AnnMarie de Serpa – she quickly immersed herself in understanding Bogotá culture and the many local trades, such as tailoring, upon which many households still depend for creating those special occasion garments. “Back home, everything is so industrialized,” claims the designer. “The art of sewing is dying out.”
Through her social network and investigating artisanal techniques in the city, AnnMarie met Luis Saenz, a tailor who had learned the craft from his brother-in-law and is considered among the best in Bogotá. Knowing how to find rare fabrics and with Saenz’s eye for detail, a friendship and potential business was in the making. The essential philosophy for this new partnership is create unique clothing which “fits the Colombian woman.”
To launch the company De Serpa + Saenz, AnnMarie has designed 20 classically-inspired garments with a European influence and which can be worn as confidently on a chilly Bogotá day as in a heated job intervew. Employing only the highest-quality wools and other materials in their fashions, Luis and AnnMarie oversee the cut and stitch-work of each attire from a studio in the north of the city. “This is a very personalized company. Fashion is definitely organic.”
Having moved to Bogotá from the southern department of Huila, Luis Saénz is a self-taught tailor, who has dedicated the last ten years to almost exclusive work with women’s clothing. As a craftsman passionate about textiles and the perfect measurement, his association with AnnMarie is generating a buzz in fashion circles. One garment, a houndstooth jacket was recently highlighted in the Style section of the New York Times.
AnnMarie and Luis work “by appointment only” and many of their clients are referrals through tight social circles and work of mouth. With their client base growing, the team are busy creating a new line for the upcoming seasonal wear, which include floral print crepes and black silhouette jackets.
Courtiers AnnMarie de Serpa and Luis Saenz are poised to become big names in the tightly-knit world of Colombian fashion. Drawing on universal designs from the 1930s to the 1970s, every garment is also a testament to the importance of why fine tailoring is essential to making beautiful clothes, and a skill, which in the hands of Luis, has been taken to a new level of art.
Appointments for deSerpa + Saenz [email protected]