Fashion is a very important industry for Colombia as it accounts for over 5% of the country’s exports. Every year Medellin, the (unofficial) fashion capital of Latin America, hosts a very important event called Colombiamoda. As a foreigner, this year I had the opportunity to experience this big fashion celebration from the inside.
I’m from Madrid, Spain, but I’ve been living in Medellin for the last 5 months. I came to the city to create a new company (Rocka Labs), with a focus upon building, and helping other entrepreneurs build, digital startups. While I am far from a fashion expert, through Rocka Labs I have had the opportunity to work with a fashion project that was presented in Colombiamoda and experience the event both as an expositor an as a visitor.
As an entrepreneur I am always very keen to see other peers “in action” and these kinds of events are perfect for that matter. This is especially the case considering that we are in Medellin, and “paisas” (term used for locals from Medellín) are famous for their entrepreneurial and sales skills
The name of our project at the event was DressingLab.com, a social network for fashion lovers. Dressing Labs is a web site where users can create and share their own collections, interact with each other, and shop socially.
We found a great deal of interest from the visitors to the booth; especially fashion brands, as they can use the platform to promote their products directly where their customers are looking for inspiration. The founders, Carolina and Ángela, both from Manizales (central Colombia), met each other and envisioned the product while they were in Paris working for Priceminister (the second most visited e-commerce site in France).
Another company that grabbed my attention was Lce Spirito. I had the opportunity to talk with the founders (mother and daughter) of this 20-year-old fashion business and was surprised to learn that they renew collections on a monthly basis, something very rare in the fashion industry. The entire stand looked like a hip bakery and they served a glass of Colombian wine to all the customers who entered (a refreshing courtesy that they also use in their shops).
It is nice to see that many Colombian women, at least in Medellin, have a strong, entrepreneurial spirit that compels them jump into the fashion world and create small boutique brands. Often they become a one-woman-show by designing, manufacturing and selling everything by themselves and, many times, the results in terms of the quality of their collections are quite impressive.
The event was dominated by Colombian culture. Food trucks selling empanadas, punta de anca and the best local delights served along with a cold Club Colombia beer. There were also many live acts, featuring local bands and singers.
Everyone, including the expositors, seemed to be having a lot of fun during the 3 days show. Nothing out of the ordinary considering the “happy” way of living that people have around here.
Each night there were “official” parties, sponsored by beverage companies and fashion brands. They featured the best local DJs and musical artists, and people danced and jumped their way well past midnight. People used these parties to mingle and relax from the exhausting work in the trade show, and nobody seemed to care that they had to repeat the drill early next day.
Overall Colombiamoda 2015 was a great experience for me and helped me to understand better Colombian fashion and its entrepreneurial spirit. I hope that I will have the opportunity to catch it again next year. Next time, hopefully, it will be from the relaxed point of view of a regular visitor.
Ernesto García Montesano is the co-founder of Rockalabs, a Medellín-based venture builder with a focus on hi-tech startups. Ernesto is himself a passionate entrepreneur who has been supporting fellow entrepreneurs with their business strategies for more than a decade. Originally from Madrid, Spain, Ernesto has an MBA from IE Business School, Madrid and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. You can follow him on Twitter.