“This collection does not have a book, a movie or a tangible object as an inspiration. Instead, it is filled with the true feeling that comes from the word sincerity.”
So wrote designer Juan Carlos Obando on the meaning behind his 2007 fall/winter collection (aka, “Case Study #6: An Untitled Dream”), which debuted to great acclaim during LA Fashion Week - as did his spring 2008 collection, “Case Study #7: Persephone’s Return” - both of which earned him an MAFI/Los Angeles Fashion Award in October, alongside fellow recipients Max Azria and Fred Segal.
Not too shabby for an advertising creative director-turned-designer who launched his first collection just three years ago.
In fact, despite the accolades - Obando also won a 2007 International Design Award and has seen his collection reviewed on the cover of WWD - the Colombian-born, LA-based 30-year-old still hasn’t given up his day job. Currently, Obando works at an interactive ad agency overseeing accounts for Sony Pictures, Bud Light, Epson, MGM, Mountain Dew and Pepsi, and he was up to his elbows developing the interactive online blitz that’s set to accompany the next James Bond picture at the same time he was putting the finishing touches on his fall 2008 collection, “Case Study #8: Liz Goldwyn vs. Frank Miller,” which he is unveiling in New York next week.
“As always, it will showcase my love for the dark side,” Obando told The Fashion Informer a few weeks before his New York debut (normally we conduct our “Meet Your Maker” profiles at the designer’s studio, but given our location on the East Coast and Obando’s on the West, we opted to meet over breakfast in a Greenwich Village café the last time he was in town). “I was influenced by Liz Goldwyn’s sophisticated style meets Frank Miller's dark edge.” Obando’s pal Goldwyn even turns up on the show invites, a Miller-esque cartoon poster featuring the filmmaking, jewelry designing fashionista as an extremely well-dressed superhero.
And, as always, the garments themselves are sure to deceptively simple at first glance, but carefully worked with myriad handcrafted, subtle details, upon closer inspection. Take, for instance, the intricate pleating, lace work and twisted, braided chiffon that festooned much of the designer’s spring collection, which nodded to nature as well as Greek mythology’s queen of the underworld (herself a harbinger of the changing seasons).
“I was influenced by how roots grow over landscapes, and how they somehow take over, like the inside of things coming out to the surface creating a new shape and form,” explained Obando, who has an affinity for backless dresses, oversized tailored jackets and coats, and interesting sleeve details, all of which show up in his work time and again.
He describes his typical client as “a woman who has character and who is very comfortable in her own skin, which, in turn, allows her to have and maintain criteria for what works on her and what doesn't, regardless of any current trend.” Not surprising then, that stylish iconoclasts like Goldwyn and Cate Blanchett are fans.
When asked how he first fell in love with fashion, Obando replies, “It was a simple equation how fashion got my heart: The way Tom Ford showcased it, how Yohji Yamamoto imagined it, how Mario Testino and Steven Meisel’s eye captured it, and how Alaia used handwork execute it.”
The affably thoughtful designer sewed most of his spring 2008 creations himself (making it something of a demi-couture collection, a la Alaia), and he allows that the main difference between being a creative director and a fashion designer is that “the final product comes out of a sewing machine or my hands, not a printer or a video tape.”
Naturally, Obando is justifiably excited about his upcoming New York debut.
“LA is an amazing launching arena and it helped me polish my craft,” he said. “But New York is the main stage where everything will be judged for what it is.”
So why show in New York now, after three years as a headliner on the other coast?
“I believe it's the right time for me,” he answered. “It's just a gut feeling. Professionally, I hope my work is seen by major editors and buyers that don't make it to LA. And personally, I just want to continue taking my work to a new level each season, to accomplish new things and learn more.”
Well, professionally and personally, we can’t wait to watch it all unfold.
Juan Carlos Obando is scheduled to present his fall 2008 collection on Saturday, February 2nd.