Johanna Logreira is an industrial designer from Medellín and an avid ambassador of creativity in every way. Forever in love with life, talkative, always smiling and wearing colorful clothes, Johanna is the true definition of joy.
As she can’t sit still, she’s been involved in various projects aiming to bring change in Medellín. One of them is volunteering for TEDxMedellín, where she plays the liaison role, connecting the project with prospective supporters.
(We usually joke that if there’s a person in the city that Johanna doesn’t know, that person doesn’t exist.)
The other one is the Vía Primavera initiative that she started 10 years ago, which we talk about in the following interview.
Daily job and side projects
My official job is creative consultant for businesses. I’m also a speaker and workshop facilitator in what involves the creative field.
As side projects I’m currently working on Pellizcate, a platform that aims to help people strengthen their vitality. This project was born after the speech I delivered at TEDxMedellín in 2014, when I was contacted by various people looking for advice on how to deal with depression and regain their vitality and mental well-being.
I’m also working with Fundación Mi Sangre. We are going to organize creativity workshops there for the children. The same will happen within another foundation that works with girls who come from a violent environment.
I’m also into photography and calligraphy so I work on projects involving these two as well. I’m a blog reader and a blogger myself. (I write for four blogs on photography, calligraphy, creativity and miscellaneous things.)
Becoming a designer
When I was little my sister and I used to create clothes for our Barbie dolls. Later on I studied industrial design and during my university classes I learned about interior design, packaging and fashion.
I’ve always been attracted to any form of creativity as I used to fix things around the house, and paint my room and furniture. I was very lucky to grow up in a supportive family. My father would always encourage me to learn and create.
My favorite part of being a designer is that you get to change things around and do it with experience. You have the necessary background that allows you to change things in a manner that is pleasing to the eye. I change my room every year because I don’t like to have the same things for a long time.
Atelier Logreira, fashion boutique
My sister and I founded Atelier Logreira in 2003, where we’d create tops and blouses. Right now Atelier Logreira only designs wedding gowns after we discovered this gap in the field. Now my sister runs it. I only support her with marketing.
“I quit fashion design four years ago and I stopped creating clothes for people, I currently do it only for myself and close friends.”
Mostly from movies and music, my favorite ones are Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Cinema Paradiso. I love Italian and French movies in general.
“I think I’m half Italian. I love Italy with its people, food and culture. They mix the European organized way of doing things with the Italian charming chaos.”
I have a master’s degree in fashion project management from an Italian university and during my studies I had the chance to get inside the studios of great fashion designers like Versace.
I had my fair share of shocking moments there, expecting a campus university when actually the classes took place in a house and the lack of Internet back in 1995, making it very difficult for me to keep in touch with my family. But I looked on the bright side and made the best out of the experience. I was in the fashion capital of the world after all.
Fashion industry of Medellín
Medellín has great potential; people here are very creative and we’re good at starting fashion businesses but we lack knowledge in running it long-term. There’s a need for education in the administrative field and developing leadership skills.
The paisas believe a business will earn them high profit after only one or two years of activity while the Japanese say a fashion business should bring you profit in about seven years of activity.
Choosing a niche is out of the discussion. Designers here tend to generalize their collection, missing out the focus on a certain niche, which obviously would bring them success. But there is definitely high potential and education will take us there.
“The SYOU brand has a great business model. They travel the world in search of inspiring destinations. They are currently in Medellín and working with local talents to create sneakers produced in Colombia. They constantly innovate in their collections and involve the consumers in the process. This is the type of business model that Colombian fashion needs.”
Back in 1995 Francesco Morace, Italian fashion journalist, would tell us the best fashion cities in the world. He’d mention Paris, London, New York and…Medellín.
He said the city has great potential and that the fashion industry here should use its history and roots to create trends. Unfortunately we don’t really do that, we keep looking abroad and copy the trends instead of creating our own.
The beginning of Vía Primavera
One day in 2005 I entered the boutiques that were already there and asked for the managers. I gathered a handful of store owners and came up with the idea of turning Vía Primavera into a brand.
A month after, I met Alicia Mejía, co-founder of Inexmoda (the largest fashion event in Colombia), who supported my initiative. She then put me in contact with the governor’s secretary at the time and plenty of other key people in Antioquia, all of them nice and willing to help us get that street known.
A lot of fashion designers at the beginning of their career started to come to us and at some point we reached a number of 36 fashion stores on the street and huge media coverage. Then cafés appeared.
“Pergamino was a breath of fresh air for Vía Primavera. The street is now an international spot in the city where you can shop, enjoy a good cup of coffee and, why not, get seen. It’s an international hotspot as many foreigners spend time there.”
I remember an Italian journalist asking me the difference between Vía Primavera and the other fashion streets around the world. I answered, “We’re all friends,” and this outraged her as we all know friends and fashion don’t go together in the same sentence.
So I walked her around the stores and introduced her to the boutique owners, designers, seamstresses, shop assistants and helped her realize that Vía Primavera is the place where friendship in the fashion industry is possible.
We, the designers on Vía Primavera, continue to be friends to this day. Unfortunately, only four designers from the early days of Vía Primavera continue to run their stores there, but having new designers there means change, which is a good thing.
As the founder of Vía Primavera, I turned that street into what it is today but I’m no longer involved in the project.
“We used to have a lot of events on Vía Primavera – bazaars, fashion shows with media coverage – but lately it’s just about going shopping, getting seen or taking advantage of stock clearance sales.”
The TEDxMedellín speech and the connection between psychology and fashion
Creativity has a lot to do with mental well-being. Statistics show that a lot of creative people reach a certain level of mental illness at some point. How fashion can contribute to curing them is by learning how chromatic can help you feel better.
The biggest mistake people make when it comes to fashion is to dress according to the trends and not to what specifically suits their body shape, what represents their personality and who they are.
When people understand the power fashion can have on their spirit, they will learn to use it in a manner that helps them feel better about themselves.
Favorite fashion destination in the world
Definitely New York. Nothing compares with sitting in a New York City park and observing people’s fashion style. Whenever I travel to New York I spend one day just doing that. In NYC people are not afraid to express their feelings through fashion. They feel free to put on whatever makes them happy with themselves.
New York fashion vs. Medellín and Bogotá fashion
Fashion in Bogotá seems very conservative to me. When I walk down the streets of Bogotá in such a colorful outfit people would stare and ask themselves why am I wearing this if the weather is so cold.
They adjust their fashion sense to the weather in the city, but in the opposite way the rest of us do. If we’d normally wear happy outfits in cloudy weather just so we feel better, people in Bogotá would wear dark and boring outfits because the weather is the same.
And they also associate elegance with black, leaving aside the rest of the chromatic palette for informal events.
“I think that one way of recognizing a paisa in Bogotá would be by their fashion style, which is way more relaxed and colorful.”
On the beauties Colombia gave to the world: Paulina Vega, Sofia Vergara, Shakira
It’s a good thing beautiful Colombian women have become internationally famous. It’s another opportunity to promote our country. Shakira sometimes says things that don’t make her sound Colombian at all. I like more of her music than what she says or does.
I absolutely love Sofia Vergara. She laughs at herself, she’s funny, and really, really smart. She has the ability to make fun of you without you even realizing it.
Colombia vs. the world
I believe we have something other people don’t have, and that is the strength to keep on going regardless of what we’ve been through in the past. We will never forget our dark past but we would focus on the positive aspects of life and keep on working to become better people to live a brighter life in a more developed city.
I believe people should learn to stop complaining and start fixing whatever it is that doesn’t work in their life. There’s a phrase we use here in Antioquia, “Ponte las pillas,” meaning, “Get going, get your stuff together,” and I think it describes perfectly what we need to do when we feel down.
“Medellín wouldn’t have been what it is today if it wasn’t for its people, who worked together to transform it and foreigners that come here learn that.”
Medellín is turning into an invigorating city that nourishes active life, opens up to the world, embraces tourism and learns from the foreigners who visit our country.
We’re starting projects and initiatives (see Ruta N) meant to foster innovation and development and we are learning from failure. These are a few things we have in common with Silicon Valley and I believe that we are doing a good job at getting there. The next Steve Jobs was or will be born in Medellín (laughs).
Fashion blogs of Medellín
Fashion Lessons run by Laura Echavarria, both in English and Spanish.
Sisterly Style run by the twins Amelia and Elisa. I’ve known them since they were little. Their mother thought them about fashion and they grew up in this environment with a very good fashion sense. They’re still grounded and very nice girls with no trace of arrogance, still saying hello to their childhood friends on the street.
Colombian fashion brands
I love Beatriz Camacho for her elegant collections.
Favorite art place in Medellín
Museum of Modern Art. I worked there for two years as a store manager. The interior design of the museum is absolutely amazing, which makes the work environment a pleasant one as well. This museum should be on the list of the best museums in South America. The new wing of the museum will be great when they finish it.
Favorite event in Medellín
Feria de las Flores because everything around you turns into colors and happiness, and we have a lot of people come to the city from other parts of the country or even the world. I love the flower parade that starts the event. It’s a very beautiful tradition we have here, in Antioquia. I also love the alumbrados in December, bringing the city to (life with lights).
Favorite restaurant or café
Perfect weekend escape in Antioquia
Parque Arví, if you’re into outdoor activities. Parque de los Salados is also a good weekend retreat. If you need a quiet space to read or have a picnic, that’s the place for it. I also enjoy going to the Museum of Modern Art park or Jardín Botánico, basically any place with trees.
Parque Explora is also a good choice, if you want to return to childhood for a few hours. I think we should keep grounded and nourish our inner child every time we have the chance.
The paisa culture
A good thing about paisas is that we are very curious and creative people. We always look to fix things and come up with initiatives, we don’t wait for others to tell us what to do.
A bad thing is that we believe we are the best people living in the best city in the world. Medellín is definitely growing fast but we still have a long way to go. It’s good to believe in your city and your own willpower but when you think you are too good you stop learning. I think people here should learn to be more humble.
Favorite paisa expression
Un paisa nunca se vara, meaning paisas always finds a solution to everything.