Published on January 8, 2015
Latin America is truly a colorful mosaic made of vastly different pieces, as every country brings a unique cultural background. Ethnic clothing is an inseparable part of these countries’ cultures, as traditional outfits are often representative of socio-historical influences.
Before the earliest conquistadors entered Latin America, style, textile, and color of clothing served as indicators of social status and religious beliefs. Spanish and Portuguese colonists then used clothing as a means to reinforce their power over the newly conquered territories, forcing natives to wear European clothes. However, many indigenous communities managed to incorporate their own traditions and pay respect to their ancestral deities by their choice of color. Based on archeological findings, it seems that the colonial authorities were more lenient with regard to the choice of accessories and adornments compared to the dress itself.
Colombia is one of the most vibrant Latin American countries, due to its unique geography and diverse demography. The most recognizable Colombian dresses are the polleras– beautiful dresses made of different fabrics and decorated with flowers. Polleras came from the southern part of Spain (specifically, the region of Andalucía) and were worn by peasant women. For Colombian men, the sombrero vueltiao is a must-wear piece of the traditional outfit. The process of making this cane hat is lengthy and complicated, as the quality of the hat is determined by its flexibility. Both polleras and sombreros vueltiaos were especially popularized by the vallenato artists and cumbia dancers, who wear them during performances and often use the skirts and hats as props.
The Colombian fashion scene is becoming more and more renowned on the global scale. Thanks to the government’s actions towards increasing the country’s economic health, social security, and political stability in the past decade, Colombia’s reputation has improved dramatically.
Many fashion investors began looking at the Colombian market after exploring the customer bases in Brazil and Mexico. With recent economic improvements come higher consumer purchasing power and the population’s prosperity in general. Colombians can now afford to consider upgrading their wardrobes to higher-class brands and luxury products. Inevitably, this trend and the promising market potential were quickly noticed by such world-renowned companies as Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana, and Burberry; most of them have already opened their shops in the capital, Bogotá. Besides these luxury brands, international fashion retailers such as Zara, Mango, and Forever 21 have also successfully arrived in Colombia.
In the past, due to the negative image of Colombia, the whole fashion industry was comprised only of local designers who developed and built a network within the country without competing with foreign brands. For that reason, Colombia also has a strong textile industry that has primarily served the needs of its domestic designers and neighboring Andean countries.
Colombians are known to be heavily invested in their looks, regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status. According to them: “You look good, you feel good.”
Colombian fashionistas in the capital usually shop in neighborhoods such as Zona Rosa, Zona T, and Calle 82, where the Centro Andino and El Retiro malls are located. Medellín, the second largest city in the country, also has a popular shopping district – El Poblado.
If you visit Colombia, you will definitely feel the beauty and fashion vibes, which will likely inspire you to follow their lead. If you are pursuing a career in fashion, even better! You will get to learn about the industry from within, as Colombia covers all the stages of the supply chain from textile manufacturing to clothing design.
Apply now to our Latin America international internship program to immerse yourself in this vibrant culture. Fashion Internships in Colombia are just what you need to stand out from the crowd!