“My studies at IFA Paris were the bridge that connected my skills as a businesswoman with my passion for art, fashion and aesthetics!” tells us the Colombian stylist Ana Maria Sarmiento, founder of Flor Amazona.
Michel Temman: Where do you come from in Colombia? Can you tell us a bit about your family, your city and your country?
Ana Maria Sarmiento: I come from the Colombian city Bucaramanga. My childhood was full of nature, sports and beach. Because of my dad’s job as captain of merchant tankers, I travelled a lot internationally when I was a child, getting to know new countries and cultures. My brothers and I were bookworms, studying a lot. My mom is my ultimate inspiration! She is the ultimate “Glamazon”, glamour and Amazon, a great business woman with her own company and a dedicated mom.
M.T.: How and why did you join the Colombian fashion scene?
Ana Maria Sarmiento: I joined the fashion scene in Paris, as I have lived abroad for 10 years, also in Milan, Berlin, London and finally here in Colombia, where I came back 2 years ago – although the brand is now 4 years old. I did things in the opposite way: I started abroad and moved back to my country, and it worked! We are now distributed in 5 continents and 17 countries. The fact is that I love both jewellery and Colombia! And I consider myself ultra-Colombian but also extremely international. I want all women, worldwide, to experience the Glamazon touch! I have loved jewellery since I was a kid, it’s at the heart of Colombian fashion. I think that it’s extremely personal but you can totally show it off. Jewellery can define your mood and style, it can be an outfit. I find jewellery emotional, as if it talks to me.
M.T.: How do you define the Colombian fashion scene, local style and trends?
Ana Maria Sarmiento: Colombia is my soul and my inspiration. I love to wake up to the mountains, fruits, warm and hardworking people. Colombia has it all. I’m part of the country brand government project “Colombia is the Answer”, and as an ambassador my aim is to promote the good image of our country. Colombian fashion scene is young but very creative and somehow chaotic, in a positive way! We are proud of our roots, and you can see that in the design, handcrafts, colours and traditional weaving techniques. Our trends depend on the city and weather. Bogotá is often cold and rainy so the vibe is more urban and pop, whereas Cartagena and the coast is sunny all year so the trend is more Caribbean chic influenced by resort trends. Women pay a lot of attention to their looks in Latin culture. We dress up even if there’s no special occasion. That’s how we roll!
M.T.: When and how did you decide to join IFA Paris and pursue a MBA in Fashion Business and how were your studies there valuable?
Ana Maria Sarmiento: I studied at IFA Paris in 2010. I started at IFA Paris because I wanted to move from the financial industry to the fashion sector. I have a degree in finance and marketing and by the age of 22, was working as a banker. And even though I liked my job, I wasn’t very fond of the industry… Somehow, it lacked creativity and charm, so after been there for 4 years, I decided to take the chance and packed my bags, resigned and moved to China! Exciting right? My studies at IFA Paris were the bridge that connected my skills as a business woman with my passion for art, fashion and aesthetics. I learnt how to apply finance, strategy and marketing to fashion and how to start up as an entrepreneur. I built an invaluable network both in China and Europe that I still benefit from and keep on nurturing.
M.T.: When and how did you launch your own accessory and handcraft brand, Flor Amazona. How difficult and challenging was it?
Ana Maria Sarmiento: I studied MBA in Fashion Business at IFA Paris. Before founding Flor Amazona, I started my career in banking and worked at the United Nations in Austria but soon turned my hand to the creative industry where I was Global Brand Director for a European beauty brand. During my time in fashion, I saw a gap in the market for real Colombian glamour and wanted to find a way of breaking old Colombian clichés and so I created Flor Amazona in 2012. Being a young female entrepreneur is not an easy task. You need a lot of determination to keep your name in the industry and a lot of patience and drive. What I found challenging at the beginning was to cope with production. When you have a successful start-up, your problem can be the cash flow and keeping up with the clients’ orders. My actual goal is to develop a home line called Casa Jaguar and to open a first flagship store. So far, our business has been successful based on a wholesale model.
M.T.: Considering your brand's name, you are inspired by your local culture, by Colombian traditions and history. Why is it so essential to you?
Ana Maria Sarmiento: Flor Amazona stands for Colombia and culture. It’s a brand that supports our traditions while infusing contemporary style to make it wearable for the modern woman. We work with indigenous tribes to keep traditional handcraft alive and use bright and vibrant colours and patterns so that women can feel in paradise all year long. Many of the pieces are influenced by tribal traditions. Flor Amazona is all about colours and patterns. The indigenous make jewellery patterns representing their visions in their dreams, so we meet to discuss those that have stood out for them and how we can represent them in our designs in terms of patterns, visions, colours and flowing lines. Hugo, our indigenous leader and his group propose old age patterns that depict the nature of the rainforest, their shamanic visions and symbols of their gods, to create pieces that bring peace and fortune to its creator and wearer.
M.T.: That’s why you feel that Flor Amazona talks to all women?
Ana Maria Sarmiento: Absolutely. Flor Amazona talks to either fashion forward women, travellers and life loving girls. Sexy and powerful. A Real glamazon is feminine, confident, powerful, cheerful, vibrant and elegant.
M.T.: Which pieces of advice can you give to young fashion designers inspired today by your path and career?
Ana Maria Sarmiento: Believe, be flexible and try harder. Never give up. If your business is not working it can be due to many things, either price, promotion, timing, not necessarily your designs. So when it comes to make a product commercial and successful you have to pay attention to the market offer, your team, your strategy, your pricing, your distribution channels not just focus on trends and design.