JC OBANDO

NATALIA BONIFACCI MEETS JC OBANDO OVER PANCAKES AT 'LITTLE DOM'S', THE HEART OF LOS FELIZ, LA'S COZIEST NEIGHBORHOOD. THE COLOMBIAN BORN, LOS ANGELES-BASED DESIGNER'S JOY OF LIFE IS BEYOND CONTAGIOUS. OVER BREAKFAST AND A LOT OF LAUGHTER THE 2013 CFDA VOGUE FASHION FUND RUNNER-UP JC OBANDO SHARES WITH NATALIA THE STORY OF HIS CAREER, HIS INSPIRATIONS AND WHAT MAKES HIM HAPPY

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Describe your brand in three words.
Unassuming, sensual and colorful.

Which one was the first “fashion moment” in your life?
I was very inspired in the mid-nineties  by the the music-video director Francis Lawrence. There was this big music-video movement going on at the time. His videos were highly stylized: a lot of fashion, a lot of wardrobe… Everything was very ‘visual’. I was working in advertisement at the time, I was a creative director for Saatchi & Saatchi, I was living in NYC back then, and, because of these videos, it became really important to me the way people looked: the outfits, the style, the allure… I started using pieces from the runway in my commercials. That’s when I started getting enamored with fashion.

You are now a fashion designer, how did you get into that?
I started thinking that perhaps I wanted to communicate the same thing I was doing via 30 seconds commercials for tv through fashion. I thought “Maybe I can tell these same stories with clothing…”. And I also felt I wanted to do something with my hands. Everything started just as a little test and then suddenly one thing led to another. I sewed my first collection myself, at night, which was crazy (he laughs).

Looking back, to think that I was staying up all night, figuring out on my own how to sew clothes, I can’t even believe that I was doing that, it’s nuts. I don’t think I knew what I was doing, I didn’t know what fashion was… “Let’s just make some clothes..” (he laughs really hard, so am I, JC’s laugh is terribly contagious). I had no idea of what I was doing, if I needed to sell those pieces, or to show them, I just wanted to make clothes with absolutely no purpose, but I loved it. I loved the outcome. I loved the idea of dressing these beautiful women with clothes to go out at night, I found that sensation very thrilling. Eventually, I became more focused, and I thought that, perhaps, that was something I could do as a business. I started working less in advertisement and more in fashion…

Which encounter was the most influential in your career?
It would be my encounter with Lisa Love (Senior West Coast Editor of American Vogue). We met in 2007. That one, to this day, is the most important encounter in my career, because Lisa, like she did with you, took me under her wing and I became part of the “Lisa Love’s clan” (he laughs). I think you have to live in LA to really understand what the “Lisa Love’s clan” means (we both laugh), it’s very specific.

Please explain what the “Lisa Love’s clan” is to you…
It’s a group of incredibly amazing people. They come from all kind of backgrounds: music, art, film, fashion… Agriculture (he laughs)! I think if you’re somebody that has a point of view, and you’re someone who is really genuine and you like to have fun, Lisa is somebody that most likely will gravitate towards you (I tell him that she’s very loyal, and he agrees). Yeah, she gave me a lot of advice at the beginning. One time I was showing her my collection and she told me “You know, you should come back sometime in the next couple of weeks and bring a model, bring some samples…”.

When I went back, a few weeks later, Anna (Wintour) was there, in Lisa’s office. It was very funny: Anna sitting on Lisa’s desk, Lisa standing next to me. It was amazing: she was pushing me and promoting me and telling my story to Anna… That was kind of the beginning of it all. That’s when I realized “I guess I have to take this seriously” (he giggles). So I took my collection to NYC the following season, a few months later I got nominated for the Fashion Fund (CFDA Vogue/Fashion Fund) and the rest is history. I’ve been making collections, season after season, till last year when I reapplied for the Fashion Fund and I ended up winning the thing, which is pretty crazy (last November he won along Public School and Marc Alary). That was a very emotional moment.

Did you cry?
I didn’t, but I wish I had cried, because it would had meant that I understood what was happening, but it was very surreal: I was numb. I think I realized what had happened only when I was on the plane back to LA.

Was winning the CFDA Vogue/Fashion Fund the most special moment in your career to this day?
It was. You know, there’s another ‘visual’ reason of why I entered into the fashion world. In the mid-nineties, early 2000s, Tom Ford, Carine Roitfeld and Mario Testino were doing phenomenal ad campaigns, because they had reached a point of maturity in their collaboration, it was very defined, their rhythm was perfect. They were turning out these beautiful imageries, their ad campaigns were just, flat out, amazing. For me that was very inspiring because I was seeing fashion for the first time through advertising binoculars, which was the field I was in at the time.

Out of these images, is there one particularly special?
Yes, there is. I remember it very well. I saw it on Vanity Fair, it was a 7 pages spread and it portrayed a foam party. All this foam! Everybody was wearing Gucci clothes, the guys were shirtless wearing these wet pants (he laughs). The pants were full of rhinestones and feathers and foam! There was foam everywhere! I thought “This is it! Absolutely. I have to get into this world!”. So, fast foward to last year, knowing how important and influential Tom Ford has been in a lot of my decisions, to hear Tom Ford himself calling my name as the winner (of the CFDA Vogue/Fashion Fund) was just unbelievable. I thought “This can’t be happening”. That’s also one of the reasons why I was so in shock last November, that’s why I couldn’t even cry, I realized what had happened way later. It was very special.

What’s the quality you admire the most in people?
Sincerity.

Which one is the one you like the least?
Dishonesty.

What’s your ideal woman?
Somebody asked me this yesterday! It’s kinda interesting! You know, my ideal woman is a woman that is very much in touch with her sensuality, because I feel that if you are in touch with your sensuality you are also very comfortable with yourself as a person. So most likely, you are someone who is gonna be able to take risks, to see things differently: there’s something very alluring about that. I think that when you have that, the way you move your hands, the way you walk, the way you dance, becomes magical. I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than a woman that knows herself really well, that’s just so sensual, a lot of things happen to that kind of woman. You know well what I mean (he laughs pointing at me and he makes me blush and laugh).

What’s elegance to you?
Hands. I think you can be wearing a T-shirt, but if you move your hands in a way that is beautiful you can make anything look beautiful.

What’s the first rule to be happy?
Make yourself happy.

What’s the personal belonging you could never part from?
Currently my cellphone (he laughs).

…and you still don’t pick up or answer sometimes!
There you go (we both laugh, I tease him). I know, that’s so true though. No, I would say, my books, absolutely my books. They are everything to me.

What is the best quality about you and what is your biggest flaw?
My biggest flaw? I am bad at returning emails and phone calls and text messages (we both laugh). I always think “Oh, I’m gonna see her on Wednesday, I’ll talk to her then!” and then I don’t go to the thing, so I don’t see her, I’m just the worst at that. I think the best quality about me, I would say, I am a very happy person.

What’s your favorite fabric and why.
Silk. Nothing is more amazing on the naked body than silk (I tell him that every time I feel silk I think of him).

If you were able to give a piece of advice to your fifteen year old self, what would you tell yourself
Be more clear about expressing yourself, about expressing what you want to do and try to accomplish. I would tell myself to be more straightforward, I wasn’t necessarily clear, I would say something, but it wasn’t exactly what I meant to say. I feel I could have accomplished or prevented many things if I would had been more direct.

If you could host an imaginary dinner party and invite seven people, dead or alive, whether you’ve met them or not, who would you invite?
I think they might be all dead by now (he laughs), but I would love to invite to dinner six of the most gorgeous gladiators from Cleopatra’s time. And then I would invite Elizabeth Taylor dressed as Cleopatra. I think that would be a phenomenal dinner party! It would be so comical and sexy… It would be so random and so funny.

What’s your favorite part about your job and what do you like the least
My favorite part is… Oh well, the “research” trips, those are amazing (we both laugh). I wish I could remember half of them, because it’s always so much fun! You know, besides the jokes, when you are in the research or in development phase suddenly you’re eyes are really seeing: you are really observing, you are really listening to music, you are really looking people. You are in this moment where your body and your senses are really aware of your surroundings.

I love that part, because, by forcing myself to really explore cities and art and people and food and music, I get to learn so many new things. My least favorite part? The castings for the shows. I find it very tough, there’s something about it that I find very difficult. I feel you make these beautiful clothes, you wanna dress all these beautiful women, you meet so many of them (the models) and then, when you face the reality… You know, so many of these girls are gorgeous and they wanna work for you, well, that transaction is very complex for me. I have a very hard time with that process on a human level.

What’s your favorite smell?
Brand new books.

What’s your favorite sound?
You know something that I really love? It’s gonna sound really weird, it’s very funny, but very true. Have you ever (he’s laughing so hard that he can barely talk)… Have you ever opened a can of Coke, and then you pour it into a glass, and then you put a microphone over it and then you hear the sound of the liquid against the ice cubes? Well, I love that sound, it reminds of these Coke commercials I would watch on TV growing up, the bubbles against the ice, I love that sound!

What food do you think represents you?
Arroz con coco (he giggles). Because is exotic and it tastes good (he laughs self-mockingly).

How were you as kid?
I was very mellow, very introverted. I would play with all the kids, but I enjoyed the time on my own. I would play with Play-Doh and I would build airports and play with Lego… I guess I was a very imagination driven child and I was always creating something. I wasn’t so much into sports, I guess I was more interested in exploring and creating: I would spend hours and hours and hours in my room just playing with my things.

What makes you happy?
Friends. And a good kiss (we both laugh).

Do you have a motto?
Don’t fuck it up (he laughs really hard).

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