CALI, Colombia — Designer Johanna Ortiz has big expansion plans for her brand, targeting $10 million in sales by 2021 when she intends to have 50 stockists worldwide.
In 2017, the label is targeting a 20 percent increase in sales to $7.2 million as it adds new space in Neiman Marcus, debuts at London’s Selfridges and launches her first capsule collections for Bergdorf Goodman and Net-a-porter.
Since grabbing the spotlight with her off-shoulder tops (and inspiring a flurry of copy-cat designs) in spring 2014, Ortiz has seen a rapid expansion.
Turnover rose 247 percent to $6 million last year, as her Caribbean-glam dresses won followings in Paris and New York. Her production rose to 17,000 pieces from around 7,000 in 2015. In the past year, she has expanded staff to 230 people from 50.
But the designer was quick to note she isn’t seeking to grow too big, too fast.
“We are working with the retailers we want to work with and want to keep things exclusive and position the brand as a luxury designer one, not a commercial one,” Ortiz told WWD from her Cali atelier and office building where she employs 180 seamstresses making dresses that retail for an average of $2,500. “The idea is to expand into bridal and accessories and focus on quality.”
Production will increase 20 percent to 20,500 garments as Ortiz adds more stores worldwide and introduces bridal in May and handbags in spring. The label also plans to roll out a 10-piece eveningwear capsule collection for Bergdorf’s in December and a Net-a-porter exclusive party-dress line for fall. A second high-summer capsule is also in the works for Moda Operandi.
Ortiz, who dresses Beyoncé and the likes of Olivia Palermo, has also been improving her profitability, recently entering Colombia’s Zona Franca duty-free regime to bolster exports and cut income taxes by about 15 percent.
“The operating costs have become very hard for the factory,” said Paula Ortiz, Johanna’s sister, who is the company’s chief operating officer.
The move will slash the cost of importing premium cotton, silk brocade and prints from Portugal, France and Holland, enabling the firm to more efficiently target export markets in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.
It is seen boosting operating income by 20 percent next year to $2.5 million.
Ortiz envisages strong growth potential in the Middle East, where she could open many of her future doors and where she already sells through Harvey Nichols in Dubai. Other doors will be added in the U.S., U.K., France, Hong Kong and other markets to boost the number of stockists to 50 in the next three years.
Currently, Johanna Ortiz is available in 27 doors (21 brick-and-mortar and six online) in 12 countries.
Speaking at her office, where a large navy blue wall and shelves stocked with vintage fashion magazines and Taschen design books help her relax and inspire her work, Ortiz revealed she plans to launch a marketing campaign to help prevent copy-cat designers and retailers from mirroring her silhouettes.
Ortiz said so far she doesn’t plan any lawsuits against these copy-cats, adding, “We want to launch a campaign to speak to them and give them advice. How can you move up if you do the same things others do?”
On the upside, Ortiz said the copies have forced her to up the ante on creativity. She plans, for example, to venture out of her Cali rumba-tinged designs into slightly more sober silhouettes, juxtaposing festive ruffled tops with, say, tailored pinstriped pants.
One such look was already on display for fall when she mixed a shiny Eighties-retro burgundy top with a Thirties brown ruffled skirt or matched colorful bodysuits with low-waist pants and elegant white shirts, she said.