When Colombian-born designer Juan Carlos Obando began his career as an advertising art director, he had a goal in mind: “I’ll quit when I make a Super Bowl commercial.” Faced with early retirement — or a job search — at 24, Obando, who created a Toyota campaign that aired during Super Bowl XXXVI, gradually turned an affinity for deconstructing Chanel jackets into a full namesake fashion line, which he launched for spring 2006. Now, Obando, 33, is introducing his first resort collection, a tight, 10-look lineup of pieces worked from his signature distressed, dyed fabrics.
“These are pieces that together look very formal, but taken apart can be much more casual,” Obando explains. And so a pair of silk and wool tuxedo shorts, cut narrow, can be paired with a crisp matching jacket or, perhaps, “a denim shirt,” Obando says. A silky, gathered halter top might be worn with a dramatic, floor-sweeping skirt or the aforementioned shorts. The idea is to take an evening-skewed collection and mix it up with items that can be worn with more frequency than his regular collection pieces. “It’s [a] marriage of editorial and commercial,” he says.
Based in Los Angeles — “We have no parties to go to, no editors to see” — the designer pulls inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement for what could be considered a highly advanced DIY approach to clothes. Obando sands, washes, distresses, dyes, hangs, blow-dries and otherwise aggressively treats luxury fabrics, molding and coloring silks, wools and cottons into pieces that have a curiously worn-in, yet elegant, look.
The designer is quick to justify the resort collection’s prices, which run from $900 to $3,100 at retail. “Everything must be finished,” he says, noting that an eveningwear piece such as a floor-dusting skirt takes 42 hours to make. (Obando has four employees at his studio, where he produces and designs the collections.) “And everything is based on one foundation: It has to fit. I understand what to enhance, and what to hide,” he adds. While resort will be available exclusively at Barneys in the U.S., Obando spent the week showing the collection to international buyers, with whom his slightly tough, sexy aesthetic is popular. “The Saudi princesses, they go crazy for the long skirts,” he says, laughing.