Nicaragua in a Few Photos

Text & Instagram Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
I’ve left fashion and design behind in Managua, setting out first to the west (Leon) and then to the east (Granada) to see what I can see of Nicaragua in just a few days.

My brain is on information overload and I have a hundred questions, at least, but for now, I’m just taking in as much as I can.

Nicaragua Photo Collage.
Nicaragua Photo Collage.

Photo Descriptions:
Lion’s head door knocker in Leon, Nicaragua.

Bell of La Catedral Metropolitana de Leon, Nicaragua.

Water vendor with “Madonna! Madonna! Madonna!” cap. (Yes, he actually likes Madonna).

Cigar rollers at Dona Elba Cigars in Granada, Nicaragua.

El hombre Sandino. Statue at Loma de Tiscapa in Managua, Nicaragua.

To see more photos from Nicaragua, check out my Nicaragua gallery on Flickr.

Nicaragua Disena 2012: Video

Text & Video:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
Nicaragua Disena 2012 concluded tonight at the Crowne Plaza Convention Center in Managua, Nicaragua. The two-day event was full and intense, and in addition to feeling inspired by the work I saw presented on the runway and off, I especially enjoyed interviewing some of Nicaragua’s young, talented fashion designers and artists.

Here’s a quick summary, in video form, of the event. Though it was the first iteration of Nicaragua Disena 2012, I know it won’t be the last.

Diseña 2012 Opens, Inspires in Nicaragua

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**

Minister of Tourism, Mario Salinas, cuts the ribbon, signifying the opening of Diseña 2012.
Minister of Tourism, Mario Salinas, cuts the ribbon, signifying the opening of Diseña 2012.

Unlike most things in my life, I approached the opening of Nicaragua’s first design fair, Disena 2012, without expectations. I know a bit about Nicaragua’s culture and history, though not much, and I know even less (much less) about fashion, so for me, Diseña 2012 was the blank slate upon which any story could be written.

And what a story it’s been so far.

Massimo Argnani with one of his recycled lamps.
Massimo Argnani with one of his recycled lamps.
Speeches were offered and a ribbon was cut; then, attendees streamed in by the dozens. They circulated through a salon where designers of all types exhibited their work: lamps and furniture made of rescued trash and driftwood; handmade leather sandals with rope straps; spray paint art; and much more. The hum and buzz of the room was literal, the excitement completely palpable.

Then, those who came out to attend the free event, Nicaragua’s first international design fair, enjoyed a series of impressive runway shows, starting with student designers from the Universidad del Valle and concluding with the introduction of Shantall Lacayo’s newest line. Even without a strong grasp of fashion trends, I knew what we were seeing was good.

Really good.

Though all of the clothes and accessories (and the shoes… my God, the shoes! I have never seen so many high-high heels in one place in my life!) presented on the runway had qualities that impressed, the student designers were particularly impressive. I hope to track some of them down tomorrow for interviews.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos. And mark my words: Soon, Nicaragua will make itself known in global fashion circles.

Model practices on the catwalk while a future model observes carefully.
Model practices on the catwalk while a future model observes carefully.
Models on the runway during the first show.
Models on the runway during the first show.
The most impressive student designer's work on display on the runway.
The most impressive student designer’s work on display on the runway.
Models show off the work from Kuero, a collection of leather goods.
Models show off the work from Kuero, a collection of leather goods.
Pieces from Shantall Lacayo's new collection.
Pieces from Shantall Lacayo’s new collection.
Shantall Lacayo celebrates the showing of her newest collection.
Shantall Lacayo celebrates the showing of her newest collection.

Follow along on twitter, instagram (@collazoprojects), and Facebook. And for more photos, check out our gallery on Flickr.

Interview with Shantall Lacayo

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**

Nicaraguan designer Shantall Lacayo (right) and her biggest fan and supporter: her mother.
Nicaraguan designer Shantall Lacayo (right) and her biggest fan and supporter: her mother.

Another journalist might have thought it ironic: dinner at La Cocina de Doña Haydee, where waitstaff in traditional dress serve plates of traditional fare, with Nicaragua’s most renowned contemporary designer, Shantall Lacayo, who will probably never sew a huipil or adorn a blouse or dress with colorful embroidery or ribbons.

But this is the principal problem with mainstream American media’s coverage of nearly everything in and about Latin America: it insists on trucking in binaries, pitting old against new, traditional against modern, and pro against con, rather than admitting and allowing (even acknowledging, really) complexity and the infinite combinations of the past and the present. Maybe it’s our country’s comparatively short little history that renders so many of our journalists unable to reconcile the seeming opposites, such as why a woman whose designs aren’t visibly, obviously Nicaraguan is thrilled to be eating traditional Nicaraguan food while listening to traditional Nicaraguan music.

“I wouldn’t make a huipil,” Lacayo says, referencing the blouse that women, especially indigenous women, have worn for generations in Mexico and several countries in Central America. It’s not because she lacks respect for Nicaragua’s traditional fashion and design, but because she wants to explore and express Nicaraguan identity by creating novel, contemporary interpretations. “Linen, for example, is a traditional material for us. So linen might be my base, but I’ll make something totally different with it,” she says.

If you browse through her 2013 Look Book, there’s nothing that stamps her work as “Nicaraguan.” Her new collection “celebrates the fascinating world of Art Nouveau, along with the strong inspiration of the strong women who fought the austerity of the 1950s.” It also incorporates elements of modern architectural design. And instead of using needle and thread, Lacayo depended heavily on lasers to make precise cuts in fabric and achieve the looks she had in mind.

For all the global influences and ideas that seem to have no root in her tierra madre, Nicaragua informs everything Lacayo does. Lacayo, who was a finalist in 2010’s “Project Runway Latin America,” took the experience and contacts from the reality show to open her own ateliers, one here in Managua and the other in Buenos Aires, where she studied fashion. The renown of “Runway” has increased her visibility, which, in turn has allowed her to help other designers, especially emerging designers in Nicaragua.

And that’s the whole reason we’re talking over dinner at La Cocina de Doña Haydee. Earlier this year, Lacayo was approached by INTUR, Nicaragua’s tourism board, about the possibility of helping them launch a design fair, the purpose of which would be to showcase Nicaragua as an intriguing, exciting hotbed of creativity. Lacayo agreed and has been hip-deep in the quehaceres of planning the international design fair–Nicaragua’s first–ever since.

Disena 2012, which will open today and conclude tomorrow, will feature designers working in a variety of media and fields. Lacayo describes the challenges many of them have faced to be part of Disena 2012 and exudes pride that she and the INTUR team have pulled this off: they really are welcoming the world to see Nicaragua’s multidimensional creativity.

“Many people have been working solo. I’m excited that this event will allow us to pull several designers together and join forces and show our talent to the world,” she says. “When I travel, I hear people say, ‘Vamos Mexico!’ ‘Vamos Colombia!’ But I never hear us saying, ‘Vamos Nicaragua!’ So that’s my hope: that in addition to showing Nicaragua and its design talents to the world, it will also encourage our own people to see the homegrown talent that we have here and to invest in it.”

Follow along with today’s Disena 2012 events on twitter, instagram (@collazoprojects), and Facebook.

Nicaragua Presents Inaugural Design Event: Disena 2012

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Courtesy of Disena 2012
**

Fashion by Vicente Castellon, one of the exhibitors at Disena 2012.
Fashion by Vicente Castellon, one of the exhibitors at Disena 2012.

I’ve just landed in Nicaragua to cover “Disena 2012,” the country’s inaugural international design fair, which opens tomorrow in Managua, the country’s capital. “Disena 2012” is the first international fair dedicated to Nicaraguan design, and its goal is to show Nicaraguans and the world that “it is possible to learn about culture through design while having fun,” whether “design” refers to architecture, furniture, fashion, or digital products. The fair is being sponsored by Shantall Lacayo, a finalist in the 2010 Project Runway: Latin America, and the country’s tourism board, INTUR.

It’s my first time in Nicaragua, so I’m thrilled to be here, covering the fair for FOX News Latino and a few other outlets, including this blog. Once the fair concludes on Sunday, I’ll be heading out to explore the rest of the country. I hope you’ll follow along here and on twitter, instagram (@collazoprojects), and Facebook.