These garments are expressive, highly structured, and distinctly Columbian, just like creator Fernando Montaño. Turning through the rails of garments at Cachua’s debut trunk show is like turning the pages of the designer’s autobiography.
Fernando Montaño, the former Principal Dancer for Covent Garden’s Royal Ballet, was born in Buenaventura, Colombia, to what he describes as very humble beginnings. He was discovered to have a talent for dance and won a scholarship to study with the National Ballet School of Cuba where he quickly excelled, leading to an illustrious career which has taken him all over the world. This story is what he credits for his unique perspective which has produced clothes which are indulgent, complex, and personal.
Fernando Montaño welcomes Luxuriate Life into a SoKen townhouse where we enjoy a strong Columbian coffee, surrounded by his luxury, eco-sustainable garments – intricate and colourful knitwear made from organically dyed alpaca wool.
Tell me about your brand. What does Cachua mean? And, what does it mean to you?
“Cachua” is the name of a traditional dance from my country where we dance around and around in a circle. It’s very cathartic, and the memory of this came back to me during COVID19 when, as with everyone else, my entire life stopped with the lockdown.
To keep myself in an optimistic space, I would run around the Serpentine in Hyde Park, going around and around in a circle. This was therapeutic for me. It helped me to remember that everything comes in circles, and therefore, life would circle back, even if it is in a slightly different place. That is what Cachua means for me.
With such an extensive background in dance, why did you decide to start pursuing fashion?
I am a very creative person and have always been highly responsive to inspiration. Even with ballet: it started because I saw a single dancer on television, and instantly wanted to dance. Similarly, on my daily run around the park, I had a lot of time to think whilst enjoying the stimulus around me. I would often see the black swan in the Serpentine, and I thought it was beautiful. I started to imagine how the colours of its feathers and the curves of its form could translate into an outfit.
After this, all I could think about was fashion, and every beautiful image became an outfit in my head. I have made knitwear which are striped with the colours of the Andes mountains, for example, and a dress with sleeves like the wings of an eagle.
What is the link between dance and fashion?
For me, dance is about translation. It is a type of language, but instead of words, one communicates with their movements. We use dance to communicate complex emotions from the height of joy to the deepest despair. For these emotions, words are not always enough. Similarly, fashion is also a type of translation, but it is how we tell the world about ourselves. A person can show if they are shy, or bold, or sexy. Colours and shapes mean different things to different people, and therefore, fashion is very personal.
I’m a dancer, so my designs are heavily influenced by dance. I love movement, so I love clothes which create movement. For example, I have a skirt with a floor length fringe. It creates very dramatic movement, articulating every step. I hope that in my clothes, even the smallest movement can feel like dancing.
If fashion tells the world who we are, who are the people who wear Cachua?
My clothes need to be worn by someone with a lot of confidence. A person can not wear these vibrant alpaca knitwear and hope to be unnoticed. In my home country, alpaca is traditionally a status symbol. It was reserved for the nobility such as the Aztecs and the Incan kings. This concept is the same to this day, with alpaca being seen as a very luxurious item. Therefore, people who wear Cachua would consider themselves to be very refined.
My challenge was to use the wool in a way which did not detract from a slender form. I wanted to make knitwear which was very sleek in its fit so that it can be worn by someone who enjoys feeling elegant, even in colder climates. This was a gap I noticed in the market; knitwear which is elegant. I think Cachua fills this gap.
As the designer of Cachua, how does the brand represent you?
First and foremost, I am Colombian. This is very evident in my designs. You will see influence from traditional Colombian clothing in the hems and the silhouettes, and this is something which I want to maintain as I continue working on my designs, because I am very proud of my background.
I am also expressive. I want my clothes to feel like this too: that putting on one of my garments is like making an expression, like: “Today I am brave”. It is important to always feel strong, and I believe that fashion can help with this. This is what I want my clothes to do for the people when they wear them.
Finally, what is next for Cachua?
This year has been a whirlwind for me. Chasing one’s dreams is always scarier than just thinking about them. Until now, Cachua has been entirely self-financed, and I am so proud with what I was able to achieve. With my first show having been such a success, I’m very excited to be looking ahead, and am already working on my next collection.
My next project with Cachua is going to be a spring/summer collection, which may surprise some people, considering my focus on wool. But, Alpaca is famously versatile. It can be woven in so many different ways, both heavy and warm, and light and breathable.
My work with Cachua has so far been very rewarding. As a creative outlet, it inspires me a lot, and this is only the beginning.
To discover more about Maison Cachua, visit: cachua.co.uk
All imagery courtesy of Fernando Montaño.
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