Fernando Echevarría’s designs are an explosion of color, tradition and design. Born in Ecuador, his shoes and bags are steeped in the roots of his Andean homeland, his roots, with a European touch and youthfulness that make them authentic objects of desire.
He left Ecuador for Prague, learned the language and studied at the Academy of the Arts, Design and architecture in the Czech capital. His brand, Fernando Echeverría Bags and Shoes, comes from a long line of artisanal leatherworkers in his family. It’s a tradition that, as he explains on his website, “was brought to South America be the Spanish Jews that were fleeing the Inquisition”.
We here at So Catchy! Where Fashion Begins admire the strength that he injects in his lively designs. His work is a clear statement about tradition and tannery.
SO CATCHY!: What made you go from Ecuador to Prague to study design? And why did you settle on Prague?
FERNANDO ECHEVERRÍA: I studied product design in Quito, Ecuador, but the degree is very open and I wanted to specialize in something. In the beginning, I saw Prague as an excellent place to study design and glass because of its long tradition in the field. To get into the glass program, however, I needed technical experience and knowledge that I simply didn’t have as compared to the Czech students. At the same time I began to think about following the tradition of my ancestors and my grandparents, leather working. The tradition was broken by my parents who emigrated to the city and continued their lives as professionals. I followed the call in my blood and my instincts, I put together a good portfolio to show my previous work and I learned Czech, which was the most difficult part. Finally I was accepted by the Academy of Arts, Design and Architecture in Prague.
SC!: How do you define the style of your label?
FE: I think that my label and style have evolved and been influenced by European deisgn, although in my products and, perhaps, in my soul there will always be the color, contrast, geometry and patterns of the rich nature of the Andes and America. I’m a designer who tries to avoid and doesn’t believe in fashion trends; I try to make a beautiful and timeless product for people who like to stand out.
SC!: What do you see as your signature, what differentiates you from other footwear and accessories labels and designers?
FE: What makes my work stand out is my shoes and accessories rescue and use traditional shoemaking techniques which are different and entertaining. They always seek to esthetically and technically innovative with one principle in mind: having something unique and lasting. For example, the soles and heels of my shoes, after they been worn for a time, can be resoled in any shoemaker around the world and be as good as new, and the soles are handsewn to the body of the shoe which will make them last longer.
SC!: Where can we buy your work? Do you have your own online platform?
FE: I’m a part of a community of young local designers and, together, we’ve organized a showroom called BackYard in the center of Prague. You can also order my products online at www.ferech.com, Not Just a label, Molo7.cz and I’ve been thinking about opening a shoe laboratory for young entrepreneurs in the center of Prague, as well.
SC!: Up to now, what has been your greatest professional or personal achievement?
FE: Ecuador is a small country that is not very well known in Central Europe. There isn’t even an embassy in Prague. It makes me extremely happy to hear from bloggers, friends and people in general that I’m like an Ecuadorian ambassador in Prague, proving it’s possible to learn a language as difficult as Czech, to adapt to and be a part of the local culture, which at times can be a bit closed to foreigners, and most importantly, being able to compete and to enjoy my life.
SC!: Tell us about Natura 16, your latest collection.
FE: The Natura collection came about after a visit during my last trip home to the rainforest and a sanctuary full of butterflies with spectacular colors. When I saw them up close I had the idea to take these shapes, these contrasts and textures and reproduce them in my shoes. Natura is an overlaying of three differently colored layers of leather, producing a stark contrast. Each layer has different laser-cut patterns and designs that, when overlaid, create the final design, providing texture and more depth than a single layer. Finally, the body of the shoe is hand sewn to the natural sole of the shoe. The materials I used were Napa leather and natural krupon for the sole. The heals of the shoe are reinforced with rubber to be smoother, stronger and to provide more grip when walking.
SC!: A footwear brand you admire…
FE: Yohji Yamamoto.
SC!: A young designer that you follow…
FE: Ondrej Adamek.
SC!: The perfect pair of shoes is…
FE: Like jewelry with which you can dance or run to the train, that stand out, are made from natural leather to be soft, which you can repair and maintain and, finally, when walking produce an elegant, rhythmic sound.
SC!: Magazines, blogs, that you read…
FE: So Catchy!, of course, Hero, Metal, Maud, Kaltblut, Modeschau and the shoemakers’ forum on Facebook.
SC!: Where do you find your inspiration?
FE: I believe that you don’t look for inspiration; it comes to you in everyday life. Sometimes it’s right in front of you. Every object, being or even the corner of your bedroom has something that, if we open our eyes and analyze them, can surprise us. That said, my favorite source of inspiration is in the perfection of nature.
Photos by Petr Jandera
Translation and Layout by Michael Padilla