Born in Bogotá in May 1984 to Colombian painter Valentino Cortázar and former British jazz lounge singer Dominique Vaughan - Esteban Cortázar's household was always filled with captivating muses, a fearless female presence, music and laughter. His grandmother's impeccably considered wardrobe and his mother's evocative stage outfits formed the diction of his early fashion vocabulary. His formative and prolific childhood straddles continents, lifestyles and subcultures, which he still traverses with an ebullience and curiosity.
Cortázar's instinctive form and freedom is in some senses a love song to his native Colombia whose colour, beauty and potency act as a constant rhythm. A cacophony of other influences from the free-spirited Ibiza of the seventies where his parents were married, to the disciplinary couture of Paris, and seminally his first prodigal steps into fashion at the tender age of 13 in Miami, meld into the irreverent soundtrack of his life.
Esteban's playground as a child – South Beach in the nineties was the setting of a nascent fashion scene pioneered by designers Gianni Versace and Todd Oldham who mentored and inspired him. His home was above the ‘News Cafe' on 8th and Ocean: witness to a bohemian, renaissance of Miami. The city's light, its embrace of the explosive Latin cultural scene as well as the reverie of kitsch trans-culture became the backdrop of iconic imagery by Bruce Weber, Peter Lindberg and Herb Ritz, whose collective vision of empowered, nonchalant supermodels seared in Cortázar's mind. He came to view fashion as a powerful theatre of self-expression.
His early sketches caught the eye of Kal Ruttenstein in 1999 (the late fashion director of Bloomingdales), who subsequently stocked Esteban Cortázar's first collection. Shortly after, he became the youngest designer to show during New York Fashion week at the age of 18. Other international retailers followed suit, and he became a member of the CFDA in 2006.
In 2007 Cortázar moved to Paris to helm the House of Emanuel Ungaro. It is here where his flamboyance met the haute finesse and maturity of one of Europe's storied houses. His tenure won international acclaim and a loyal following for his personal take on femininity, modernity and luxury. Paris became his ultimate home, where he resides.
In 2012 Natalie Massanet approached Esteban to create a series of capsule collections for Net-a-Porter. This process ushered the relaunch of his eponymous brand. In 2014 Esteban Cortázar pioneered a strategy to shorten the gap from his collections being seen on the runway to being delivered to stores without compromising the craftsmanship of his designs. He confirms buyers' orders and commences production before his shows, which ultimately enables the consumer to have product earlier. The strategy - one of the first of its kind, opened an important conversation that is reshaping the fashion industry today.
Showing in Paris Fashion Week, Esteban Cortázar's signature style has won a cult following and has been confidently articulated through slick, sculptural lines tempered by ease, grace and flow. His collections often riff on two opposing ideas: a body restricted and a body in wild, free movement. Signature poet shirting, deftly cut circle hems that roam with force, and abandon, sliced leather and equestrian hardware, comprise some of the codes for a sensual woman who is assured, bold, and at times austere.
The house's body of work reads as he does - a maven of progressive, effortless, wild elegance. He has been referred to by Vogue as "the most uninhibited designer showing in Paris."
Esteban Cortázar's collections are stocked in over 30 stores worldwide including Colette, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Lane Crawford, Browns, The Webster, Net-a-Porter and Matches.