Joshe Ordoñez was startled out of her sleep by the incessant ringing of her phone. She had barely adjusted to daylight when she reached over to quiet the bells and chimes of text messages and Instagram notifications when she realized the reason for all the fuss: Overnight, Colombian reggaeton singer and fashion sensation JBalvin had worn one of her Collab Store hats, and splashed the image all over his Instagram stories account. Ordoñez was struck.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Ordoñez said. “When you’re a designer you take a risk, and I took that risk and he wore it.”
Ordoñez had met JBalvin and his manager during New York Fashion Week, where the singer was invited to attend as the only Latin American ambassador by the Council of Fashion Designers (CFDA). While chatting with the pair, Ordoñez told them about her new brand, Collab Store. “Collab Store is a multidisciplinary project that brings together Ecuadorian artists, artisans, and designers to infuse iconic Ecuadorian Panama hats with original artwork and traditional Ecuadorian textiles,” says Ordoñez. “I gave JBalvin’s manager one of our hats and explained its rich cultural meaning and a little about the collaborating artist, Gabriel Zamora. Three weeks later, he wore it!”
Musicians, especially, are infamous for finding little-known indie brands and elevating them to an international platform: Beyoncé frequently showcases emerging designers on her Instagram, while Erykah Badu had a role in launching the overnight success of NAKIMULI. Designers who are able to get the attention of notorious pop stars and land popular celebrity endorsements often enjoy a whirlwind of success – but understanding how to capitalize on that exposure is crucial for designers who want to take their brand to new heights.
Ordoñez immediately recognized the need to capitalize on JBalvin’s very public celebrity endorsement of Collab Store. “I took a screen capture of the story and I uploaded the picture to my own account, making sure to tag him and let people know that he had worn our designs,” says Ordoñez. “I was also contacted about about his wearing my designs to the Latin American fashion magazine Frontrow, who ran the story and garnered over 1,000 shares. These were tremendous opportunities for me to position my brand before it formally launched.”
Ordoñez’s story is certainly exciting, but it’s not unique: scores of designers use social media influencers and celebrity endorsement posts to get their brands into the mainstream vernacular. Ordoñez, in particular, understands the value of collaborating with other influencers and organizations and is using the power of collaboration to get her brand off the ground. In addition to working closely with Ecuadorian artisans, artists, and government officials to get a sense of the viability of her product outside the country’s borders, Ordoñez has partnered with two Ecuadorian companies, Pacari Chocolate and Café del Cerro, to host an event that showcases the brand on Saturday, May 27.
Here, Ordoñez talks to Artrepreneur about the motivation behind Collab Store, its development strategy, and her best tips for growing your brand through influencers on social media.
Collab Store Works With Ecuadorean Artisans and Artists
NM: Tell us about Collab Store. How did you get your start?
JO: Before I started my brand, I was a fashion editor of BG magazine, where I was writing in addition to working on fashion shows, styling, and production. I had previously studied fashion design and then decided to do a masters degree in design management at Pratt Institute because I think the creative spark of design should be enhanced by business knowledge.
That sparked my idea to use the most iconic product, the Panama hat, we have to unify designers, artists, and artisans. This first collection is a mixture of the weavers, embroidery artists and visual artists of Ecuador. Everything is native from Ecuador. One of the goals is to create more jobs in this sector and industry because it’s not our major industry.
NM: How have you leveraged your knowledge of the Ecuadorian economy to determine Collab Store’s viability?
JO: I’m in touch with government officials that manage exportation of Panama hats, and they’ve given me numbers in terms of how many hats Ecuador sells and their importance in Ecuador’s economy. Knowing the numbers helps me to decide a path or a way to achieve that target and it also influences the design.
NM: Have you identified your target market?
JO: I know the target is people over 30 years old, but I’m trying to attract a younger market to reframe this product. A lot of people think these hats are for older people so I’m trying to implement details into the hats that attract younger audiences. I plan on engaging that audience through social media and placement in edgier fashion and design magazines, similar to what we did with J. Balvin.
NM: What’s your best advice to emerging designers who haven’t quite mastered social media?
JO: Be smart in terms of what content influencers, blogs, and magazines are looking for. Take a look at fashion editorials, if you read an article in a magazine find the writer, follow them, those kinds of things help a lot.
NM: How did you manage to turn that effort into a celebrity endorsement?
JO: With JBalvin, I took a risk and gave his manager one of my hats and told them about my product – its cultural heritage and importance for Ecuador, and about the artist and his work, which has a sort of mystery behind it. Sometimes, asking is the most important part.
NM: Your event will showcase Collab Store while talking about the products’ cultural and historical relevance in Ecuador. Why do you think it’s important to engage an audience this way?
JO: I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to get to know my brand, but also to educate my target market. If the products gain enough attention, I can get funding, and take my products to fairs and competitions.
NM: Where would you like to see Collab Store sold?
JO: I would like to see them selling at Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s. These hats are 100 percent handmade with very good quality materials and craftsmanship, as opposed to some of the straw hats I’ve seen being sold in those department stores.
NM: How will you differentiate your product so that big box retailers decide to carry your brand over a competitor’s?
JO: First, I think we have the advantage of being produced in Ecuador and we can manage the price point, which will be very attractive. I also have a lot of communities to collaborate with, from the visual artists we work with to the artisans that use a variety of ancient techniques, and we can combine those things and make the hats very special and unique.
Check out Joshe’s Orangenius profile to learn more about Collab Store.