Exclusive First Look at New York City Ballet Fall Gala Costumes


At the age of 17, Esteban Cortázar became the youngest designer to attend New York Fashion Week. It turns out that maybe it was a fluke. “As a little boy, I grew up wanting to be an actor, singer, performer and dancer,” he says. “I was in all the acting classes. I went to a musical theater school. I was always in costume stores. I was always backstage. Now, the Colombian-American talent is coming full circle: designing costumes for the New York City Ballet’s fall fashion gala, an annual celebration of dance and costume design. This year’s lineup features previously unseen works by Sidra Bell and Andrea Miller, the latter having collaborated with Cortázar on the sartorial aesthetic of ballet. “Ballet was not a world I always followed,” Cortázar admits, adding, “That’s what makes it so exciting. I’m learning about a world I’ve always had respect for, but never experienced much. Now yes. It really is special.

Ahead of tonight’s fall gala at Lincoln Center in New York City, Cortázar spoke to ELLE.com about his designs, Ibiza, and why he’s proud to be Colombian. Keep scrolling for a closer look at the costumes.

How did you get involved with the New York City Ballet?

In a very spontaneous and organic way. Andrea Miller, founder of the dance company Gallim in New York, contacted me out of the blue several months ago. She had obtained my number through a mutual Colombian friend. After telling me that she really liked my job, she asked me if I would be interested in being a part of this project. Of course, I said “yes” right away, but I didn’t really understand what I was asked to do on that first phone call: she was quite modest! When I realized what it was, it was a huge honor. I wanted to collaborate with [musician] Pool [Pimienta] During a very long time. A family has been formed. It’s just fun all around.

What was your inspiration for the costumes?

What was very clear from the start was that it was about finding our light within, finding the light outside of us, bringing optimism to the world and bringing light. color to the world. The words “warmth” and “lightness” kept coming up. I knew I wanted to create something very light, which moves in a very fluid and organic way, echoing the movements of the dancers. I didn’t want anything too restrictive, too powerful, or too ornate. I wanted something that almost looks like a second skin, and then I could tell a great color story through it.

I am also obsessed with colors. In fact, I did a lot of work on the piece – sketch and concept – while I was in Ibiza, which is an island where I spend a lot of time. I watched the sky everyday: the way the colors changed from morning noon to sunset until nightfall. I really wanted to bring that into the room. Lido’s score was so inspiring. It made me think about my culture, Colombia, my roots and where I come from. I wanted to bring that too, not literally. I think we made it through the colors, the song and the movement.

How do you think the worlds of fashion and dance overlap?

Well, they both tell stories, which is wonderful. We can tell a story through our collection as fashion designers. And we can clearly tell a story through a dance piece. The interesting thing about ballet is that it is purely creative. There are restrictions on the functionality and how the dancers must move and the costumes must last, but these are technical details. Here I can really break free from trading and the idea of ​​selling. I have to think about how to make these dancers shine and what works with the choreography. It’s a really special way of working that I’m not used to. I feel like an artist doing this, and less like a fashion designer. It has been very liberating for me as a creator.

We are in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month. How do your Colombian origins influence your creations?

My heritage, where I come from, are my roots, my blood. This is what I’m made of. It is still present in my life. I don’t have to look for it. It’s still there. I am obsessed with where I am from. I love my culture. I love my people. I like the colors, the nature, the sky, the music, the dance, the food. I am obsessed with Colombia and Latin culture in general. And it’s always in my work, even if it’s not part of the theme, there is always something that I bring. And what I love about ballet and this piece that we’ve created is that I can really see it. It’s not literal and obvious, but it is there. And of course, there’s Lido’s incredible score and voice. Two Colombians are part of this team, and that makes it so wonderful.

This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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