Carolina Delgado Home
Carolina Delgado-Duruflé is a multidisciplinary environmental artist and interior designer from Pasto, Colombia and based in Toronto. She is the founder of Planta Baja and was responsible for the design of many public and private spaces, including the Click Clack Hotel Bogota, which was featured in Wallpaper Magazine, Elle Italy, and the New York Times. Her online store, Carolina Delgado Home, offers unique objects that marry modern design, ancestral techniques from the Andes, and a commitment to social and environmental justice. Her most recent collection features woven toquilla palm accessories such as handbags, planters, and baskets, made in collaboration with women-led businesses in the department of Nariño, Colombia. The toquilla palm—the material used for the famous Panama hats—is sustainably harvested and hand-woven, and the majority of the dyes used contain exclusively natural ingredients.
Shop Carolina Delgado Home products here.
Tell us about your creative process, from conception to final product.
Everything starts when I am on the road in Colombia. Whether in busy market squares, museums, or faraway villages, I keep my eyes open for the materials, techniques, colours, textures, and shapes of the objects in people’s lives. When something strikes me, I approach its owner or maker, bombard them with questions, and take tons of pictures with my phone. I then continue thinking about that particular shape, technique or colour, and wonder how it could travel from one lifestyle to the other—from small villages to tall towers, big cities to the countryside, the Andes to other landscapes. We live in a world obsessed with borders and visas, but ideas travel freely. Then, the idea of a new design strikes me, and I contact the person who inspired that image in the first place. Then the fun part starts. I ask the artisan if we could collaborate—create the same object in one material instead of the other, with a different shape to fit a different function, or different colours that give a new twist to the original design. Sometimes side by side and sometimes thousands of kilometers apart (via WhatsApp), we create something new and yet rooted in tradition that can be at once beautiful and meaningful to use. Collaborating with weavers, potters, knitters, florists, glass blowers or leatherworkers involves a lot of trial and error and can be very challenging, but it is an opportunity for mutual sharing and learning that I cherish every time.
How does your company create social impact?
There are two main ways Carolina Delgado Home creates social impact. The first is by connecting incredibly talented artisans from Colombia and other Andean countries to international markets, mainly through online shopping. Despite the fact that they work extremely hard, many of my collaborators are under constant pressure to abandon their tradition and seek other sources of income to sustain themselves and their families. Paying a fair price for their work allows them to pass their skills on to the next generation. I am dedicated to ensuring that their experience of collaborating with me and exporting their work professionalizes their businesses to the greatest extent possible. The second way is by changing how people around the world perceive Colombia and the Andes, often as little more than the land of narcos and beauty queens. With one of the biggest cultural and biological diversity in the world, the region has an astounding number of artistic traditions. My hope is that those who purchase a Carolina Delgado Home creation will see it as an invitation to learn more about this part of the world… and maybe even go and visit!
Tell us about an innovator or social enterprise in Colombia that you want others to know about.
In Colombia, there is currently a large movement of innovative brands that fuse fashion and artisanal techniques to create social impact. One of them is Limón Piel, also from my hometown of Pasto, Nariño. Their clothes are made on weaving looms and integrate gorgeous designs embroidered by indigenous women. Najash offers handbags in an amazing palette of colours inspired by indigenous art. Verdi Design makes mats out of vegetable fibre and they are truly skilful in their choices of colours and patterns. Lastly, Adriana Santacruz is now a renowned designer and was a real ground breaker at integrating high fashion and handmade indigenous textiles.
Who or what inspired you to start your company?
I have been very influenced by my mother’s capacity to learn new crafts to support our family. When I was a child, she would pick up how to make flower arrangements and pastillage cake decorations, cover wooden frames with gold leaf, create Christmas decorations with repoussé metal, and so on. Unsurprisingly, when I was little, I started doing the same. In one of my first businesses I would take tiny plants from the garden to soda bottle caps, which I would then sell to my mother’s friends when they visited. I have changed cities and countries many times in my life, but I have never lost this love of starting new businesses and of getting people interested in overlooked objects. This is at the very root of Carolina Delgado Home.
Who or what inspires your aesthetic?
I studied fine arts at the Glasgow School of Art, in the famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh building that recently burned. Art Nouveau will always be my first love. Its focus on organic shapes and obsession with including flowers and leaves everywhere profoundly resonated with me and shaped my artistic vision. I turn to plants every time I am in need of inspiration, have plants at home, teach my daughter how to take care of plants, and love creating objects that get people excited about living with plants. Art Nouveau has taught me that the natural world will always have something to teach us about design, especially at this time when humanity is at a crossroads as far as our climate and species extinction are concerned.
A friend is taking a weekend trip to Colombia. What should they do in 48 hours?
Call their airline and push back their return date! Really, Colombia requires time. Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena have a lot to offer for almost any kind of traveller, but if you have a few more days my two favourite places are La Guajira (the Northeast tip of the Caribbean coast) and the island of Providencia. Both destinations offer very different experiences with the Atlantic Ocean. La Guajira is the hot and dry territory of the Wayuu Indigenous people, among others, and has a spectacular tradition of woven shoulder bags. Providencia will get you into Creole and Calypso rhythms, and you will never want to leave.
What is your most treasured accessory?
This is a very difficult question to answer since, as an interior designer, I love to collect accessories and objects. They are like treasures to me! My favourite is probably a pair of antique cameras. There’s nothing like our cloud-connected devices, but antique cameras are powerful and inspiring in their own way. One belonged to my grandfather who was a road engineer and the other to my great-grandfather who was a cartographer and astronomer. I always have them on display because I love photography. Images are very important to me, not only to remember and value the past, but also as a way to express myself and to create.
What are your interests outside of fashion?
I love to spend beautiful moments with my family. I enjoy gardening. I like to travel and to explore the world to learn about its many cultures.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
In 2009, I was art director at the Falabella department store in Bogota. I loved my job, but I wanted to dedicate more time to Planta Baja, my brand of creative planters. Planta Baja was amazing, because it required me to spend my weekends at flea markets to find treasures such as teapots, typewriters, and motorcycle helmets, and to convert them in pots and mini-gardens. I wanted to quit my job and create a full-time Planta Baja store, but I was terrified of giving up a community that I liked and a stable source of income. My mother told me one day: “You know, if this is going to make you happy, why don’t you quit?” I eventually did and this was definitely the best career advice that I have ever received. It meant more work and less money, but led me to things that would have never happened otherwise, such as becoming the interior design of the Click Clack Hotel Bogota, being part of a video campaign by INNPulsa Colombia to support young entrepreneurs, and becoming the Colombian winner of Adidas’s “White Space Project Originals," an international competition aimed at celebrating the originality of the most creative women in their countries.