We caught up with Stephanie Margaronis Mordehachvili, the founder of Blaiz, a Latin American fashion boutique. With two locations in Marylebone and the Kings Road, London, Stephanie Margaronis Mordehachvili champions the style and diversity of Latin American design. Having travelled extensively throughout the continent, we got the inside track on falling in love with Brazil, Stephanie’s favourite Latin American spots and where her inspiration came from in creating Blaiz.
1. What was the first Latin American country you fell in love with, and why?
Brazil, it was also the first country in Latin America that I visited. It was almost like the air was different. We were in Rio de Janeiro, a city surrounded by cliffs and mountains and it was just so beautiful. There are favelas framing the city on all the mountain tops and at night you can see the lights. The pavements are black and white mosaic stone, and every Sunday the streets near the beach are closed and filled with hundreds of people walking and running all along the boardwalk. The sights and smells are intoxicating and there are juice bars everywhere, displaying tons and tons of fruit that you just point and pick.
2. Your aim is to bring Latin American designers into the limelight. What were the earliest brands that inspired you to launch Blaiz?
I was inspired by Cecilia Prado. They are a contemporary knit brand from Jacutinga – two hours outside of Sao Paulo, in the Brazilian countryside. I believe as a brand they encompass everything that Latin American brands stand for business-wise and on a personal level. They are a family business of the nicest people I have ever met. They produce locally and design the prints in house. Each family member has a speciality and they work together tirelessly collection after collection to bring to the global marketplace their stunning pieces. They were the first designers I met and they believed in me when Blaiz was in its absolute infancy and gave me exclusivity over Europe for their brand. They worked with me along the whole journey. We regularly discuss upcoming collections and any alterations and ideas that work for the UK market.
3. Many of your collaborations involve a social project. Tell us about one that is particularly close to your heart.
I am very invested in the Blaiz plastic raffia totes and clutches we make in Oaxaca, Mexico. We are supporting the prisoners of white crimes and their families, as often they are the breadwinners. The families come together to make the bags for us. This provides an income for the families, allows them to spend time together, and makes the painful separation that prison creates for families, slightly more bearable. I am a firm supporter of artisans in general and upholding traditions. The above has become a Mexican tradition in its own right.
4. Describe your best travel experience in Latin America so far.
My most real travel experience was to Riohacha in Colombia. It is an incredibly poverty-stricken part of the country which is home to the woven mochila bags that have become a global staple for summer bags.
We work with a tribe in the desert around a 3-hour drive from Riohacha. The mochila bags are woven in this tribe and then taken to Riohacha for them to be embellished with glass pieces.
I was lucky enough to be allowed to visit the tribe, as most of the time it is not permitted. When I went there I saw an incredible community of women, who pass down the tradition of weaving the mochila bags to their daughters from the age of 6. Watching them weaving with such skill was just amazing to see. When a certain amount of bags are done they have a traditional dance which is performed by the children.
5. What can you not travel without?
My laptop and my phone!
6. When you’re not busy travelling, where do you go to unwind?
Home. I adore being at home with my children, just walking in the park and frequenting cafes in my local neighbourhood in North London.
7. What are your favourite restaurants in Brazil?
The best food in Brazil is in Sao Paulo. This is the business capital of Brazil and where all the brand showrooms are, so I go quite a lot. My favourite is Naga for Japanese.
Rio has some amazing meat restaurants – I love CT Brasserie. They serve all types of meat plus unlimited and absolutely delicious sides.
8. When giving friends recommendations for their travels to Latin America, what comes to mind?
I believe in going to local places when travelling. The tourist places are all the same give or take but the local places are what really define a place.
Of course, it’s always important to exercise caution when travelling, but if you are aware and with local people, there are some incredible villages to be discovered and local markets that define the culture of the place.
I would recommend for example if taking a trip to Brazil to start in the cities such as Rio and Sao Paulo, but then to visit the North East (for me I go to see the handmade lace artisans) where the beaches are untouched and lunch is caught in front of you and cooked. Really rustic and really magical.
9. Blaiz has a colourful and varied offering, but what kind of woman does the brand epitomise?
I think the Blaiz woman is confident and inspired by something unique. I think she wants a piece of Latin America with her, and she wants to stand out.
10. What trends are you noticing in Latin American fashion?
I believe that Latin American fashion is becoming influenced by Western culture, certainly brands coming from the larger cities. Of course there will still be the truly Latin designers that will create only for Latin American markets, but even so I believe they are looking to the West for a little conservatism which blended in with their colourful flair is a wonderful output.
In general there is a very casual day wear trend in Latin America – more casual than the West, and in the evening, they are much more formal than we are. Long embellished dresses and full hair and make-up is very common for events such as weddings and parties. Ladies often get dresses made for them by tailors and of course swimwear is an institution, with bodysuits worn as day or nightwear.
11. Where would you like to see Blaiz in 10 years time?
I would like Blaiz to be at the forefront of women’s minds when they choose clothing and accessories for their travels and events. Whether that means them coming in store or shopping online, I would like Blaiz to offer unique, unexpected, and exclusive styles to build their perfect wardrobe and continually work to harness relationships with our artisans and designers that we strive to so hard to support, discovering new talent from across the continent.