Fresh from last week's presentation of her house classics, including the naked beaded jumpsuit, at Berlin Fashion Week Anciela's head designer, Jennifer Droquett talks fashion and community to METAL.
Her first contact with dressmaking , was when she was involved in designing her communion dress aged just nine years old. “This experience really touched me, it gave me a whole understanding of how clothes were made,” explains the creator originally from Medellín, who has made fashion " a tool to engage and tell stories that can spark some kind of emotion and start a conversation." Having presented her latest collection Nueve at London Fashion Week digitally, she has now landed in Berlin Fashion Week in collaboration with Fashion Revolution, where she showcased last week. Watch her LFW show below.
Beyond being just a brand, Anciela could be seen as a platform or an artistic collective. It is also a creative and social project since, through her recognisable designs, she reflects on the times we live in, making fashion a catharsis with which she vindicates her roots and pays tribute to the Colombian spirit. Having worked for world-renowned brands such as Viktor & Rolf and emerging projects in London, her current vision of fashion rests on intuition and emotion, having built a team with which she shares a common viewpoint. A much-needed sense of community in a city like London, where competitiveness in the fashion scene is a near-inevitable fact of life.

Having turned her fashion brand into a safe space based on mutual support and collaboration between Latin creatives, the designer questions preconceptions through fashion. She was inspired by Colombian funerary traditions in her latest collection, Nueve. We can't wait to see her new Spring Summer collection on September 20 at London Fashion Week.
Born in Colombia and based in London, you decided to launch your fashion brand, Anciela, in 2018. Who is Jennifer Droguett?
I’m the other, the immigrant, the underdog, the minority, the Latina, the feisty one, the activist, the feminist, the vegetarian, the cyclist. I’m the creator behind Anciela, a maker at heart with a deep love and respect for human hand[craft], community and the planet.
Medellín, where you were raised, is very present in your creative imagination, the art and the colour that permeate the streets are reflected in your creations. Can you share any childhood memories that have influenced your vision of fashion?
My first introduction to dressmaking was when I was nine years old and my mother took me to a seamstress who made my first communion dress. I picked the fabric and explained to the lady the dress I wanted, I had my measurements taken and without really knowing it I had designed my first dress. It was an amazing feeling to try it on when it was finished. This experience really touched me, it gave me a whole understanding of how clothes were made.
With every garment I make I try to transmit that feeling of joy that I felt as a child. I have very happy memories from Colombia, even though the country was going through a horrible civil war (one of the reasons why we moved to Chile in the 2000s) I remember the joy of the people I grew up with beyond the tragedies, and I choose to acknowledge the positive change that the country has gone through only in a few decades. That’s the Colombian spirit that I want to show through what I do.
You worked for several years between London and Amsterdam for brands such as Viktor & Rolf and Richard Malone, after graduating from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. A first contact with the industry that I'm sure opened your eyes. What did you learn from these experiences?
Working for Viktor & Rolf was an amazing experience, it taught me the endless possibilities of fashion, the magic of couture and the power of garments to tell a story. Working for emerging brands in London was a great way to get a unique look at the challenges of running a small business where I was involved at every stage of the development process. I learnt a lot about local manufacturing in London and met lovely people.
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If we compare your first collections with Nueve, your latest proposal presented at London Fashion Week, the differences are remarkable. Although the identity remains the same, you seem to express yourself much more freely now. The meaning is on the same level as the aesthetics. What has changed since you launched your brand three years ago? Are you more comfortable now?
That’s very true, I think I’m more confident in my vision and I follow my instincts a lot more now. I think at the beginning I was really self-conscious about how the brand would be perceived and how commercial it needed to be. I was holding myself back creatively and following the wrong advice from people I came across at the beginning. Also finding the right people to work with, that can understand your vision and help you bring the message across through the campaign and videos has been really important in shaping the brand’s identity.
What have been the main difficulties you’ve had to overcome when undertaking your personal project?
There were many difficulties, fashion is really hard. The main challenge was to start from scratch as an outsider and minority and with very little money. Even though I had been working in London for some years, I didn’t study here so it’s virtually impossible to get any kind of support. I still had to work for other designers in order to support my brand. Luckily I could do a lot of it myself, suddenly you’re not only a creative director but you’re the whole team, so the amount of work is endless. It does take a toll on you physically and mentally.
You have got to know the reality of fashion from different parts of the world. And London, where you now live, is considered one of the cradles of emerging talent, promoting independent designers who may not get much attention in their native countries. What do you think of the London fashion scene? Did you feel your proposals were well received?
I love London, I think it’s a city which is constantly changing and evolving. It’s a place that not only promotes talent but diversity. It’s very competitive though, it keeps you on your toes and constantly challenging yourself because there is a certain effervescence in fashion that keeps questioning the creative process and the standards are very high.
Anciela was well received, but it took a while to break through the noise and reach out to the right people in the industry. A lot of the support is usually given to recent graduates from famous London fashion schools, so when you come out of nowhere it’s really hard to get someone to even look at your work. Luckily the industry is addressing this issue of inclusivity so I’m hopeful that fixed patterns are being disrupted and questioned, especially after the BLM movement last year.
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Colombiamoda has just been held. A fair in which workshops, masterclasses and fashion shows come together for several days. What would you highlight as important in Colombian fashion? Does it have representation outside of the country's borders?
I think Colombia has a long tradition of craft and local production which has historically allow for local design. At the moment, there are many emerging brands that are creating more exciting fashion than the traditional more established ones. I believe Colombian fashion could be bigger abroad, however, there is always that difficult balance of having something that feels true to you as a designer but that can also have an international appeal. But without falling into the “exoticised aesthetic” of South American fashion, that is sometimes perceived in Europe.
"I feel that I’ve found my true identity as a designer," you say in your manifesto, where you talk about the process you have undergone in terms of seeking inspiration. On what pillars is your identity built? What makes Anciela different from other brands?
The aim has always been to explore the amalgamation of two different cultures, and the contrast between concepts through folklore, art and society with an omnipresent love for our planet. This is the premise of my creative process. Behind every garment there is a story that is very personal to me, however, the intentions behind every collection are very relatable and honest, and I think that resonates with the people who follow the brand or buy the clothes. Anciela has become this creative platform that showcases not only fashion but also other Latinx creatives in London. These collaborative experiences across disciplines have been an accidental magical process along with a sense of community and inclusivity. It makes me truly excited about what the brand can become.
Death and the acts of mourning inspire your latest collection, in which through a six-minute video presented within the framework of London Fashion Week, you delve into Afro-Colombian funeral traditions. How was the creative process from the initial idea until you unveiled the video?
The idea behind this collection [Nueve] came about during the second wave of Covid when we went into a third lockdown in the UK, things weren’t looking very promising. I decided to take a different approach to design within this context by taking the concept of death and how fashion could be a tool to mourn the loss of loved ones. I looked into the work of Doris Salcedo and Marisol Escobar. As well as researching funeral traditions in Colombia and remembered my own grandad’s funeral from a child’s perspective. The idea of death but as a celebration of life was the starting point. I was inspired by the floral arrangements and historic garments that used to be custom made for the dead.
The making of this collection all from home by myself felt really ritualistic, every embellishment individually burnt, shaped and sewn around this coffin-like structure. For the video, we took inspiration from all the rituals which take place during nine days of mourning, and we developed the piece as a symbolic homage to the dead and people who didn’t have a funeral or decent burial during the pandemic. A big part of it was the music, for me it was essential to collaborate with Latin singers that interpret the songs I grew up listening to. Elements such as the altar, the crying women, the drinks and the games were important symbols as well. This was actually a shorter version of a documentary we made for Fashion Revolution that features interviews of the people who took part in it as well.
What is the relationship between fashion and society? Is it possible to create fashion detached from reality, and the events that occur in the world?
Not for me, some designers make fashion as escapism, I make fashion as catharsis, as a way to process and deal with reality. I see it as a tool to engage and tell stories that can spark some kind of emotion and start a conversation. I think fashion should reflect the times we live in, even if it seems like is very detached I think one way or another we are all influenced by our surroundings. Radical changes in society have paved the way for big fashion trends throughout history.
You also participated in Global Talents Digital, a platform promoted by Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia. What would you highlight from this experience?
It was my first ever fashion week last year. It was very exciting to have my work showcased to a global audience. I was really happy about how the collection was perceived, it was encouraging. It also gave me the chance to connect with other emerging brands around the world. Last April we presented Nueve with them too.
What current young designers are you particularly interested in? Why?
I love what Sánchez-Kane is doing, she’s tapping into this Neo-Latin identity in Mexico which I find very inspiring and I fully relate to. In South America, I follow the work of Annaiss Yucra, which is also disrupting the stereotypes of Peruvian fashion.
And what can you tell us about your next projects? Will we see you present a new collection in the near future?
I’m currently working on my Spring Summer collection for London Fashion Week, as part of the Discovery Lab program in collaboration with Tony & Guy. It will be part of the digital schedule premiering on the 20th of September. I have just showcased some of my previous work at Berlin Fashion Week last week in collaboration with Fashion Revolution too.
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