Kika Vargas

All clothing throughout by Kika Vargas

The 2021 LVMH Prize: Kika Vargas

While it's common practice nowadays for fashion designers to use Instagram as a digital mood board, it's not so often that you stumble across a feed as vibrant, or as striking, as the one Kika Vargas curates. Peppered among photographs of the Colombian designer's signature voluminous silhouettes and lively prints are snapshots of her inspirations—from Kandinsky's Several Circles painting to Yayoi Kusama's unmistakable pumpkin installations. So it comes as little surprise that art is one of the first topics to come up in conversation.

"I've always considered myself to have more of an artist's heart than a designer's," says Vargas, explaining that both her parents are passionate art enthusiasts and keen collectors. Yet while art was always the thread that ran throughout her childhood, her interest in the world of fashion also cropped up from a very early age. "I find it quite nice how my mom always reminds me of the times that I used to talk about making clothes as a kid. In fact, she tells a story from the first time we went to Florence when I was six years old and I would walk around repeating that I wanted to make clothes for women," she says. Her own memory of understanding what she wanted to do in life, she adds, feels as vivid as the day she first knew what the sun was or learned how to tell time.

The 2021 LVMH Prize: Kika Vargas

The poetic, almost lyrical way that Vargas speaks is linked to one of her other great loves: music. She begins each new collection by creating a playlist. Building them is something of a family affair, as the designer's husband gets involved too. "He has a really good ear and knows a lot about music," she says. "That's actually what we do first—build the playlists together. I think music makes you travel. It transports you." Those tunes then go on to become the personality of the collection. This time around, it's a song called "Alegría" by two Colombian sisters, Elia y Elizbeth, that hit all the right notes: "It's very happy, very Seventies, and very cha-cha-cha! My heart just started to feel the character."

Vargas’s voice wobbles slightly as she's asked what making it to the final stages of the LVMH Prize means to her and the Colombian community (she's hardly stopped crying since the announcement). "It's been overwhelming to see the reaction," she says. "I think it's what really brought tears to my eyes because everybody came out and took the nomination as their own. It's the first time a Latin-based brand has made it to the finalist stage and it was just really empowering to see how incredibly supportive and proud everyone has been. We're very close as a community and whenever there's light shed on a Latin brand, I feel like it's shed on the whole community."

The 2021 LVMH Prize: Kika Vargas

While the designer has traveled often and studied abroad (at both the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Istituto Marangoni in Milan), she reveals that her plan has always been to learn as much as she could from "the outside world" before returning to Colombia to build connections and grow. As it turns out, the pandemic brought things even closer to home, as now a hundred percent of the brand's design and craft process is done locally, including sourcing, embroidering, and printing. When the label launched a decade ago, the team contained just five people. Today, Kika Vargas has over eighty employees, and most of the seamstresses are women who are the heads of their families. "It always was, and always will be, our mission to generate opportunity in our community," says the designer.

A Colombian artist has influenced the brand’s upcoming offering too. "Right now, I'm obsessed with Alejandro Ospina. He takes different elements—common elements like squares or triangles—then starts hiding some while emphasizing others. He inspires how I've played around with the detailing of the flowers and butterflies in the new collection," Vargas says. She landed on a color palette for the clothes, however, purely by following her gut instinct. "We have a lot of yarn. It's something that's stuck with me from my time at Missoni where I'd be working with three hundred colors at a time," she explains. Swatches go up, followed by a constant editing process as the team members discover what shade they're naturally gravitating towards. "We then try to pair up what we've chosen with something that looks interesting or modern or sophisticated," Vargas says. "Interesting would be my favorite word there."

The 2021 LVMH Prize: Kika Vargas

For Pre-Fall and Fall 2021, Vargas made a strategic move, based on timing and cost, to combine her two presentations. Doing so was such an inspiring challenge that she’s following suit for Resort and Spring. Behind this move is a message about slowing down, proposing that these pieces have a much longer shelf life than just one passing season: "I want people to keep their Kikas for a really, really long time," she says.

For more information, please visit See the full portfolio of the 2021 LVMH Prize finalists here. Read this story and many more in print by preordering our Fall 2021 issue here.

The 2021 LVMH Prize: Kika Vargas
Model: Melania Castillo at Iris Model Agency. Hair by Johnathan Sarmiento. Photographer's assistant: Diana Loza. Stylist's assistant: Daniela Rodriguez.

As a nonprofit arts and culture publication dedicated to educating, inspiring, and uplifting creatives, Cero Magazine depends on your donations to create stories like these. Please support our work here.