Florist turned fashion designer, Valeria Cotoner, creates sublimely elegant clothes inspired by the colors and culture of her native Spain. She tells Camilla Frances about the challenges of breaking into a new industry during the pandemic, and the unusual inspiration behind her exclusive capsule for Cabana.




Grounded in the United States during the pandemic, where she ran a Manhattan-based flower shop, Valeria Cotoner yearned for the colors and architecture of her native Spain. With her floristry business on ice - most of her regular clients had left the city - the Madrid-born designer turned her attention to her earliest love - clothing and textile design - with full acceptance of the risks and pitfalls ahead.

“If I was going to go into fashion, I knew I had to do something special and different,” she acknowledges. “The world is saturated with clothes and amazing fashion designers; I wanted to create a brand that supported and promoted artisanal work, and was sustainable - and, for sure, any garment [I created] had to have something different.”

Armed with business savoir-faire (she’d run a successful Manhattan-based flower shop for several years), and training in pattern-cutting (gained during evening classes at New York’s Parsons School of Design), Valeria established her eponymous label in 2021, traveling to Spain and India to source artisans and fabrics.

Beyond financial acumen and a strong personal interest in fashion, she is largely self-taught and attributes much of her success to her formative influences. “From a young age, I remember jumping into my parents’ wardrobes to see and feel their clothes, secretly trying on the pieces I loved the most. I also adapted the clothes I bought, and completed my looks with special vintage pieces I found in flea markets.”

In just two years, Valeria has created an exceptional collection of sublimely elegant printed garments, all of which are inspired by the rich cultural heritage of Spain, including the deep textile traditions of Mallorca, where her family are from, and the Moorish-influences of Andalusia’s palaces and churches.

Her versatile ready-to-wear pieces feature beautifully simple, refined silhouettes and warm, vibrant colors, as do the six dresses she's designed for Cabana. Taking inspiration from La Mezquita de Cordoba, one of Andalusia’s most emblematic monuments, Valeria's gowns reflect the artistic heritage of this unique architectural structure, with their eye-catching prints influenced by Islamic, Christian and Spanish design elements.


Who or what most inspires your designs?

It depends a lot on the season. [For example], inspiration for this capsule collection for Cabana was drawn from The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba in Spain… These six dresses, which merge East and West, represent an illusion too, and hope for harmony between these cultures. In the background, in all my collections, I am also very influenced by the colors of India, the nostalgia of the lifestyle and history of Spain and the adrenaline and practicality of my current life in New York.

What challenges did you face when starting the business?

The brand is a baby and I’m facing constant challenges, but there is probably one that really stands out: when I launched my first collection, I had to make everything remotely and travel to India in the worst moment of the pandemic. My family are always by my side, and did not want me to travel alone in those circumstances, so my mother and aunt came with me. We had to issue a working visa as no one was able to get into the country, and the whole trip was a real challenge from the very beginning. For sure, this industry does not come easy.

Where is home?

I live in New York, where apartments are small and people dress in black or white. My life here is intense, so I like to wear simple, practical and comfortable clothes, always with a touch of color. I love Spain, and the way people dress-up, even to walk down the street; the spring in the garden in the classic and traditional Madrid (city were I was born); and summers by the sea in Mallorca. I also travel twice a year to India, a country close to my heart. I always try to capture in my collections the practicality of my current life in NYC, the nostalgia of the charm and lifestyle of my country, and the hues of the East to create special and distinctive pieces.



What does a typical day look like for you?

My routine changes depending if I’m in New York City or Madrid. When I’m in NYC I wake up at 5.30am. I drink matcha latte with oat milk. I start phone calls with India as I’m nearly 10h behind schedule. A lot of my production, as for the hand embroidery, dyeing, cotton and linen are done there. My schedule is back to back with phone calls until 3pm. I try and use the afternoons to work out - I love Pilates and Tennis - and do the creative work. I’m a night owl, I start trying clothes and all my best ideas come after 10pm. When I’m in Madrid I wake up at 7am, I drink coffee. I answer urgent emails, go to pilates and have a walk to our showroom in Madrid: Calle Mendez Nuñez 5. I generally have appointments with special clients and visit our tailors in the afternoon. I love Bossa Nova playlist in Spotify and never reach an agreement with my husband when it comes to listening to Podcasts.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

I don’t know if it's the best or wisest, but this comes often: 'Always speak less than necessary or even shut up all together.'

What are the best and worst things about being a designer today?

The best thing of being a designer, is the creative process. To have an idea, to be able to make it real and later watching my clients feeling empowered and beautiful wearing my creations. That’s the greatest satisfaction of my job. The worst thing, the challenges of finding the funds and making financials work.

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