Ageless, chic and striking are words which pop into mind when conjuring Ana Mari Ortega’s accessory collection. Born and raised in Miami (she’s an Our Lady of Lourdes Academy grad), Ortega launched her eponymous exotic-skin handbags (python, ostrich, and caiman crocodile, anyone?) and bold bauble line with the ethos to create timeless pieces. “I go for classic and refined — I want you to be able to wear these pieces in five years and lots of my clients do!” Ortega says. A graduate of The George Washington University and Miami International University of Art & Design, the 28-year-old designer currently resides in Coral Gables. Here, Ortega dishes on her streamlined collection, Miami musts and…the White House.
How did your collection come to fruition? It started as a hobby in college and went full time after an unsuccessful job hunt in the Spring of 2008 after the economy had taken a nosedive. I did a trunk show with pieces I had been making in my apartment and sold like crazy and it went from there.
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What is the best advice you can give budding designers? Work hard, stay confident, network, learn everything you can about the industry and invest in making a good product. I also think internships are invaluable. I went directly into starting my own brand and I think I would have learned so much had I interned for a larger fashion brand first.
Walk us through your closet, what would we primarily find? I love everything Vince and Theory. I think I subconsciously wish I lived in New York because I wear tons of black — and let’s be honest — it’s also slimming. When in doubt, I throw on my black DVF wrap dress.
Dish…what brings you the most satisfaction? Wine. I’m kidding! Professionally, I love meeting new clients who have been following the brand and are excited about it. Personally, I am a total people person so I love big dinners with friends and family and…wine.
What is on your bookshelf? It runs the gamut from Andy Cohen’s new book to one about the CIA and the drone program — that’s the International Relations background in me talking.
What show can you not miss on TV? I wish I could say something highbrow like 60 Minutes, but if we’re being honest, I am going to go with any of the Real Housewives franchises as it’s my guilty pleasure. I’m also loving The Affair and The Newsroom right now.
What are your go-to restaurants in Miami? I think this is the hardest question that I have ever been asked. We had a friend in town last week and took him to Juvia and Smith & Wollensky for drinks with a view — and a scene, I love a good scene. We then did dinners at Pubbelly and Joe’s. When we lived in Miami Beach we went to Sardinia all the time, now that we are in the Gables, Bulla is our go-to.
What is the one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I interned for the White House and had to get a security clearance!