I met Olga and Javier earlier this year in a sort of random way. I remember receiving a call from a strange number that seemed foreign, when I picked up the phone it was a very sweet voice with a strong Spanish accent. It was Olga de la Iglesia, she wanted to share an idea for a collaboration with me. That same week we met, I fell in love with them and their work. They are art directors, visual artists and photographers based in Barcelona. They have a project called Refresco, which is is about selected art and clothes from the Caribbean (Haiti and Dominican Republic) in Spain. All of the pieces come from the popular markets of the island, they look for prints and patterns that represent the idea of tropical style. A few days after I met them, we went to the flea markets to select some of the pieces for Refresco. I wanted to share this short interview because I thought it could inspire you the way they inspired me.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you guys met.
We both studied graphic design, Javi in Buenos Aires and Olga in Barcelona, after that each of us developed our creativity in different fields such as collage (Javi), photography and print design (Olga). We met by a friend in common who put us in touch, Julieta.
What inspired Refresco?
Mainly: The island, its people, landscapes, colors, spontaneity and freshness… its nature, the little houses around the island painted in pastel colors and their geometric shapes, the signboards and typefaces painted in the walls, the inimitable flavor of papayas, mangoes and avocados. The Caribbean context in its great totality is the base for the concept of the project.
Can you describe the process behind finding great pieces?
Javi and I choose the clothes. According to our aesthetic criteria we make a selection. We want to supply new alternatives, unusual and daring combinations, original prints and designs. Fresh pieces.
It all starts when Javi and I get in the red Mitsubishi Lancer ’76, a beauty, without air conditioner, we lower the windows, and the city’s intensity enters through them, we arrive at the flea market, all the vendors are friends by now, they greet us happily, the table is full of clothes to the top, the bustle from the streets is felt strongly, the heat, the loudspeakers, the music, the roving vendors… We divide and conquer to be more efficient; we each make a selection and later check that everything is in good shape.
We spend around an hour there, sometimes more, we buy fruits and vegetables in the little market around the corner and then we’re on our way, this time the Lancer full of bags of clothes, we unload and do inventory.
Where do your passions for style, photography, art direction and graphic design come from? How do you put all of these disciplines together?
They all stem from a place we share, our being. What most excites us is to create. Color combinations, mixtures of textures, compositions, ideating images…to observe the life around us and create something from it.
What are some of your favorite places in the Dominican Republic and Barcelona?
This last time that we were there, we felt something very special in El Morro, Montecristi. The nature is very beautiful and overwhelming.
In Cataluña, we really like Cadaqués and Menorca, but we’ve never felt something similar to the DR. The energy there is different, everything isn’t as exploited, it’s more unusual, intense.
What’s the best part of your job?
Creating, thinking of a new idea, and from that idea build another, and so on. Working directly with our artisans, watching them create is livening.
You only sell in Spain. How does that affect Refresco?
From our online store we sell worldwide, we’ve even sent pieces to South Africa.
I’ve noticed that you also work with artisans from DR, how do you choose the people you work with?
It’s more like their work chooses us, we have a vision and criteria of what we want to project, and based on that we pick with whom to work with. Sometimes we discover them by accident, with others we are already familiar with their work and we go find them to meet them personally, work with them, see their workspace, how they develop their work. We’re also passionate about Haitian Artisans, in our next trip we’ll go meet them in Haiti.