Born in Bogota, Colombia and raised in Miami, Florida, Esteban Cortázar had an eye for beauty and fashion from an early age. He grew up with an artist father and jazz singer mother and credits his heritage and the latin music, art and design that surrounded him as a big influence on his designs.  

In 2002, at age 17, Cortázar was (and still is!) the youngest designer to introduce a collection at New York Fashion Week — launching a career which has led him to head the House of Ungaro and design for icons including Beyoncé, Rihanna and Lady Gaga under his own namesake label. Cortázar, resides in Paris, where he designs clothes that combine Latin flair and culture with French sophistication and sensibility.  

Cortázar’s first collection with Rent the Runway is available starting May 25, 2022. The capsule collection of spring and summer dresses, titled the Esteban Cortázar Collective, is inspired by the designer’s archival work.

Recently, we caught up with Cortázar to chat about this partnership, his design process and what went into creating this one-of-a-kind collection for Rent the Runway.  

Rent the Runway: To start, let’s talk about this collaboration. Why are you so excited to be partnering with Rent the Runway on the Esteban Cortázar Collective? 

Esteban Cortázar: RTR has been a supporter and loyal partner of my brand for several years and I was thrilled when I learned that they had me in mind for one of their Design Collectives. It has been very inspiring to revisit my archives and work with my previous designs to select the pieces to reimagine for the capsule. 

RTR: The RTR Design Collective gives up-and-coming designers, industry veterans and fashion icons a platform to create expertly-crafted collections informed by our unique member data and what’s currently trending. How did our members’ insights on fit, look and feel inform your design process? 

EC: It has been very exciting to work with the RTR team and learn so much about their customers. We decided to focus on a selection of my favorite dresses I previously designed throughout the years and we had a great back and forth to arrive at the perfect colorways, fabrics and prints. I am very collaborative by nature so I am always happy to listen and work with others to achieve the vision. 

Explore the Esteban Cortázar Collective

RTR: Describe the Esteban Cortazar Collective in 5 words or less: 

EC: Happy, bold, versatile, summery and sensual

RTR: If you had to choose a favorite look from the collection, what would it be and why? 

EC: It’s very hard to choose just one because every dress was so carefully selected and has a story and technique behind it. My personal stamp is on all of them! The great thing about all of the dresses in my Design Collective is that they can be dressed up or down depending on the accessories and occasion for them.

Rapid-fire questions (so that the RTR community can get to know you a little bit more!): 

  • First fashion memory? Seeing Gianni Versace and supermodels having breakfast next to me and my dad at the News Café (which we lived above at the time) in South Beach, Miami when I was around 7 or 8 and my dad telling me who he was. I started to obsess with fashion after that. 
  • Personal fashion icon? Rihanna and Cate Blanchett 
  • A song you have on repeat? Lately, it has been Paradise by Sade. 
  • What celebrity/fashion icon would you want to see in Esteban Cortázar Collective? Jennifer Lopez
  • If you weren’t a designer, what would you do? An actor or producer!