Illustrator and Art Director, Alejandro Giraldo, was born with some serious Colombian blood. Growing up in the late 80's and early 90's, the streets of Medellin were a particularly dangerous place for a kid. But he wants people to know that, although Pablo Escobar's name is still strongly associated with his city, it is now thriving, beautiful and safe. He recently celebrated the two year anniversary for his clothing brand, Velmost - with his biggest collection on the way. Having worked with clients like Nike, Snickers and LOLA Madrid, he's doing a great job at paving the path for artists in Colombia.
BEN: What was it like growing up in Medellin?
ALEJANDRO: Well, during the 90's, Medellin was really dangerous because of the drug cartels. I remember being afraid to go out to the streets or shopping malls. Watching the news was something horrible. But those were just a couple of years so it didn't affect me a lot. Probably because I didn't have any direct experience with violence or kidnapping.
What does the name Pablo Escobar mean to you?
Pablo Escobar means death. He means the worst time of my country and especially my city. It just give me chills only thinking about his name. Sadly, he is one of the things that people recognize about Colombia. We still have problems like any country, but we have beautiful things here - like kind and awesome people everywhere.
Things are different now.
The times have changed. That violent Medellin is something from the past. Now the city is really secure, beautiful and full of opportunities!
What's the art scene like over there?
During the past 5 years, the art scene has grown a lot. We have really talented illustrators, graphic designers and art directors. We're slowly getting on the worldwide design map and making our own path. We still need more art shows, but day by day we're getting more support from the public - they're accepting new art styles and aesthetics. If you go to a big city like New York or San Francisco, everything seems to be already done. But here, everything seems new and fresh.
What's been your own path been to becoming an artist?
I like to draw since I've memory, so I decided to study graphic design. But everything was commercial-related and it didn't make me really happy. I knew that I had something more to tell, something more personal. So I moved to Barcelona to get my master in Art Direction and that city opened my mind in so many ways. I decided not to get a boring job in graphic design but to be a freelance illustrator. I started to make personal projects and then to upload them to my social networks, and people started to like them. With the passing of time, I started to get commissions from different clients who were asking for my personal style and point of view. The journey started on my birthday, 29 years ago, and I think it will never end.
What was your favorite personal project that people responded to?
My favorite personal project is "Water". It was just really important for me as a person. Every illustration hurts and represents a moment of my life from when I was living in San Francisco. A lot of things were happening - love, relationships and fear of the unknown. It was exhibited in a gallery in Barcelona - which is my favorite city of the world, so it makes it more special.
What was your first big job in the freelance game?
It was a campaign I did for Lola Madrid [a creative agency]. The client was a gym. They needed some big scenarios full of characters. They sent it to Cannes Lions because it ended up being a really good campaign. We didn't win but I learned a lot about illustration and art direction. Specifically, managing a big illustration project - about briefs, restricted color palettes, payments, deadlines and especially communication with my clients.
Your best clients - what do they have in common?
They're great art directors. They give you an awesome brief with all the insights you need so the project is really clear. There's no place for misunderstandings. Also, they let me propose my point of view, which gives me freedom in some aspects.
And now you're an Art Director to your own clothing brand. What's been the biggest challenge for getting Velmost off the ground?
Creating a brand is a really hard and long process. I mean, you can have really cool products, but if you don't have a strong concept behind them, they're just that, products that anyone can sell. So, I spent a lot of months creating the concept behind Velmost. Trying to figure out what I wanted to communicate and what lifestyle I wanted to show. That's a challenge because you have to be really honest with yourself.
Whats the concept behind Velmost?
The brand was inspired by the quote "do what makes you happy". I can't deny the influence of Johnny Cupcakes here. I like to call Velmost my "alter ego" because the line that I use for the illustrations is different than the one I use for my personal work. It's a little bit more mature.
How big is the team now?
We are really small and familiar team. Basically we are three - my dad, my brother and me. I take care of everything related to design, concept and art direction. My dad and brother help me with sales and numbers because I don't really like that part. I want to keep the company small. I think that's part of the magic behind Velmost. It just feels so handcrafted.
Who or what have been your most significant influences?
Talking about artists, I can say that Wes Anderson is my biggest influence. I wish I could make people feel with my illustrations what I feel when I watch a Wes Anderson movie. It's something I can't describe. I'm working on a large artwork as a tribute to Wes Anderson. There are a bunch of other artists that have influenced me like Dali, Trochut, Timothy Goodman, Brock Davis, Leo Espinosa. And talking about places, I'd have to say that the beach is my favorite place to be inspired. Wish I could move to a studio in front of the sea some day.
Any S6 artists you want to give a shout out to?
Any cool opportunities come from your work being on S6?
Yeah! A lot of art directors are constantly looking for talent on S6. So I've received some job opportunities thanks to my store!
Be honest with your work! That's all you need.
Discover more Alejandro Giraldo
All images courtesy of artist.