Teodoro has a bright smile—one that inspires confidence. If walking by his colorful store, Columpio, that same bright smile invites you inside with a gravitational pull. The unique collection—and attentiveness of the charming owner—persuade you in no time to leave the store with a special purchase (or two).
Teodoro Moya, co-founder of Columpio
From Moroccan Bazaars to Flagship Stores
At the end of 2018, Teodoro Moya and Andrea Monroy opened Columpio on a quiet street in Condesa. While small in appearance, the clothing and accessories store is the manifestation of ten years of hard work and extensive travels.
It all started in the duo’s home country of Venezuela. For years, fashion was more of a hobby for the then first-year college students in Caracas. Teodoro was studying law, while Andrea was majoring in administration. Looking to make extra money for traveling, they got creative and started selling handmade bracelets.
“Andre” and “Lolo,” respective nicknames of Andrea and Teodoro. Photo Courtesy of Columpio
“Andrea was the workforce, and I was the salesman,” Teodoro recounted with a grin as he clearly reminisced on old times. Eventually, the two friends made enough money to begin traveling to the United States, where they bought clothes to re-sell in Caracas. The true turning point was a 15-day trip to Morocco in 2008 that paved the way for the future brand.
Teodoro Moya in front of his stores, Columpio and Mooni
In the midst of flowing fabrics and fragrant spices in a Moroccan market, Teodoro and Andrea noticed a pair of men’s high-waisted pants in a variety of neutral colors. They immediately fell in love with the style and wanted to bring it back to Venezuela. Their idea was to reinvent a typical Middle Eastern style by “tropicalizing” it; that is to say, by changing the material and adding bold patterns, such as animal print and flowers, and bright colors.
Once back home in Caracas, the students quickly hired a pattern designer/seamstress. She made 30 of these tropicalized Middle Eastern-style pants, thus (officially) bringing life to Columpio. Whenever possible, Teodoro and Andrea would use the profits from their new products to travel around the world while still keeping up with their studies. Between 2009 and 2014, they traveled to more than 50 countries, from China and Myanmar to Colombia and Brazil. Their collection grew along with their worldly perspective. One piece at a time, the clothes began to reflect these newly encountered cultures and, above all, the people they met along the way.
In 2011, Columpio opened its first boutique in Caracas. Today, it continues to be the brand’s flagship store while also acting as a symbol of resilience considering Venezuela’s delicate economic and political situation. “Our Venezuelan store is extremely important to us. It is a matter of stubbornness, of not wanting to leave the country we love. We want to continue bringing beautiful things to Caracas even amidst the crisis,” Teodoro stated with a tinge of rebellion in his voice.
Bringing Joy to Closets Everywhere
When looking at the bright, colorful pieces, it’s impossible to imagine the creators as anything but happy, and you cannot help but wonder what the inspiration is behind their merchandise.
“Clothes are like a business card. Without saying anything, it is a way to present yourself to the world,” says Teodoro when asked about his philosophy on clothes. The clothes and accessories of Columpio (which means “swing” in English) have always sought to translate joy and lightness in big cities that often choose somber colors.
Apart from their travels around the world, some of the founders’ main influences have been the Caribbean’s joy, colors, textures, and creativity. These are the same influences that they grew up with in Caracas and on the shores of Isla Margarita (a 30-minute flight from Caracas).
“We can only go so far in expressing our vision to the world; afterward, it is up to the customers to decide how they interpret our products. For example, I love that women can fall in love with one of our men’s shirt and men with a woman’s dress, or that just by wearing one of our prints, it can make someone in the street smile,” Teodoro explained.
The store does not only sell original pieces. It also showcases items made by other like-minded artists (such as the beautiful jewelry and handbags), hosts collections from local designers, and constantly collaborates with artists from around the world.
Mexico City, a New Home for Columpio
In 2017, Teodoro and Andrea decided to make Mexico City their home—a decision made after many trips to Mexico and other countries they had considered for a new era of Columpio… and of their lives.
“I find a number of similarities between Caracas and Mexico City. They both are large chaotic cities where you can find striking contrasts. On the same street, you can eat lunch at a Michelin star restaurant or at a street stand—both are delicious,” Teodoro answered when asked about adapting to the city.
When they arrived, the greater part of their year was spent getting to know the market and attending bazaars before opening their store at the end of 2018. “Moving to another country is never easy. You have to start over completely, but Mexico City has been extremely welcoming. The people are warm and helpful on a personal and professional level,” Teodoro recalls fondly.
Beyond feeling comfortable in day-to-day life, the Venezuelan duo spoke of a close-knit community amongst the different concept and design stores in the capital, like Ikal in Polanco and Camino in Roma. The uniting concept has been “shop local,” promoting the purchase of products made in Mexico. “We don’t see each other as competition. We know that each one of us has a place in the market. Everyone is always happy to help,” Teodoro said with a smile.
A Bright Future
In early June 2019, Teodoro and Andrea opened a tiny space called Mooni next door to Columpio. Instead of clothes and accessories, it features design items for the home (think: Columpio Home). But that’s not all. The brand recently started renovating a third space on the same block (opening soon) and will be called Cardón.
Unlike their original brands, Cardón will focus on more somber colored clothes with designs that highlight the silhouette. Lastly, as of last week, Columpio can also be found in San Ángel’s Mercado del Carmen. What was once a tiny store is slowly growing to become a lifestyle.
Teodoro and Andrea are proof that vulnerability and courage are ingredients for healthy, happy businesses. But above all, they are teachers in the power of human connection and where it can lead you if you simply open up, smile, and have a conversation. As Teodoro said, “We are people that love people.”
Photos by Ritta Trejo
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