Colorful nonchalance, refined aesthetics and urban vibes in Panama
Art director and designer, Maristella Gonzalez is the creative mind behind A Constellation Journal. Much more than a fashion blog, ACJ is an aesthetic destination curating a selection of fashion, lifestyle, beauty and travel stories through a unique blend of captivating imagery and carefully crafted editorial content.
Awarded Breakthrough Fashion Blogger of the Year at the 2016 Bloglovin’ x H&M earlier this year in New York, she sits with us talking global exposure, brand positioning and her relationship with colors.Hi Maristella, first of all congrats for your Award, it’s a major milestone for ACJ I guess.
Thank you! Yes, it was surreal to win the award! And it has been so helpful ever since. I love my country but it’s a tiny market. Even though we are in a strategic location within our region, it’s hard for those with a more niche approach to “make it”. Whether we’re talking about a boutique, a restaurant, a magazine or a blog. So the win was important. It has given me more international exposure.
We found out about your media on Instagram quite recently and have been immediately struck by your aesthetics. How would you describe it ?
I’ve gone through several periods with my photographic direction, but I recently redesigned my blog and I feel the new design helped cement my aesthetic further. It helped me see it more clearly. There’s a spontaneous quality I try to always maintain through my photos now, both on the blog and on Instagram. A certain “shoot from the hip” approach. I think Instagram has put so much pressure on everyone to portray this perfect life, and I don’t want to be a part of that anymore. Of course, I am still visually driven—I am a Graphic Designer—but I don’t want my images to be these perfectly framed compositions anymore. I’m trying to be more democratic.
You’ve been mentored by Leandra Médine from Man Repeller during the Bloglovin’ x H&M Awards. What do you retain from this conversation ?
Leandra advised us to go where our readers are. So to explore every possible channel, not just Instagram, but also Snapchat, Podcasts, YouTube, etc. With all the madness that’s going on with the new Instagram algorithm, I keep remembering her words. It’s important to grow your following on as many platforms as you can. I want to make the move to YouTube but I am honestly terrified!What is it like to live in Panama as a breakthrough lifestyle influencer ?
It’s pretty normal, haha! Like I said, it’s a tiny market so there isn’t much room to grow. It’s positive in a way because there aren’t as many lifestyle bloggers here as there are in, say, Mexico or Brazil, so it’s easier to get noticed. But, unless you make the move to television, I feel there is a limit to how much you can do locally as a blogger exclusively.
You were born there. How was it growing up in such a place ?
Growing up there was wonderful. I have a big family, we would always hang out at my grandparent’s house. My parents, grandparents and my sister always fostered my creativity. I think I had a great childhood. I’m also thankful I got to grow up before the digital revolution and play outdoors, climb trees, etc.You define ACJ as a “style blog for the design-oriented”. What’s style to you ?
Style is a language. The words are fashion, but how you put together a sentence. That’s style. It’s a form of communication.
Who are your all-time style icons ?
Jane Birkin, Edie Sedgwick, Katharine Hepburn.Any Panamanian figures we should know of ?
Ana Elena Garuz, Jonathan Harker & Donna Conlon, and—shameless plug—my husband, Jose Castrellón. They are all great artists.Your use of colors and prints in outfits is always very subtle, refined and with a twist. How do you approach it ?
I go through periods with color. Right now I’m very into warm tones but I can feel myself being drawn to green more and more. Darker shades of green. Usually I become obsessed with one color and then explore its relationship towards other colors. Colors take on new meaning if you put them in the context of others.
The only approach I have with prints is that, if I’m mixing two or more, I always try to keep them within the same color scheme. And I like classic prints; stripes, flowers, gingham, polka dots. I have a few things here and there with other kinds of more modern prints, like photographic collages and stuff like that, but those are more impulsive buys, I’ve come to realize. It’s best to keep my prints classic.You also tend to style scarves in the more effortless way. What would you say to those who still consider it an uptight accessory ?
Scarves are never going to be out of style. I’ve become so much more appreciative of a staple now. I think if you are uptight, then you will wear the scarf in an uptight manner. But the simple act of wearing a scarf will not make you uptight. That’s where style comes in. Style is how each individual interprets a piece of fashion. Wearing anything on its own will not make you or not make you something. Of course, there are items of clothing that carry a lot of meaning and weight behind them for one reason or a another. But to me, a scarf is such a graceful item. Even the movements people make when they put one on; it’s like a dance.
Do you have some kind of daily accessory you take everywhere you go no matter how you dress ?
Right now it’s big earrings.Any go-to, uniform outfit ?
Jeans and a button down shirt.When you travel for work, what do you always pack in your suitcase ?
A blanket scarf! Haha it’s the best. It keeps me warm on the plane, it fits in my purse, it makes me look stylish.You’re a graduate from the Savannah College of Art & Design and Pratt Institute. What’s your other activities outside ACJ ?
I am a graphic designer and art director. You can see my work at www.maristellagonzalez.com.
Speaking of which, what would be your main advice for a young Maison as ours ?
Never underestimate the power of branding. I feel graphic design and branding take a back seat many times for entrepreneurs. Invest in good design because it will set you apart from the rest; brand positioning is key.We can't agree more. Indeed our early choice of working with Paris-based creative agency be-pôles totally participates to that branding strategic positioning. They have an office in NYC as well maybe you know them ?
I didn’t! But thank you for sharing, I’ll check out their work. I love your monogram, the typeface you use and the packaging for the scarf. They did an amazing job!
Thank you very much Maristella, it’s been a real pleasure.
Thank you Sylvain! It’s been a pleasure as well :)
Les Belles Heures presents a collection of handcrafted scarves to achieve effortless sophistication on a daily basis as Maristella does in Panama, Miami, New York and wherever she goes.