By Justine Woolcott
Photogaphy by George Pimentel and Anna Fishkin
Joanne Salt discovered her love for fashion design when she moved to Tulum, Mexico, three years ago.
Salt followed the father of her then three-week old son, who owned a restaurant and hotel in the booming luxury-vacation destination. She had left her career as an agent for high-end fashion photographers in New York City in January 2009. Upon her arrival in Mexico, Salt says she was still carrying extra baby weight and mainly wore vintage caftans.
“There’s a big celebrity following in Tulum and many people would ask where I got the dress I was wearing,” she says. “But I was wearing vintage, one-of-a-kind pieces.”
After she realized her caftans could be modernized and made into a profitable business, Salt, along with her business partner Ana Cabello, started JOSA Tulum in mid-2009. The duo chose their favourite vintage styles and set about modifying and tweaking them to make them more modern and sexy.
JOSA’s caftans are the ideal blend of chic and simplicity – a dress that can be worn to the beach by day and to a five-star restaurant by night. It is in this blend of function and design where Salt’s background in photography is noticeable: it has an obvious feel of bohemian chic streetwear, something the designer loved seeing on make-up artists and stylists she saw on shoots in New York.
However, JOSA Tulum isn’t run as a “regular” design house: there are no new collections every season, just new prints and solids introduced. The company’s core product is centred around eight designs, and the occasional new design that is added when Salt deems it necessary.
“We’re like a Gap T-shirt. Five years down the road, you will still be able to buy the plain white T-shirt at the Gap,” says Salt.
It is this concept of longevity and brand recognition that has guided the company to the major successes it has achieved in the three short years since its inception.
JOSA Tulum can now be found in over 90 stores across the United States, from Florida to Los Angeles, and is sold on major shopping websites like ShopBop and Intermix.
Salt adds that she and Cabello have been focusing on the wholesale part of their business since January 2010, when the first big orders came in. Currently, the company is so busy that Salt doesn’t even have time to update the brand’s website.
“We’re so focused on getting the product out; the days or weeks it would take to do a full update are just not a possibility for us,” she says.
Despite the demand, Salt can’t help but plan even more for the company. In the future, she hopes JOSA can become more of a lifestyle brand, much like Calypso St. Barth: a company which also began with modest swimwear and has now bloomed into a brand with clothing, accessories and home options.
“It would be amazing, especially coming from Mexico, because there’s so many artisans here and amazing craftsmanship, so we can do something in that genre.”