iOS app Android app

Jeff Thelen
GET UPDATES FROM Jeff Thelen
 
Jeff Thelen is the Founder of Morton & Bedford (www.mortonbedford.com), a custom menswear business based in Colombia, and is currently living in Medellin. He is originally from Haslett, Michigan and has traveled to over 30 countries. He has lived in New York, Philadelphia, London, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Santiago. Jeff is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained an MBA from the Wharton School and an MA from the School of Arts and Sciences. He is a Fellow of the Lauder Institute and an alumnus of the Spanish program. He also graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Finance.
Follow Jeff: @jeffthelen

Entries by Jeff Thelen

Agua Bendita - Exporting Colombia's Sexiness

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2014 | 6:37 PM


Usually when asked to go shopping with a girlfriend I feel like a guy from the Miserable Men Instagram page, but shopping at Agua Bendita on Via Primavera in Medellín was a different story. Not only was I helping my girlfriend at the time pick out a bikini, but the story behind the brand - briefly but proudly explained by the sales representative - really caught my attention.

As an aspiring fashion entrepreneur myself, I wanted to learn more and contacted the founders to get more details on how Agua Bendita came to be.

Agua Bendita was founded in 2003 by Catalina Alvarez and Mariana Hinestroza while they were studying fashion design at the local Colegiatura Colombiana University. For a class project, they came up with the idea of taking small sample fabrics and sewing them together to make bathing suits.

The idea of designing hand-made swimsuits from sample fabrics caught on. It quickly grew from a university project to the swimsuit brand all of their friends wanted to be wearing on their next trip to popular beach destinations Cartagena or Santa Marta. As demand grew, they reached out to large textile manufactures in Medellín and Bogotá, and asked them for fabric samples, which many of them gave the fledging designers for free.

Several years and a fair degree of domestic success later, Alvarez and Hinestroza decided that they needed to reach customers outside of Colombia and rented a booth at the 2006 Miami Fashion Week. Their booth was tiny and tucked away in a corner of the event. That did not keep an editor of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition from stumbling upon their small collection and loving their swimsuits.

A few months later, SI's Swimsuit Edition featured Marissa Miller and Bar Rafaeli wearing Agua Bendita swimsuits.

Soon thereafter they received hundreds of calls from retailers around the world interested in carrying their brand. As such, the magazine appearance became, in Ms. Alvarez's words, a "doorway to the world" for Agua Bendita.

When describing her and her-co-founder's inspiration for the style embodied by the company's suits, Ms. Alvarez cited the qualities of her fellow countrymen and women - their happiness, extroversion, and diversity, especially in the way they enjoy their country's warmth and natural environment. In a phrase, the founders of Agua Bendita have tried to embody "part of the essence" of their country through their design.

Fast-forward to today. Agua Bendita is sold in over 50 countries around the world, from small boutiques to department stores such as Nieman Marcus. The brand has been represented by global models such as Kendall Jenner, Bar Rafaeli, Irina Shayk and Candice Swanepoel; as well as by Colombian models María Fernanda Yepes and Ana Sofía Henao.

The personality of Colombia has come to grace through the various reflections of its beauty; a place that is sexy in both body and spirit. The country is lucky to have such a (well) fitting representative.

If you're interested in buying an Agua Bendita swimsuit, here's a list to all of stores that carry the brand.

Read Post

Pergamino Café: Forging a Coffee Culture in Medellín

(0) Comments | Posted May 1, 2014 | 4:06 PM

Colombia is one of the largest producers and exporters of coffee in the world, and some may believe its coffee to be among the best and most famous. Since the 1960s, Juan Valdez has been representing Colombian coffee and has made appearances in movies like Bruce Almighty. Coffee...

Read Post

Feria de las Flores - Fun in the Flower Capital of Latin America

(0) Comments | Posted August 28, 2013 | 5:26 PM

Medellín is turning into a tourist hot spot and in my last article I gave some tips on how to spend a long weekend, but if you're trying to decide the best time of year to come to visit, don't miss the Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival)...

Read Post

A Beginner's Guide to Visiting Medellín - How to Spend a Long Weekend

(7) Comments | Posted July 31, 2013 | 7:38 PM

As I've mentioned before, Colombia is bathing in a new wave of media attention that's finally shining a positive light on a country that, according to Time Magazine, went "from nearly failed state to emerging global player - in less than a decade."

To get up to speed...

Read Post

Bogota: Colombia's Capital for Cuisine and Cocktails

(4) Comments | Posted May 6, 2013 | 8:23 PM

2013-05-01-Andres Carne de Res-photo.JPG
Good times at Andres Carne de Res! Photo credit: Michael Thelen


You may have seen one of the Colombian tourism advertisements: "The only risk is wanting to stay." It is cheesy but true, and many Americans, including friends and I,...

Read Post

Looking for Better Career Opportunities? Look South -- Way South

(0) Comments | Posted November 8, 2012 | 1:26 PM

Historically, top business school graduates cashed in on their pricey credentials by accepting lucrative positions with consulting firms or investment banks in New York, London, San Francisco, and other global business hubs.

However, we live in a different world today.

Since the financial crisis in 2008, many MBAs are finding...

Read Post

Looking for Better Career Opportunities? Look South -- Way South

(2) Comments | Posted November 8, 2012 | 1:26 PM

Historically, top business school graduates cashed in on their pricey credentials by accepting lucrative positions with consulting firms or investment banks in New York, London, San Francisco, and other global business hubs.

However, we live in a different world today.

Since the financial crisis in 2008, many MBAs are finding...

Read Post