Two things have become increasingly clear when it comes to shopping: consumers buy stories with a product side, and they want things they’ve never had before.
Latin America offers both.
At the Latin American Fashion Summit, which took place IRL in Miami this week after a two-year hiatus from COVID-19, the message was not just that the LATAM region has more to offer than the global industry no one has acknowledged this – but that it too has a new and growing digital consumer base that the global fashion industry would do well to pay more attention to.
During a Monday session (the talks were also available live), Massimo Casagrande, Dean of Fashion at Istituto Marangoni Miami, gave some numbers to back up that claim.
“In 2021, by the end of the first quarter, we had seen 50 million e-commerce customers emerging in the Latin American market,” he said.
Quarantines have created a need to go online for goods, which has forced a level of comfort that was not common in the region before. “If you think back to two years ago not many people actually wanted to shop online, mobile phones were becoming a lot more important, but people still didn’t trust what was happening with digital. But they have overcome those fears and they’ve actually learned to trust what’s going on,” Casagrande said.
It is a digital revolution that is happening in the region generally understood to include South and Central America, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
“LATAM is becoming…this geographic area to watch because of this whole digital renaissance,” Casagrande said. “In two years, they have really become a point of attention to watch.”
This Latin American Fashion Summit, or LAFS, marks the program’s first in the United States, highlighting the need for more US attention to the region.
“We really wanted to create that opportunity and visibility for all Latinos living in the United States. For us, it’s really important – Miami because, first of all, it’s like a melting pot of Latin culture in the United States, but also because it marks an exciting phase inside the Summit of the Latin American fashion and is producing the event for the first time within US territory,” said Samantha Tams, co-founder of LAFS and digital networking platform Tribu. “I think the Latin American fashion industry has evolved enormously, thanks to success stories like Johanna Ortiz, Esteban Cortázar, who were pioneers in the industry and paved the way for the rest of the creatives.
“It’s definitely created a movement within the industry, and all eyes are on Latin America,” she said.
Ortiz recounted her achievement at a talk on Tuesday alongside Lauren Santo Domingo, co-founder and chief brand officer of Moda Operandi, whom she credits with being central to her rise. The luxury fashion retailer provided Colombian-born Ortiz’s first foray into the US market.
“The success of what Johanna has created and the support Moda has given to all of you creative people has changed the entire Latin American industry ecosystem,” said LAFS and Tribu co-founder Estefania Lacayo. opening the discussion.
Since launching what became a popular brand around the world in 2003, Ortiz is now a vertically integrated brand produced in Colombia (although knitwear goes through Peru and leather from Argentina) with 380 employees, including 80 % are women. One of the brand’s best-selling styles, the Tulum top (one of Santo Domingo’s top picks for success), now sells nearly 50,000 pieces a year.
Her true-to-life point of view, “comfortable barefoot glamour”, “party in all dresses” and her devotion to her homeland and the story she can tell, in the words of Saint -Domingue, were key to Ortiz’s success.
“My culture is what surrounds me, really keeps me grounded while I design,” Ortiz said. “When Latin American designers started looking to their roots instead of looking to American fashion or European fashion, that’s when you…really offer something that comes from the heart.”
As LATAM designers look more to their roots, LAFS’ goal is to help them find the right support for that – and push for greater inclusion, greater acceptance that high fashion isn’t just about in Europe and the United States, will be a key element in the company.
“Discussing a more inclusive fashion industry – that’s been part of our core mission since we created the platform,” Tams said. “We wanted to make sure that we were all represented as a region, and that we were all collaborating with each other, and that we were all creating opportunities for each other.”
It’s one of the reasons multi-hyphenate Pharrell Williams closed the summit sessions on Tuesday, discussing Black Ambition, a project he co-founded to provide funding for “bold ideas and businesses run by black and Latino entrepreneurs”.
“There’s a lot of synergy between our Latin American fashion summit and Black Ambition…we’re looking for representation from our communities,” Tams said. “I think it’s about leaders and communities finding ways to give back and creating platforms to support different minority groups that they care about, and finding ways to create infrastructure for them as well. so that it is less a handout and more an entire community of support.”
In Williams’ words, that support feels like greater ownership.
“There was just a moment when I kind of realized that we don’t have enough voices in this country and that’s because there aren’t enough businesses and corporations and even small businesses that we own, there just aren’t enough of them,” the rapper, producer, songwriter, and entrepreneur said of the Black Ambition momentum. “When you own, you start having a voice.”
Achieving this ownership for Black Ambition feels like breaking down systemic barriers that have long posed obstacles for Black and Latino entrepreneurs.
“For us, with Black Ambition, it’s as much the ambition part as the black part. And when you talk about ambition, that’s permission to dream, to be able to build your business where nothing stands in your way,” said Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, who also spoke on the panel. Hatcher is an author (“Start Your Business on a Ramen Noodle Budget,” one of her books), an Honored White House Change Champion, and an NBC Universal Tech Impact Star, to name a few. “What we know to be true is that Black and Latinx start-up founders experience a number of things that are just BS that get in the way – from racism to systemic issues to redlining in their communities. , lack of funding and lack of strong networks. . And if we can create a path where all of these things go away or we can push them away, we know that these entrepreneurs are creating amazing businesses.
A motivational speaker who has been called in to speak to companies like Google, Spotify and Doordash, Hatcher left the LAFS audience with this: “There is such collective power and richness and community in this room, but we too, as a people, must do better. because it’s not just about getting your piece of the cake — we shouldn’t eat cake, that’s what my mentor told me.
“The cake is not big enough. What we have to do is eat from the garden, because when you eat fruit from the garden, that fruit contains seeds. And when you eat from the garden, your consumption actually produces more. And so, it is not enough to eat pâté, we eat from the garden. So let’s create more gardens.