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What’s it like to be Latin American in fashion?


When Samantha Tams worked as a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue Mexico, she was hounded by Latin American designers desperate to sell in the store. “The product was nice, but most of them didn’t have a structured business model, so I had to turn them down,” she says with regret. “I realized there was a need for education about important strategies to better prepare them for opportunities.”

A few years ahead, Tams teamed up with entrepreneur Estefania Lacayo to launch the Latin American Fashion Summit (LAFS), an annual conference and networking community that aims to bridge the gap between emerging designers and industry leaders and promote Latin American fashion. introduce to the rest of the world on the global stage. “We noticed that there was a lot of undiscovered talent in our community who needed access to resources to grow, and a platform to make their voices heard,” says Lacayo.

What initially started as a 350-person summit in Mexico – promoted solely through Instagram – has since morphed into a multi-platform organization supporting brands, executives, retailers, stylists and diverse fashion insiders year-round, with presence from all over Latin America. American countries and 52 percent of Hispanic people living in the United States. “Our mission to be united is becoming more of a reality every day,” added Lacayo. Here, five designers and recent visitors to this year’s LAFS – from Clarissa Egaña to Alexandre Birman – showcase what it really means to be Latin American in fashion right now.

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Clarissa Egaña, founder of Port de Bras

“Being a Latin American in fashion is a real privilege because we have the ability to bring our vision, tradition and uniqueness to the world and in return bring hope, pride and jobs to our homes. I believe true sustainability comes from breaking away from the traditional way of doing business and focusing more on teaching crafts and seeking genuine sources of artistry, materials and passion. In that way, we are driving change and educating through our work in the pursuit of real positive impact.”

Alexandre Birman, Designer and CEO

“To be Latin American in fashion, I have a responsibility to celebrate and educate our rich cultural influences and the talented artisans that make up who we are. I am honored to represent my Hispanic heritage whenever possible to pave the way for advancement among my colleagues. These roots provide an undeniable energy that is deeply considered when designing our collections. We want women who wear our creations to feel our Brazilian spirit with every step they take. I am proud both personally and professionally that Brazil has a place on the map when it comes to luxury fashion, and I am constantly looking for ways to give designers and artisans the recognition they deserve.”

Carolina Kleinman, founder and creative director of Carolina K

“My heritage is something I carry in my heart as well as in my DNA. I’ve always been proud of my culture and do my best to convey that through my designs – it’s a powerful tool that has allowed me to stay connected to the communities we work with and give them a voice . Working with artisans all over Latin America and getting to know them on a personal level makes you realize how much they spend on their craft. That empowerment and pride they feel in providing support and a better opportunity for their families comes alive in every piece and lives on through generations. That is priceless to me. Authenticity is also very important – first, to help preserve heritage, as many of these techniques are disappearing; and second, respecting the craftsmen’s work and process. Being Latin American in fashion means hope: hope for greater inclusiveness, diversity and community empowerment. It takes much more than a map to understand our history, a map to be celebrated and explored.”

Sofia Tcherassi, clothing director of Silvia Tcherassi

“The Silvia Tcherassi brand was born in Colombia and we are proud that our designs reflect the rich history and culture of Latin America. Sometimes this approach is more obvious, and sometimes it’s more subtle, but it’s always there. The most important thing for us is that our Latin fashion sense translates internationally, makes something locally universal, because for us fashion has no nationality. Our headquarters have been in Miami for years, where the talent and hard work of Latin Americans can be seen on every corner. Today, the city is a cultural capital and a major player in the fashion scene – we are proud to have been a part of it.”

María José, designer of María José jewelry

“My work is best known for emeralds, and I get them straight from mines in Colombia, so everything I make has a bit of the Latin spirit imprinted on it. All my pieces are inspired by the culture and beauty and are a beautiful addition to my design process. I have found an amazing community of creatives, the highest craftsmanship and the most detailed men and women who are taking the industry to the next level.”

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