LAFS: Highlighting women in fashion

Latin American Fashion Summit (LAFS)

From November 11 through 15, 2019 took place the event “Latin American Fashion Summit (LAFS)” in Cartagena, Colombia. LAFS is a yearly conference of retail that gives real opportunities to grow their businesses to all entrepreneurs, designers, stylists, editors, students, top executives in the retail industry in Latin America and the Hispanics living in the USA.

Although the aim of LAFS is to reunite all Latin America community of fashion, the founders of LAFS, Estefania Lacayo and Samantha Tams support strongly women´s empowerment.

This statement comes after reviewing the entire program, first, there was a panel called “A Family Affair with Silvia Tcherassi” – Designer and Entrepreneur and Mauricio Espinosa Tcherassi – Business Developer at Silvia Tcherassi. She is a renowned fashion designer and Colombian businesswoman. Silvia shared with the audience some of her secrets, as she always has designed based on women´s concerns, she confessed that she lost respect for fabrics, she experiments with them. After September 11th, she noticed people didn’t buy in her store in Miami, so she did something to survive and she designed a new line of bridal, which was a big success, she hired the best consultants from NY to start selling in department stores. Silvia gave some tips: reinvent in each collection, make your collections global, make your employees feel like part of your family.

Also, there was a Networking Lunch with influential female leaders, the Moderator in charge: Camila Straschnoy – Trend researcher, writer, and strategist, the participants: Kelly Talamas – Creative director and consultant, Jenny Lopez – Model, blogger, and entrepreneur and Atenas Hernández – Author, entrepreneur. The panelists told the attendees that they shouldn’t be afraid to contact influencers, social media has made easy this task. It is important to look for influencers with a similar DNA of the brand. They were clear about the expectations when a brand reaches them, if they send a gift, brands shouldn’t expect they wear it or post it immediately. It is better you allow the influencers to pick what they like and have an international shipping service. Brands must update their Instagram accounts with quality content. A good idea when you work with them is, don’t limit their creativity.

In the same line of highlighting women in fashion, there was an intimate conversation with Ana Khouri on the journey of her career from sculptor to jewelry designer, Anna is a New York City-based fine jewelry designer with a background in sculpture and fine arts. She questioned the audience: “What´s important to you as a designer? Keep it in mind and don”t try to please anyone”. She suggested creating pieces with your identity, she also remarked about the importance of being sustainable and educate the clients. Anna mentioned that designers must work hard, be loyal to their brands and then, the right people will come to help them to move further. The key to her success is: Good quality, materials, DNA, craft, focus on your essence, innovate, do something well done, use social media, connect with your clients, make partnerships, collaborations with people who understand your worth.

LAFS partnered with global brands to offer new and exciting experiences for the participants as the case of the brand Michael Kors, which presented a powerful lunch, a conversation between Leonora Jiménez, Director and CEO of Blank, one of the most important platforms for the promotion of Latin American fashion, and Camila Straschnoy, trend researcher, writer, and strategist. A talk on how to maximize your resources, develop projects with a global impact, articulate key alliances for the development of the textile industry and the challenges of emerging countries in fashion.

The working lunch was an inspiring experience for all women who were there listening carefully to Leonora, a model, and strategist entrepreneur. She talked about how we need to identify the reality and then ask ourselves: How do I compete with it? She exemplified that when she created Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Costa Rica, she had to found a media outlet to get exposure to the event. She confessed that the opportunities don’t come easily, we must create them. Leonora said that discouragement is part of what we live in the fashion industry, but we need to shield our projects, to know what’s your aim and stick to it, this will give you the strength to fight with the external aspects.

The director of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Costa Rica recommends we let get help from the people that understand our vision because problems are always there. When everything is wrong, but you have a clear purpose, there will be always light for you, never give up. She recognized Michael Kors’ compromise whose purpose goes beyond the commercial. Leonora is an ambassador of MK and is a woman whose story inspires.

At the end of the last day of the event, three panels were starred by women, in Conversation with Johanna Ortiz, The road to success with Johanna Ortiz and the talented team behind one of the most successful fashion brands in the world. Johanna Ortiz is the first Latin American designer to collaborate with H&M.

Also, another great panel was Fashion for Good: In conversation with Beamina, a mother-daughter duo, Beatriz Martinez and eleven-year-old Paulina Anchia represent a powerful new generation creating change, their brand Beamina and their commitment to help victims of the Puerto Rico hurricane and create awareness of human trafficking.

Finally, the most desired conversation with Carolina Herrera and Carmen Busquets came, an inspiring conversation between two legendary Venezuelan pioneers in the fashion industry.

Carolina mentioned she didn’t get retired until she found the right person that stuck to the DNA of the brand, this person was Wes Gordon, which shares the same fashion concept than hers, because for Herrera “fashion is to please your eye”. Carolina disagrees with the idea of “I will dress like crazy because it is on vogue” if it doesn't fit you, don’t wear it. Designers must look for beauty.

Carmen Busquets mentioned that some designers can have a budget for great fashion shows, but there are others cannot afford it, so Herrera pointed out “it doesn’t matter, because if the designer has a fantastic product and has a divine collection and if the designer knows exactly what he/she is doing, doesn’t have to have the fashion shows to sell, some of these events don’t generate sales”. Herrera suggested that designers must have their own style, don´t have to follow the trends because when you follow the trends, they look like uniforms and women don’t like to wear uniforms unless they go to the army.

Carmen Busquets emphasized that any designer should give their work (designs) people must pay for the outfits, also designers should not feel offended when they are told a dressmaker, instead maybe they can use the term in French couturier.

The legendary designer was very critical about the influencers, she said “the influencers have no style because they put on what brands give them, they are of the style of money”.

In this edition, LAFS showed many stories of successful and powerful women in fashion, life stories that will surely mark the lives of the attendees and that will push them to fulfill their dreams and be like the panelists of this wonderful event.