LAFS: Pivoting the fashion industry

“Latin American Fashion Summit" (LAFS) in a format 100% digital

From October 19 to 23, 2020 took place the event “Latin American Fashion Summit (LAFS) in a format 100% digital. 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. This year LAFS had as its central theme: PIVOTING & RESILIENCE: BOUNCING BACK STRONGER THAN EVER.

The event had 24 panels, more than 60 speakers, more than 24 hours of content, representation of more than 35 countries, more than 300 people benefited thanks to the support that LAFS gave to Glasswing, an international nonprofit organization. The content of the panels was organized into 9 categories: technology, business strategies, sustainability, and social responsibility, inspirational, inclusivity and diversity, cultural heritage and craftsmanship, investment, digital marketing, and fashion.
During the event, attendees were able to learn about retail trends, technological solutions, and many tools and tips from the world's retail leaders, I will focus on some that I found particularly valuable and useful.

La Polinización Cruzada en la Moda, a talk by Fabián Hirose and Samantha Tams
Fabián Hirose Management Consulting & Latin American Fashion Summit & Tribu. In business (Cross-Pollination) is the process of exposing companies, their leaders, and their employees to new ways of thinking when sharing knowledge. It’s about combining the intellectual capital of people with different ways of thinking to achieve innovative solutions that support the solutions required in the day-to-day of our businesses, it’s about cross-pollination, about building on collective knowledge, to cross geographical and industry boundaries to reinvent and redefine the way it does things. We need to get out of sectoral ostracism. However, to learn from others requires humility. Be willing to accept that there are other companies and sectors that have things to teach us. It is having the will and willingness to learn, something that is not abundant in many organizations that see their way as the only way to do things. Often the corporate ego clouds reason and avoids seeing the obvious. Fabian mentioned the elements of effective pollination in fashion:

  • Humility, we do not know everything
    • Specialization, focus on your niche, if you design handbags, do not make shirts, better make an alliance with someone who makes shirts, specialize in a business category, and make a collaboration
    • Responsibility, you are responsible for making your business work
    • You need to innovate all the time, it’s not just in the product, it is in everything, in the service, in e-commerce, etc.

Another great panel was: Raising Capital, A talk by Andrea Arnau, Shad Azimi, Sarah Kunst, and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson CPT Investments, Vanterra Capital, Cleo Capital & Clerisy. Investors pointed out that entrepreneurs need a unique value proposition and that seekers of investment take investment meetings even if they don’t get funding because it is a learning experience, they get feedback from investors, they must be prepared, be patient, because the investors ask a lot of questions, entrepreneurs have to know what kind of investors you want, because some focus on checking your social media, others in numbers, clarify to them, the roles of your team and explain the investors the culture of your company, you must be coachable, hire smarter people than you, finally, investors concluded saying that use technology, build your network in the place you want to expand, don’t be afraid of pivoting and adapting.

One of the most expected panels was: How to stand out in a saturated market. A talk by Francisco Costa, Johanna Ortiz, Elizabeth Von der Goltz, and Estefania Lacayo Costa Brazil, Johanna Ortiz, Net-a-Porter, and Latin American Fashion Summit & Tribu.  Elizabeth, Net-a-Porter Global Purchasing Director, mentioned some criteria that she and her team seek in new designers: To have a distinct DNA, something new and unique, distinctness, sustainability, and the brand covers a gap in the fashion industry and the esthetics. Francisco shared that for him, the brands need a purpose, to be sustainable, have strong storytelling, create a community of suppliers, communicate and act with transparency, honesty. Johanna remarked that for her, the right fabrics, designs, production, package, sustainability are key, it is important to be prepared and now she designs dress more effortless, comfortable for small gatherings, versatility is a crucial factor.

An interesting panel was: Successful leaders who had to pivot, A talk by Steven Kolb, Eva Hughes, Tom Nastos and Samantha Tams, CFDA, Adira Consulting, Informa PLC & Latin American Fashion Summit & Tribu. The panelists emphasized that fear can be a driven motive, it pushes to move faster and make changes, they suggested entrepreneurs that they require to look for the right technological partner, create a strong offline and online community and they invited designers to challenge their own assumptions and organizations assumptions,  that listen and do their own research, they have to be open to criticism because it is a sign of a good leader. They concluded by inviting the audience to be patients, take advantage of the circumstances, be different, and empower their teams to be flexible and resilient to bounce back quickly.

One conference was about Driving Digital Strategies, powered by Gabriel de la Serna founder of the company OnPost. He talked about the new rules of digital strategy:

  • Redefine your business scope and competitive advantage
  • Turn the rake into a razor (razor and blades)
  • Find new ways to create and capture value
  • Create an active lightweight business model
  • The transition from product to service
  • Build the product as a platform
  • Embrace data to make decisions

Ultimately, another panel was: Direct-to-Consumer for Long Term Success, A talk by Will Forster, Lisa Pomerantz, and Orlando Zambrano Brandog Digital, LFP Collective & Manner Solutions. The panelists asked entrepreneurs to focus on customer experience, focus on commitment with helpfulness, build a network around, and focus on pursuing innovation, adaptation to change. They were vocal about marketers, they should collaborate with data, capture, organize insights, to foster to connect the journey, data drives insights, hire people that are comfortable with data and they suggested to build a scorecard and analyze what metrics are telling you.

Another great panel was: The Intrinsic Value of One of a Kind. A talk by Ramya Giangola, Sally Morrison, Concepción Orvañanos and Jennifer Shanker Gogoluxe, DeBeers Group, Collectiva Concepcion & Muse Showroom. Panelists emphasized what new consumers are seeking: Nature products (raw materials) craftmanship, investing in the best, considered, specially handcrafted, pieces that last forever. They remind us that online shopping, storytelling capacity is limited, there is no experience with the final consumer to offer advice so products should be so impactful that they speak for themselves, Create a lot of content, it means a consumer in touch with the whole story of the brand, the process of the product, etc. Consumer trust you when you are reliable, empathetic, when you show transparency, you communicate with honesty, when you take care of politics, assistance, and customer service, hire proactive salespeople, use this opportunity to get in touch with the consumer in different ways.

I can say my favorite talks were two very intimate conversations with two Colombian fashion designers Juan Carlos Obando and Edgardo Osorio. In the case of Juan Carlos Obando, he participated in a panel by Pilar Castaño, Estefania Lacayo. He is a man who defied the rules of the industry, he designs one collection per year, 20 -24 pieces divided between 12 looks, one look per month, his pieces are made of silk, he was vocal to designers, he pointed out that everything you want you can achieve, you are not defined by a clothes rack, you are a creative person, what vehicles are going to tell and accelerate that narrative.

The other designer was Edgardo Osorio, founder of the brand Aquazzura, interviewed by Karla Martinez de Salas, he explained how he started his career in fashion, he highly recommended to the audience that they have to get experience, work for other people, make connections and contacts before you found your own company in this industry, find a niche in the market, he said that nowadays you don’t need to live in Milan or Paris to get noted because you have social media, he suggested to be nice with everyone, smile, having a wonderful relationship with your suppliers, know what you want, be persistent, never gives up and be grateful.

Estefania Lacayo and Samantha Tams founded LAFS with the mission to empower the fashion industry in Latin America, they showed during the event her new project: Tribu, a global directory for the fashion industry, membership costs 300 USD yearly, it is a networking platform where members are able to send messages directly, to create their profiles, there is a virtual library with all webinars and past LAFS events available, it is also a place to share and exchange ideas and bring business. LAFS is a meeting point to learn, be inspired, network, do business, and build a fashion community in Latin America.