MEXICO CITY — Mexico will strive to add more European and foreign buyers to its semiannual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week as part of efforts to build a stronger global fashion identity.
The event’s director, Beatriz Calles, said the fall edition, to be held at Mexico City’s Campo Marte April 1 to 4, will host four French buyers, the first time the event will have drawn such a significant European component.
Export promotion agency ProMéxico is bringing the French team as part of a campaign to find international buyers keen on Mexican fashion, which Calles helped devise. In the past, ProMéxico had requested the fair submit a list of sought-after buyers in each country, a process that didn’t work well. Calles then asked ProMéxico to be more proactive and instruct its global offices to provide good prospects.
“The first office to raise its hand was Paris and I can’t tell you how delighted we were,” Calles said. “Paris is the capital of fashion and everything happens in France. We hope to learn a lot from them about what Mexico can offer them.”
Calles said MBFWMX will strive to offer buyers a wide selection of top designer brands in different segments. Organizers hope to gradually bring other European customers, notably from Germany, the U.K. and Scandinavia. Japan, where designer Alejandra Quesada has already made a big splash, is also a future target, Calles said.
Most foreign buyers come from the U.S., followed by Latin America. Calles would not give a sales and visitor forecast for the upcoming MBFWMX, but said it will be similar to past editions and involve roughly 33,000 people, 22 runway shows and 30 designers.
She would not give future growth forecasts for the event, for which American Express is a leading sponsor. She stressed that the main goal will be to increase foreign buyers’ attendance while raising local sales.
“In five years, I would like Mexican fashion to be much more international as more countries and consumers get to know our designers and products,” Calles said.
Promoting Mexico, best known as a textiles and basic apparel manufacturer to the U.S., as more of a global fashion purveyor will obviously be a huge challenge. That said, prolific designers such as Julia y Renata, Alejandro Carlin, Alejandra Sanabria and Macario Jiménez have made progress in positioning the country as a maker of more fashionable women’s apparel.
“They are offering a view lens of what Latin women wear at different times of the day and their lives,” Calles said, adding that their clothes have become known for exuding a sense of sensuality.
Mexican designers have become a lot more specialized and efficient in serving different market segments, with Carlin and Sanabria making a name in women’s party dresses and prêt-à-porter, respectively.
Luxury accessories label Pineda Covalin is another success story, one that closely embodies brands’ efforts to reach the international arena. Pineda Covalin is set to open its first U.S. stand-alone store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood this month, bringing its global store count to seven after recently arriving in Panama City and establishing its first Miami shop in 2008.
With 120 doors, the brand markets leather handbags and handcrafted jewelry inspired by Mexican culture and mythical symbols, in addition to upscale unisex apparel. Under a joint venture, it also sells leather purses embellished with Swarovski crystals, with recent additions retailing for up to $750.
While ProMéxico and the government must boost support for young brands, co-owner Cristina Covalin, 41, said brands and designers must strive harder to differentiate and professionalize themselves. “Designers need to become more responsible and better businesspeople,” she said. “More than a designer, I have become a businesswoman, doing everything from accounting to legal work.”
Covalin also recruits talented designers for internships and eventually full-time work, adding that other firms should follow suit to help develop the fashion industry. According to Calles, more designer-manufacturer alliances and a much more unified and efficient supply chain is pivotal at a time when many raw materials required for innovative apparel design are scarce.
Mexico must also crucially move away from “Malinchismo,” a term referring to foreign favoritism and originating from Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés’ Mexican bride La Malinche who helped him colonize Mexico.
“Mexico is 100 percent Malinchista,” Calles said. “Mexicans prefer to buy foreign apparel, even cheap Chinese clothing that may fall apart in their hands.
“They don’t want ‘Made in Mexico.’ This is our biggest challenge.”