MEXICO CITY — Latin American designers are aiming to capitalize on growing sales in their domestic markets as they seek investors to help them expand internationally.
Colombia’s Andrés Pajón just garnered $600,000 to grow in Mexico and the U.S., the designer’s marketing director revealed, while Mexican designer duo Trista is on the brink of attracting investment of up to $500,000 to take its fusion of Mexican and Japanese design to Asia, the U.S. and French luxury resorts.
Emerging Colombian designer Jorge Duque, who won Who’s Next Latin America in 2011, is also in final negotiations to raise up to $1 million from a Panamanian financier, while Brazil’s Patricia Bonaldi and Vitorino Campos are raising the flag for Latin America’s largest economy. Meanwhile, in Argentina, designer Juan Hernandez is gaining attention, while Nicaragua’s Shantall Lacayo is working to tap the U.S. and Europe.
These new designers, whose collections retail for $500 to $3,000 on average, are the most talented, have the strongest commercial prospects and have or could feasibly obtain short-term funding to build a significant presence abroad, fashion experts said.
Trista is said to be in “advanced negotiations” to procure up to $500,000 from a large Mexican textile group, the name of which was not revealed. If it happens, Trista would become Mexico’s second emerging label to woo a significant sum after women’s label Lorena Saravia attracted $2 million in seed funding last year to roll out 200 retail doors by 2017.
“They are doing very well, especially with their new men’s line to Japan,” said Mexican fashion expert Anna Fusoni of Trista. “I think they are the most interesting and commercially visible brand in the horizon.”
Trista’s Giovanni Estrada and Jose Alfredo Silva “cut fabrics in edgy yet elegant ways,” said Fusoni, who also heads Mexico’s largest designer incubator program. “It sells well. It’s made for a modern, contemporary woman who has a high budget and likes things a little bit off.”
Trista Homme fuses Mexican and Japanese design and features high-volume silhouettes covered with bastings and bindings and featuring luxury fabrics, which Fusoni believes will strike a chord in Japan.
“We like to reinterpret textiles,” Silva said, adding that the duo’s fall collection features a “baseball shirt” and bomber jacket elaborately weaving double twill with tartan and mohair wool, as well as silk faille with French cotton tapestry, lace and embroidery, respectively. It retails for $2,000.
Trista is targeting 50 retail stockists by 2018 with plans to enter Japan, South Korea, France and the U.S. over the next 12 to 18 months. Pop-up stores are also earmarked for U.S., French and Brazilian beach resorts.
Francisco Cancino of the Yakampot brand, who won Mexico’s Who’s on Next contest last year, is also gaining customers with his hand-crafted women’s line. Cancino has access to funding from Concha Orvananos, owner of children’s line Arroz Con Leche (“Rice Milk”) and heir to the fortune behind Mexico’s leading homebuilder Casas Geo.
Marie Claire Mexico editor Ariadne Grant said designer Benito Santos, a favorite of Mexican First Lady Angélica Rivera, is also notable, while leathergoods and ready-to-wear creators Jose Sanchez and Kris Goyri could make a name in global markets.
But like many in local circles, she is enamored with Jorge Duque. “He is extremely talented and has the ‘wow’ factor, probably more than any other Latin American designer,” Grant said. “With a good investment, he could do anything, be anywhere.”
Duque’s use of unconventional and eco-friendly materials (like cork or vinyl leather) sets him apart from rivals, Grant said, adding that he also pushes the envelope on color. “He’ll come out with a bright orange [item] or a golden biker jacket you’d think wouldn’t match anything but suddenly it does,” Grant noted.
Duque expects to close funding negotiations in November to open five regional stand-alone stores and enter the U.S. market through wholesale doors in the medium term to long-term. He is in talks with Intermix and Moda Operandi about taking his clothes to New York, he said.
Dressing the likes of Paris Hilton and Shakira, he sells in Bogota and Paris.
Pajón is also generating buzz after recently receiving $600,000 in investment from Colombian entrepreneur Jorge Ivan Sanchez Rocha, whose wife Lucy de Rocha is billed as one of Colombia’s best-dressed women.
Pajón, who won Colombiamoda fashion week’s new talents contest this year, makes high-end rtw inspired “in nature, luxury and glamour,” and retailing from $600 to $3,000, marketing manager Felipe Cartagena said.
According to Cartagena, Pajón intends to operate five doors in the medium term and ring 2016 with four shops in Medellin, Bogota, Cartagena and Barranquilla. Plans are under way to enter Mexico and New York.
“In terms of commercial and expansion capacity, Andres Pajón is our first choice,” said fashion institute Inexmoda’s incubator boss Luz Adriana Naranjo. “They have higher sales than any other designer and the best quality and product curation.”
Down in Brazil, experts said Bonaldi has become the country’s top foreign designer after luxury beach brand Osklen. In 2012, Osklen’s founding designer Oskar Metsavaht sold 30 percent of his firm to textiles giant Alpargatas for $33 million to boost his global reach.
But with an expanding franchise presence in 30 countries, Bonaldi also has the cash to make a significant international foray, experts said. The designer recently set up fashion group PatBo to bring other Brazilian talents Lucas Magalhaes and Apartamento 03 into her stable.
Bonaldi, who has dressed Sharon Stone and Shakira, is famed for making party dresses “like jewelry pieces, extremely well-tailored and highly embroidered,” said Jorge Grimberg, a Brazilian fashion consultant.
He added Campos is also coming to the fore with his lush street and eveningwear, especially tailored to Brazilian women. “He brings a different way to interpret the world yet he does so in a very Brazilian way, with unique materials and pushing the boundaries in length and structure,” Grimberg noted.
Brazilian brand Animale recently endorsed Campos, appointing him in-house designer and giving him an income to continue making his own collections.
Julilana Santos, owner of the Dona Santa boutique in Recife, Brazil, agreed that Campos is a rising star, adding that his clothes are “very stylish, wearable and high quality.” The multibrand boutique has been carrying the designer’s collection since 2013.
Pedro Lorenzo is also worth watching, said Marie Claire Brazil editor Marina Caruso. He makes “very creative and contemporary garments” tailored to Brazilian women, as well as “beautiful” accessories and shoes.
In Buenos Aires, Hernandez is the new fashion export, coming on the heels of established designer Jessica Trosman, who sells in Italy and France. Hernandez also has a wealthy Argentinian backer, whose name could not be learned, sources said.
“He makes accessible luxury for women, all manufactured here but with very good materials and sewing,” said Julieta Spina, content manager of Buenos Aires Fashion Week, adding that the Antwerp-trained designer already has a Paris showroom.
According to Spina, Paula Selby Avellaneda and Dubbie are other Argentinian designers generating attention.
In Central America, Lacayo, who took second place in 2010’s “Project Runway Latin America,” is eyeing doors in Miami, New York and Paris to sell her hand-crafted line inspired by Nicaraguan cultural symbols and folklore.
Despite their enthusiasm, Latin American designers face a major obstacle: access to financing.
“We are in the worst recession in 100 years and fashion will suffer,” Caruto said of troubled Brazil, adding that the government will likely trim budgets this year.