Influenced by heritage that also drives creativity, these designers infuse color, spirit and eclecticism into their creations in their own unique and distinctive ways. Cultural, and oftentimes artisanal, practices from the countries in which they are based put forth varying aesthetics with broad appeal, collectively reaffirming the upsides of transcend barriers with fashion and shirking exclusivity.
Here, seven Latinx designers to keep an eye on.
Designer: Mozhdeh Matin
Category: Women’s wear
Background: Matin studied fine arts in Bolivia and fashion design in Lima, Peru, graduating in 2009. She founded Mozh Mozh in 2015 after traveling around Peru for more than 10 years to visit native communities and learn various textile techniques. It’s a women’s wear line that works with artisans to safeguard Peruvian textiles and techniques while emphasizing form and detail in design, using high-quality materials like alpaca, cotton, wool and natural rubber (which are native to Peru). It seeks to innovate with traditional techniques and continue to forge working alliances with artisans of native villages.
Years in business: Five
Price point: Average $300
Stockist: Ron Herman and Isetan in Japan; Nikki Chasin, Doza, Maimoun and Après Boutique in the U.S.; Mr. Larkin in the U.S. and Denmark; Liberty London; Proyecto Republica and Marchanta, Oaxaca in Mexico; Panorama in Argentina; among other boutiques globally.
Describe your aesthetic: Futuristic, colorful and handcrafted.
How heritage informs and influences that aesthetic: I always believe I’m lucky to have two heritages, one Iranian, one Peruvian. After the revolution in Iran, my parents moved to the Peruvian Andes where I was born. We lived in a native community with beautiful weavers around us and we were also wearing traditional clothing.…This experience has marked who I am today and how do I approach my work and aesthetics with the communities and in the fashion industry.
Key pieces for spring: Knitted tops, miniskirts and fresh dresses.
Unique challenges faced due to ethnicity: More than race maybe I can say from culture, from being born in a Latin American country. I think it’s very challenging to be part of a fashion world when you come from a foreign country, probably double the effort to be accepted in the industry as you don’t have any background or community to support you.
Goal: To be an agent of change and to keep preserving techniques in native communities through our brand.
Cause for hope: The idea of change, of consciousness. That we are builders of a society.
Designer: Lucia Echavarria
Background: The Colombian designer, based in New York has a penchant for costume, cultural handicrafts, and aesthetic objects; Lucia launched the Magnetic Midnight accessories brand in 2015 after completing a degree in Comparative Literature and Art History and working at various Art institutions.
Years in business: Five
Price point: $200 to $1,250
Stockists: Matches Fashion, FashionKind, Over the Moon, Happy Isles in Los Angeles, Casa Chiqui in Cartagena and Bodega Mate in Lima.
Describe your aesthetic: Fanciful, unusual and elaborate.
How heritage informs and influences that aesthetic: The brand’s aesthetic is very much informed by the materials and traditional crafts found in Colombia. The design always comes from a respect for the craft, and a desire to preserve its essence, while pushing boundaries to explore material and technical possibilities by combining crafts in ways such as dipping woven palm leaf in gold, or mixing traditional Wayuu pom-poms with velvet and mirrors. I think Colombia’s’ love for celebrations and festivities is also very much at the core of the brand’s aesthetic.
Designer: Pablo León
Background: León was born in Michoacán, Mexico, raised in California’s Central Valley. As a child, he said he was told he was named after San Pablo, or Saint Paul, but always felt a deeper connection with another Pablo – Picasso. That informs part of who he is today. León studied fashion design before dropping out and working for Los Angeles-based designer Cynthia Vincent, and then relocating to New York for an opportunity with 3.1 Phillip Lim, and later Carlos Campos New York. HIM NYC was born during this time, as León said he felt a need to express a queer and brown identity in a climate focused on its erasure.
Years in business: Launched in 2017.
Price point: Starting from $16 for face masks, to $800 for suiting and outerwear.
Stockists: Available on the brand’s e-commerce site see-him.com or via Instagram @him.nyc.
Describe your aesthetic: The aesthetic of the brand is feelings. Can you tell I’m a Cancer? The way I’m feeling informs the aesthetic direction, namely those that arise from nostalgia, love, family, heritage, sex, queerness. The Idea and feeling of being “illegal” in more ways than one. Him NYC characterizes the disruption of classic tailoring, ideals of masculinity and machismo, creating an aesthetic that is both romantically minimal and eclectic.
How your heritage informs and influences that aesthetic: My Mexican heritage is one of the key influences for the brand and its aesthetic. As a child I despised the charro, or vaquero look, it felt oppressive. Now I take it and play with it, feminize it, “queer” it, as Fassbinder with light in Querelle, or Fabian Chairez with Emiliano Zapata and La Revolución. Why not?
The first collection took this idea with another hyper-masculine chicano figure, el cholo; upcycled denim, classic charro boots, a fetish-adjacent top made of deadstock neoprene, and of course a handkerchief or bandana, a nod to both cholo culture and gay hanky-code.
Key pieces for spring 2021: Spring 2021 is in development and will focus on Fassbinder and Chairez’s idea of “queering” masculinity and hegemony of heterosexuality. Another key for spring, perseverance and resistance.
Unique challenges you’ve faced due to ethnicity: Coming to New York from Los Angeles, there was a huge shift in the people around me. In Los Angeles, Mexicans make up the majority of the Latino representation. In New York, there was very little Mexican representation in the population, and even less within fashion. That feeling of being “alone,” coupled with Trump’s defamation of Mexicans at the launch of his presidential campaign, brought out a feeling of needing to represent Mexicanismo, to wear it proudly. Latinos, along with most people of color, are often overlooked for certain positions and have limited opportunities. I can recall an instance when several interns were being considered for a position with a very well known and established house in New York. There were several talented candidates, but in the end, the position was given to the tall, handsome, less talented, white male. I saw clearly in that moment, the hurdles that were before me.
Goal: In the beginning, my goal was to feel included and a part of an industry that in its essence can be about exclusivity and the denial of entry to those it may consider an “other.” Now, my goal is to be true to myself in every aspect. Being able to continue doing that is what I consider success. On a larger scale, I believe it should be our collective goal to help create a more equitable and inclusive fashion industry and society, where we no longer have to highlight any one group of people, because we will all be living and thriving in the light.
Cause for hope: People make me feel hopeful. It’s when I see people like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Long Beach, Calif.’s first openly gay Latino mayor Robert Garcia, friend and mentor Carlos Campos who continues to be an inspiration for young aspiring Latinx designers, especially those of his native Honduras, and every single person protesting racial inequality, that I feel hope. If there is one good thing that has become very apparent to me through all we’ve been through this year, it’s the resilience, power and beauty we all hold, especially when we come together.
Designer: Roberto Sánchez
Background: Sánchez was born and raised in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. He studied communication focused on graphic design and said he couldn’t study fashion design because the career opportunities in Cuernavaca would be limited. Sánchez said he learned about fashion design and construction from a young age, as his mother gave him a sewing machine, which he used to learn how to sew fabric. From there, he started making clothing and dresses for his friends, which remains one of the main inspirations in his creative processes.
Years in business: 13
Price point: $50 (T-shirts) to $250 (tops, bottoms and dresses).
Stockists: In his store in Hibye in Mexico City, previously stocked at Opening Ceremony.
Describe your aesthetic: Divertida (fun), sarcástica (sarcastic), global, sexy.
How heritage informs and influences that aesthetic: I think that being influenced by Mexican food and culture, clothes always have flavor. I like to play with classic silhouettes and reinterpret them, put them back together and intervene. I think my clothes are for all body types, you have to understand that my pieces are for fun! I usually make one-of-a-kind pieces, I like that the piece finds who is going to give it life. For me it is like the cinema when the audio is mixed with images and there is a third meaning.
Key pieces for spring 2021: Patches made by scraps from past collections, maxi skirts, check dress and the mixes with lace.
Unique challenges you feel you’ve faced due to your ethnicity: Twelve years ago when I started my brand and went to New York, fashion people couldn’t believe I was Mexican. I think Susie Bubble [British journalist] was one of the most important people in my career, she helped me a lot, and also Humberto Leon [American fashion designer].
Goal: I currently have a corporate job as a creative director in a Mexican retail company that I really like but in the future I would like to be able to live only from my creative project.
Cause for hope: [To] communicate with the people I love, dream and eat well.
Designer: Danielle Corona
Background: Cuban, born in Miami, living and working in Bogotá, Colombia with family.
Years in business: 12
Price point: $300 to $1,800
Stockists: Net-a-porter, Matches Fashion, Moda Operandi, Neiman Marcus, MyTheresa, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Farfetch.
Describe your aesthetic: Sharp simplicity; modern interpretations of fine, traditional workmanship. Understated and elegant, each style exudes a timeless sensibility that will complement any wardrobe. In an industry guided by seasons, we embrace a different sense of time: one shaped by the experiences and adventures of the women who carry our collection. We believe that your favorite pieces should move fluidly with you throughout your life, and we craft each style with that sentiment in mind. Investing in enduring pieces will finish your wardrobe with styles that speak to you on a personal level — ones that become beloved artifacts, and when filled with memories, will feel one-of-a-kind. But for us, this less approach to design is also essential to sustainability. We believe that reimagining the way we impact others will allow us to redefine our impact on the planet.
How heritage informs and influences that aesthetic: I feel especially proud and inspired to work with Latin artisans; sadly I do not have this opportunity in Cuba, where both my parents are from but I have found it in Bogotá, Colombia, which is home to our design studio and the site of our collaboration with these local artisans, whose rich heritage of woven techniques has been passed down through generations. Each collection is created with carefully sourced materials. By working directly with artisans and craftsmen in family-owned businesses in Latin America we’re able to invest in the livelihood of these individuals and their vibrant communities across the globe. From thoughtful designs to a conscious effort to contribute to the well-being of others, we’re weaving an ethical responsibility through everything we do.
Designers: Cristina Paloma Nelson and Megan Papay
Background: Cristina Paloma Nelson is from El Salvador and her family has been making shoes there for nearly 70 years. Her grandfather started a factory to provide shoes to the local market and her father started another factory on the same campus in the Seventies that specializes in hand-sewn moccasins. The brand’s slippers (the James) and moccasin collection (the Juana and Tash) are produced in Paloma’s family factory.
Years in business: Eight
Price point: $295 to $595
Stockists: Mainly direct-to-consumer; Nordstrom and Shopbop.
Describe the aesthetic: Modernized classics. Redefining feminine. Our products empower non-stop women by offering pound-the-pavement utility.
How does your heritage inform or influence your aesthetic? (Paloma) I grew up in the factories in El Salvador. I would go to work with my dad and grab highlighters and paper to sketch my collection. I was always drawn to the hand-sewn loafers and boots because I love their utilitarian function. Freda is about pound-the-pavement wearability so the shoes that were being made in my family’s factory always inspired me. For example, the classic penny loafer, our factory has been making them for decades. For Freda, we took the lines and function of this style and deconstructed it. We now have the Tash, which is a penny loafer d’Orsay with hand-notched welt and the Juana, which is a slingback penny loafer with notched welt and rubber lug. I grew up with these styles, so I’ve loved getting to iterate off of them.
Designer: Monika Silva
Category: Women’s wear
Background: Born and raised in Colombia.
Years in business: Two
Price point: $175 to $817
Stockists: Net-a-porter, Browns, Harvey Nichols, Matches Fashion, Harrods, Selfridges, Bergdorf Goodman, Fwrd, Galeries Lafayette, Intermix, Moda Operandi, Neiman Marcus, Revolve, Shopbop and Ssense.
Describe your aesthetic: The design canvas is clean, minimal and bold. We showcase striking lines, unexpected proportions and pops of color. The brand is about disruption — futurisms and retroisms, reimagining timeless classics.
How heritage informs and influences that aesthetic: There is an inherent joie de vivre in Latin culture and it clearly translates into our designs in a subdued way: pops of color, an unexpected neckline, a general fun vibe to the brand.
Key pieces for spring: It’s hard to pick, but a couple standouts would be our light knit tops; they are feminine, comfortable and have playful necklines. I would say another key piece would be our lavender and fuchsia silk shirts. You can dress them up or down and they have this throwback feel, they also feature our signature oversize cuffs and Swarovski buttons. They just somehow lighten your mood.
Unique challenges you feel you’ve faced due to your ethnicity: I started Gauge 81 in Europe, and I feel being Latina has helped me stand out and given me a sense of memorability, when meeting people from the industry. Fortunately, in my experience, being Latina/Hispanic hasn’t posed any problems that I think I wouldn’t have faced otherwise in the process of creating, launching and growing a fashion brand.
The main thing you learned designing during the pandemic: I learned that less is more. Had the pandemic not happened, I would have been traveling a lot and spreading myself thin as I had been doing. The pandemic gave our entire team the time to really laser-focus on the new collection, look through every piece with a fine-tooth comb. The lesson being, we need to take the time to carefully and thoughtfully curate a collection that is more profitable (streamlined production) and in tune with the needs of the market, which seems obvious, but can actually be a challenge when you get caught up in the pre-pandemic hustle and bustle.
Goal: One of our key goals is to build a globally recognized brand with a loyal customer base. Parallel to that, I want happy and fulfilled team members that feel they can grow and evolve within the company. Another key goal is to grow the company to a point where it can serve as a platform to ignite change on a social level — for instance, I would love to be in a position to invest in the education of underprivileged youth in Colombia.
Cause for hope: There is a Chinese phrase that goes something like this, “opportunity accompanies crisis.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the sentiment. Big change can only come from big disruption, like a phoenix rising from its ashes. I truly believe that something good will come out of this bleakness and that this, too, shall pass.