Latin Fashion Professionals Speak on What’s Now and Next When it Comes to Representation in the Industry

·5 min read

Whether it’s Latin Heritage Month or any other time throughout the year, Latin designers and fashion creatives are working to open doors for the next crop of creatives with ties to the region.

This time, three of those creatives are doing that with an “Into the Industry Workshop” in New York City for students from Mexico’s Istituto di Moda Burgo. Hosted by designer Nadia Manjarrez of her namesake bridal label, celebrity and editorial makeup artist Mayela Vazquez, and fashion photographer Raul Tovar, the three-day workshop running from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 aims to give the incoming an inside look at the industry.

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“I am extremely excited to be doing this workshop for many reasons,” Vazquez said. “All of my partners are 100 percent Mexican, we moved to New York more than 10 years ago all in a similar situation: no jobs, no connections, no idea on how to get into the industry. We started this project a few years ago with the goal of giving advice to our community and to everyone who wants to make it in this industry. To answer all the questions that nobody answers and the things that no one told us when we started. We want to open doors and help them understand how they can achieve their dream job, whether it is in fashion or beauty.

“Another thing that gets me excited is to see how companies and brands like Make Up For Ever, Chanel Beauty, Caudalié, Bobbi Brown, Ceremonia and Benefit are starting to support our project more and more because they care about the Latin market,” she added.

Day one of the workshop will see Manjarrez share all about fashion design and participate in a Q&A session. Then, participating students will take a field trip to the New York Embroidery Studio for some hands-on experience. On day two, Vazquez will guide an interactive learning experience at the Make Up For Ever studio and Atelier Beauté Chanel. Day three will see students participate in a campaign shoot for Nadia Manjarrez Studio Bridal, with learnings led by Tovar. Participation in the workshop costs a somewhat steep $1,450, though there was an option to pay in installments for students who registered early enough.

“My favorite day is always the photoshoot that we do together. I love seeing their eyes when they see the results on the screen and the ideas that we worked on during the weekend become a reality,” said Tovar, whose work has appeared in Vogue Mexico & Latin America, Harper’s Bazaar and L’Officiel. “I personally enjoy answering all their great questions without filters and sharing as much as I can from this industry that can feel very intimidating when you are on the other side.”

That intimidation is something the trio is working to rule out and something Tovar experienced firsthand at his start.

“I once read somewhere an analogy saying that the fashion industry is a table with a few seats for the same people to get the best meals (jobs) and that everyone else will pick up the leftovers from the floor… As cruel as that sounds, that’s how I felt when I moved to New York City 11 years ago,” he said. “Up to January of 2018 the most coveted fashion magazines covers and ad campaigns were photographed by the same circle of top photographers. The social changes of 2020 brought so many opportunities for up-and-coming photographers with different points of view and perspectives in fashion. As a photographer myself, I love to see different kinds of images and stories told by people who perhaps have different sources of inspiration than I do.”

Now, it’s about continuing to open those opportunities to a more representative cohort of creatives.

“I think success is a combination of talent and opportunity (and unfortunately also a bit of luck) so I love when I see some of my Latin peers booking big jobs that years ago seemed impossible to get or that belonged only to the same group of people,” Tovar said.

Little by little, Manjarrez believes representation is improving for Latin fashion designers.

“I would love to see more, but I do think now more than ever, there’s a push toward more representation and diversity in every facet of the industry,” she said. “I think it is our duty as Latinos to continue to help create even more opportunities and cultivate, mentor and uplift the next generation.”

As a member of that next generation, and one student who will attend next week’s workshop, Matilde Rojo said the opportunity means a lot to her.

“There is not much you can actually read or listen to about how the fashion industry works in the real world so I’m excited to get to know the panelists and listen to their stories and how they got to where they are now,” said the young designer, who ultimately wants to create her own brand.

But the bigger picture extends even beyond her brand, to representation more broadly.

“It’s important to make consumers feel seen and heard, we want to spend money and support brands that are inclusive not exclusive,” Rojo said. “Everyone wants to feel that they belong and the fashion industry can do that by supporting models of all sizes and colors, photographers of different backgrounds and showcasing covers with talent that people can relate to.”

To Vazquez, things are already moving in the right direction.

“I definitely see an evolution from when I started over 15 years ago. Now there are more campaigns, editorials and runway shows where I’ve been working with Latin faces. Fashion and beauty brands have been slowly diversifying and have become more forward-thinking by opening new doors to Latinx talent, showing that they are interested in ‘everyone’ and not just one type of face or body shape,” she said.

“There has been a big impact with social media, everyone has a voice now and Latinos have been asking to be heard, to be seen, to have a chance in this country and this industry in particular,” Vazquez continued. “Nowadays, some of the most influential magazines, companies and brands have Latinos behind them, so they have a major responsibility to break those boundaries and make it happen.”

This workshop is the eighth of its kind Manjarrez, Vazquez and Tovar have hosted together. Another is slated for May 2023.

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