Cloclo Echavarra, of Colombian descent, and Isabella Behrens, of Venezuelan descent, had impressive resumes before launching S Collective. Echavarra was co-founder of CREO Consulting, a New York-based public relations consultancy specializing in Latin brands. After nearly a decade as a Fashion Editor at Vanity Fair, Behrens joined the CREO team, where she was able to bring her encyclopedic knowledge and experience to the US and international fashion markets. In between, the pair have the expertise to help Latin brands in many different areas. [Our experience at CREO] allowed us to really identify not only where we saw potential to really help Latin talent, but also what our strengths were as a partnership and as a team, says Behrens. Through our previous work together, we were better able to understand exactly what brands needed, what we wanted to do and what we were good at. This inspired Echavarra and Behrens to launch S Collective, a creative consulting firm for the LATAM brands. The well-connected and highly experienced duo function as a bridge helping to bring Latin American design to the rest of the world in a cohesive way. By guiding brands in product creation, brand marketing strategy and positioning, public relations and sales, the founders are able to help transform an idea into a successful and globally recognized brand through their network. of creative people. Below, we spoke to founders Cloclo Echavarra and Isabella Behrens about how S Collective became a leader and cultivator of LATAM fashion.
MM: Talk about the importance of Latin American design. What makes it so unique? Why are global consumers so drawn to it right now?
Although Latin American design is so varied and unique to every brand and designer, a constant across all brands is that our Latin origins, culture, heritage and values are embedded in each of our designs. The stories of our clients and the people we work with are the stories of Latin America and vice versa. Additionally, we believe that there is a common desire within our region to support each other and bring about change. Our brands and customers don’t just want to create beautiful pieces, they want to have a lasting and positive impact on their communities. This can translate into a number of ways: many brands have significant social responsibility programs, for example, and they all have strong ties to the artisans they partner with, who are seen as creatives in their own right. Nurturing the talent of their partner artisans and giving them the tools to work in a safe environment is essential for our brands. In addition, the craft techniques used today by many S brands have been passed down for generations, often from pre-Columbian times, when indigenous societies lived in true dialogue with nature; therefore, the protection of the natural resources of their region is inherent in the way of life of these communities. Besides their enormous cultural importance, these techniques are centered on the use of natural materials (such as iraca and cumare palm leaves, or alpaca wool, to name a few) and a deep respect for the ‘environment. Therefore, the commitment to create ethically and sustainably is also common to our customers. Many of our customers also have a reduced carbon footprint as all of their products are made locally; From start to finish, every process is carried out in the same country. Equally important, we are committed to transparency in the processes of our brands. We believe that sharing the stories behind our products with our consumers is the key not only to the success of our labels, but also to our values. We want to share more than just a product with our end customer; we want to introduce them to the stories and customs of our region and the great people who help turn our creations into reality.
MM: What was missing in the industry that you thought S Collective could solve?
Over the past five years or so, many platforms focused on Latin American talent have sprung up. When we launched S Collective, we already had experience in this niche and we were very lucky to be able to count on our existing clients. We also each had one foot in Latin America and another abroad, which in retrospect really gave us an advantage, because while our knowledge of Latin American talents and culture was essential, it was crucial to to be able to combine this knowledge with our international experience. While these brands are quite diverse and all require personalized and tailor-made services, we see some common denominators among them. Some of these issues include something as simple as creating a commercially viable product or collection or strong, cohesive communication of their brand and story, both visual and written. Another problem with many brands is creating their own unique strategy by looking too outward to see what others are doing rather than seeing that their strength will come from looking inward and creating their own path.
MM: How do you associate with brands? What is your role?
Once a brand asks us for help, we do a full analysis – including their product, history, production capacity, etc. Our work is extremely personalized and practical, and for this reason it is very important that we only take on brands that we believe can stand out from their competitors, not only in a saturated international fashion market, but even among other Latin designers. Showing the diversity of talent coming from our region is so important to us, so it is essential to have designers, brands and talents offering a unique perspective. Once we are able to confirm that aspect of a brand, we then offer them a menu of personalized services based on the needs we identify. This includes everything from branding to sales to design. It’s quite interesting because, on the one hand, we are a consultancy firm for lifestyle, fashion and design brands, but on the other hand, we are also a collective of creatives. We are basically a network of Latin Americans with experience in different areas of industry, from photographers to copywriters, illustrators, models, etc. Therefore, our work can encompass just about any client’s need, with the assurance of quality service through a carefully constructed network of people we know and trust.
MM: Industry insiders know that S Collective is responsible for the global success of brands like Agua by Agua Bendita and Escvdo. Explain how your partnership with these two brands came to be and how these collaborations evolved?
Before founding S Collective, we had experimented with creative services in a more relaxed way, [Colombian brand] Agua by Agua Bendita was our first official customer for the creation. In 2018, a few years after their initial approach, they reached out to us a second time wanting to work with us. They had their main line, Agua Bendita, and wanted us to help them enter the luxury sector. However, after careful brand evaluation, we offered to launch a luxury counterpart to their main line. We got the idea for Agua from Agua Bendita, and we were hired to be the creative directors of the brand. For the past two years, we’ve been responsible for everything from design to branding, sales and public relations. We were essentially an extension of the brand’s internal team and were responsible for making all creative decisions, no matter how small!
Our relationship with [Pervuvian brand] Escvdo started out as sales representatives; However, we often found ourselves exploring ways to modify the product to make it more commercial, thus increasing brand sales. While we loved the brand’s philosophy and their unique hand-woven fabrics, we felt the team needed help developing the final product. After seeing the work we had done with Agua, they asked us to creatively join us as Creative Directors of the brand. In this role, we are an integral part of the design team and work closely with their founder, Chiara Macchiavello, textile specialist, and their production manager, Blanca Diaz, to develop each collection. We support them every step of the way, from the creation of the moodboard to the final details of each sample.
MM: What is the Fashion Kind e-comm partnership?
The pandemic prompted many leading retailers to cancel wholesale orders, a move that devastated small emerging brands, especially those that did not have their own e-commerce and whose physical sites were closed for months in due to the severe lockdown of our regions (Latin America had some of the longest lockdowns in the world). The partnership offers these Latin American designers a new virtual home on Fashionkind.com, which allows them to honor their commitment to their artisans and other employees. Our intention is to offer designers a solution not only for today’s problems, but also to navigate future unknowns. Twenty-one labels from across the region joined our initiative in July, and more are still joining us. As well as having strong Latin American roots, what unites these designers is a commitment to develop collections that honor nature and reinterpret ancient crafts for the modern world, while creating lasting social change. We recently expanded the initiative to include housewares.
MM: What is your ultimate goal with Si Collective? What are you trying to accomplish in the industry?
2020 has been a year of unexpected obstacles, many of which have forced us to re-evaluate who we are, not only as a company, but as individuals. We have spent a lot of time internalizing and trying to identify our core mission and objectives as well as possible. For the moment, we want to contribute in one way or another to the development of our region. Ideally, by putting Latin American talent on the front of the world stage, but also by using this success to create opportunities locally.
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