Latino Fashion Week sets national sights

lifestyle_detail_media_filename_18_latino-fashion-weekEvery year, media and cameras come from all over the world to capture the new fashion, styles and elegance of the one and only Latino Fashion Week. Born and bred in Chicago, the week-long event has captured the attention of designers and fashionistas around the world.

The movement, as founders Arabel Alva Rosales and César Rolón, call it, has built a following that branches out beyond the proud Latino community, most recently inspiring an Asian Fashion Week.

“We accomplished what we wanted to do; get our Latino designers recognized and on the map,” says Rolón. “It was strictly an idea that we hoped would flourish. And without a lot of perseverance and a lot of work and a lot of support, it wouldn’t be as powerful as it is right now. We have a lot of goals and our goal right now is to go national.”

This year, Latino Fashion Week is scheduled to hit Miami in May for a fashion show and a “models and celebrities night out.” Then they will move on to Dallas for another fashion event and a model scouting event. Puerto Rico’s dates are still tentative though Rosales already hopes to keep the tour going to Los Angeles and New York, eventually.

In 2005, Rolón came up with the idea of a fashion show strictly for Latino designers, a segment he noticed being ignored in fashion boutiques. As the largest growing demographic in the country, Latino consumers’ spending has been estimated at a trillion dollars. As Rosales put it, Latinas like buying beautiful things.

“As Latinos, we do shop in major department stores. Latinas spend 300 percent more than the general market on cosmetics,” says Rolón. “Latino parents are willing to buy [cosmetics] for their teens because it’s what they didn’t have.”

“They’re starting to realize the amount of money we’re willing to spend,” added Rosales. Constantly brainstorming and thinking about their next moves, the pair feels that they have hit a pivotal point in any business and are proud of their accomplishments thus far, though they say they have much more to go.

“It really has enriched our lives. We’re proud of what we’ve done, not just for Latinos but for this city,” says Rolón.

In its early years, Latino Fashion Week has already built a substantial network to be proud of, leaving marks not only in design but in the modeling, styling and photographic worlds as well. People that Rosales and Rolón meet want to find a way to work together, to be part of one of the most important fashion weeks of the year.

“We’ve created a multi-faceted connection for these different areas of fashion, for the individuals to really grow, for us to be the first place, in many instances, that they write on their resumé. We are reputable and we’ve been here for five years,” said Rosales. “We gave them an opportunity, a place.”

Rosales was sure to point out their admiration and appreciation to models that walk their runways. While many models could be anywhere else, they feel the need to be represented at Latino Fashion Week. Rosales explains that because of the event, modeling agencies have been growing in diversity.

“We have total diversity. We ask the big agencies for diversity. We want to see models of color,” says Rosales. “And we’re very good about getting them a lot of exposure; exposure they may not get anywhere else. We feel that we’ve changed the face of fashion, not only in Chicago, but other places, too.”

Among other benefits to being in charge of such a production, the networks that have been built through Latino Fashion Week have helped Rolón and Rosales plan for bigger ventures, crediting that to their background as Latinos. From working with designers such as Lazaro Perez and Jorge Perez de la Habana and Sammy, stylist to the stars, the two say that they have been very lucky to have celebrity support.

“We’ve made a lot of wonderful relationships. That’s the beauty of being Latino in this industry,” says Rolón.

However, the team never forgets the artistic community of designers, models, stylists and makeup artists, which it serves, uniquely on both an English and Spanish platform. “We really believe in them and we put our time and everything behind them so that they’re able to show the world their art,” Rosales said.


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