Colombian-born Cloclo Echavarría and Venezuelan-born Isabella Behrens had impressive biographies before launching the Sí Collective. Echavarría is a co-founder of CREO Consulting, a New York-based PR consultancy focused on Latin brands. After nearly a decade as a fashion editor at Vanity Fair, Behrens joins the team at CREO, where he can provide his encyclopedic knowledge and experience to cover the US and international fashion markets. Between the two, the couple has the expertise to assist Latin brands in various capacities. “[Our experience at CREO] “allows us to really identify not only where we see the potential to really help Latin talent, but also what our strengths are as a partnership and a team,” said Behrens. “Through our previous work, we were able to better understand what brands really need, what we want to do and our expertise.” This inspired Echavarría and Behrens to launch Yes, Collective, creative consultant for the LATAM brand. The duo’s well-connected and highly experienced functions as a bridge help bring Latin American designs around the world in a cohesive way. By guiding brands in product creation, brand marketing strategy and positioning, PR and sales, founders can help turn ideas into successful, globally recognized brands with their creative networks. Below, we talk with founders Cloclo Echavarría and Isabella Behrens about how Sí Collective has become a leader and coach of LATAM fashion.
MM: Talk about the importance of Latin American design. What makes it so unique? Why are global consumers so attracted to it now?
Although Latin American designs are very varied and unique for each brand and designer, a constant thing across all brands is that our Latin origins, culture, heritage and values are embedded in each of our creations. The story of our clients and our colleagues is the story of Latin America, and vice versa. In addition, we believe there is a shared desire in our region to support each other and spark change. Our brands and clients don’t just want to create beautiful work, they want to have a lasting and positive impact on their communities. This can be translated in several ways: many brands have important social responsibility programs, for example, and they all forge strong bonds with partner craftsmen, who are considered creative people. Nurturing the talents of their crafting partners and giving them the tools to work in a safe environment is paramount to our brand. In addition, the artisanal techniques used by many of the Sí brands today have been passed down from generation to generation, often from pre-Colombian times, when indigenous peoples lived in real dialogue with nature; Therefore, protecting the natural resources in their area is inherent in the lifestyle of these people. In addition to its great cultural significance, this technique centers on using natural materials (such as iraca and cumare palm fronds, or alpaca wool, to name a few) and has great respect for the environment. Therefore, a commitment to creating in an ethical and sustainable manner is also what our clients have in common. Many of our clients have also experienced reduced carbon footprints because all of their products are produced locally; from start to finish, every process is done in the same country. Equally important, we are committed to transparency in our branding processes. We believe that sharing with our consumers the stories behind our products is 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 customers; we want to bring them into the stories and customs of our territory and the great people who help bring our designs to life.
MM: What’s missing in the industry that you think the Sí Collective can solve?
In the last five years, a multitude of platforms focused on Latin American talent have sprung up. When we launched Sí Collective we already had experience in this niche and we were very fortunate to be able to rely on our existing clients. We also have one foot in Latin America and another abroad, which in retrospect really gave us an edge, because while our knowledge of Latin American talent and culture is key, it is imperative to be able to combine this knowledge with our international experience. While these brands are quite varied and all require a personalized and customized service, we see a common denominator among them. Some of these issues involve something as simple as creating a commercially viable product or collection or strong, cohesive communication of brands and their stories, both visual and written. Another problem that many brands have is creating their own unique strategies – looking too much outside to see what other people are doing rather than seeing that their strength will come from looking inward and creating their own path.
MM: How did you partner with the brand? What’s your role?
Once a brand contacts us for help, we do a complete analysis – including their product, their story, their production capacity, etc. Our work is highly customized and performed, and it is therefore imperative that we only take on brands that we feel can stand apart from the competition, not only in the saturated international fashion market, but even among other Latin designers. Showing the diversity of talent that comes from our region is very important to us, so having designers, brands and talents that offer a unique perspective is key. Once we can confirm this aspect of the brand, we then offer them a personalized service menu based on the needs we identified. This includes anything from branding to sales to creative. This is quite interesting because on the one hand we are consultants for lifestyle, fashion and design brands, but on the other hand we are also a creative group. We’re basically a network of Latin Americans with experience in a wide variety of industries, from photographers to copywriters, illustrators, models, etc. Therefore, our work can cover almost any need a client might have, with guaranteed high-quality service thanks to a carefully built network of people we know and trust.
MM: Industry insiders know that Sí Collective is responsible for the global success of brands such as Agua by Agua Bendita and Escvdo. Describe how your partnership with these two brands came about and how the collaboration developed?
Prior to founding Sí Collective, we had experimented with creative services in a more relaxed way, [Colombian brand] Agua by Agua Bendita is our first official client for creative. In 2018, several years after their initial approach, they called for the second time and wanted to work with us. They have a main line, Agua Bendita, and want us to help them get into the luxury sector. However, after careful brand assessment, we propose a luxury product launch for their main line. We got the idea for Agua by Agua Bendita, and we were hired to be the Creative Director of the brand. For the past two years, we’ve been in charge of everything from creative, branding, to sales to PR. We are basically an extension of the brand’s internal team and are responsible for making every creative decision – no matter how small!
Our relationship with [Pervuvian brand] Escvdo first started as a sales representative; however, we often find ourselves looking for ways to transform products to be more commercial, thereby increasing brand sales. While we loved the ethos behind the brand, and their unique hand-woven fabrics, we felt that the team needed assistance in the development of the final product. After they saw the work we had done with Agua, they asked us to creatively join in 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, who is a textile specialist, and their head of production, Blanca Diaz, to expand each collection. We accompany them every step of the way, from creating a mood board to the final detail of each sample.
MM: What is Fashion Type e-comm partnership?
This pandemic caused many leading retailers to cancel wholesale orders, a decision that devastated small and new brands, especially those without their own e-commerce and whose brick and mortar locations were closed for months due to the severe lockdown in our region (Latin America had several longest lockdown in the world). This partnership offers Latin American designers a new virtual home Fashionkind.com, thus enabling them to honor their commitments to craftsmen and other employees. Our goal is to offer designers solutions not only to today’s problems, but also to navigate the unknown in the future. Twenty-one labels from across the region joined our initiative in July, and many more will join. As well as having strong Latin American roots, what unites these designers is a commitment to developing collections that respect nature and reinterpret ancient crafts for the modern world, while creating lasting social change. We have recently expanded our initiatives to include household appliances.
MM: What is your ultimate goal with the Collective? What do you want to achieve in this industry?
2020 is a year of unforeseen hurdles, 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 best identify our core mission and objectives. For now, we want to contribute to the development of our region in several ways. Ideally, by placing Latin American talent at the forefront of the global, but also by using this success to create opportunities locally.
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