Latinas and the Business of Fashion

Celebrity Latina fashion brand holders have the opportunity to tap into both Latina and crossover consumer markets

With so many Latina celebrities now working with major fashion retailers, it seems somewhat surprising that they haven’t more actively addressed actual Latina shopper needs. There are, however, many opportunities for them to do so, including creating real-women wear, addressing pricing realities and tapping into the latest tech trends.

It seems today that every retailer is looking to create a successful brand using a Latina celebrity who can help capture a Latina – as well as crossover – customer base that has tremendous buying power.

In 2004, we had Daisy Fuentes for Kohl’s and now, within a very short period of time, Jennifer Lopez for Kohl’s, Selena and Sophia Vergara for Kmart, and Eva Mendes for NY & Co. Aeropostale will have a small capsule collection created by Bethany G, and in 2015, we’ll have Thalia for Macy’s.

But does this type of marketing actually work?

    • Are these inspirational celebrities doing anything at all to speak to what the Latin woman wants
    • Are they really giving her something that she can’t find elsewhere in the market
    • What exactly does the average Latina want when it comes to shopping for herself at the typical mass retail fashion store

Real Women, Real Clothing

I’ve asked many of my Latina friends, family and colleagues what exactly they’re looking for when they’re shopping for fashionable clothing. Fit and size always rise to the top. I tend to think this reflects the ongoing perception of what a true woman’s shape and size is today as opposed to what appears in fashion magazines and runway shows – or the fact that, in the past, the typical average size of a female was a size 8.

Today’s statistics say that the average female size for a woman between the ages of 36 to 45 is a 14 (41″ chest – 34″ waist – 43″ hip), which is what most of the fashion industry refers to as the beginning of the “plus size” range.  Well, if that’s today’s norm, why isn’t this the most common size that gets put on the retail floor?

Unfortunately, retail doesn’t seem to skew that way. This type of retail thinking takes very unwilling customers to plus-size departments, which, at many current retailers, leave a lot to be desired in both fashion and fit. They’re typically small pads on most floors and take much of the same products that are available in the regular ladies size areas and simply grade them up by a numerical equation that usually misses out on how larger, curvier bodies change in proportion to their smaller size counterparts.

This is where fitting becomes very tricky for many mass retailers. It takes a team of fit and design experts to spend the extra time and attention to get the product right. Once you have those components nailed down, retailers will gain loyal customers.

Pricing Realities

I also hear that the products in many mass retail stores lack fashion and trendiness. They start to look the same, and this often comes down to which stores have the cheapest prices.

In my most recent testing experiences with several price-conscious retailers that cater to an ethnic customer base, I’ve seen results that suggests that although customers are still trying to recover from the slow economy, they’ll buy a higher-priced fashion item they think looks special and makes them feel great.

Where they typically paid $19.99 or maybe even $29.99 maximum, they’re cautiously opening their purses and spending $34.99 or even $39.99 on item they deem worthy of their hard-earned dollars. They appreciate special attention to details and fabrications. They’re smart consumers who can understand why prices may be higher. Don’t underestimate them.

Next- Tech Smart and Beyond the brands

Tina Trevino
Tina Trevino
Tina Trevino, Partner & Director of Community Relations for Latin Biz Today is President & CEO of Tocaya Design under which she does design consulting for major apparel companies as well as designs, manufactures and markets her women’s lifestyle brand, Tocaya. With 25 years of industry experience most recently as Design Director of KBL Group Intl. Ltd., she has managed large creative design teams. Trevino provides insight on upcoming fashion trends for each season collaborating with designers, merchants and product development teams to help develop brand appropriate apparel. She specializes in sweaters, knits and wovens. Having previously worked with private label brands for stores like Kohl’s, NY & Co, White House|Black Market, and Ann Taylor to name a few as well as brands like Lee jeans, Wendy Williams, Brooke Shields Timeless, Torn by Ronny Kobo, and Whitney Port, she has the ability to build brands from the design and merchandising process all the way through fitting, production, and marketing.