Can Luxury Come From Latin America & The Caribbean?
If we are to have an authentic conversation and movement within Fashion regarding inclusivity, we must also talk about equal opportunity for all designers. The gatekeepers in the fashion industry, are the chosen ones who, from time to time, allow others of their choosing to rise in rank. Fashion is an elitist private club, and the luxury sector is its fiercely guarded pride.
You would be in denial not to admit that to some degree, the idea of luxury is very Eurocentric. The irrefutable truth is that this is evident in architecture, the automotive industry, Fashion, and the arts. How did this come to be? Much of it has to do with the European Superpowers that once concurred and colonized much of the world. Let's limit the purview of this piece to Latin America and the Carribean, the "New World."
The "New World" was colonized and exploited to support countries like England, Spain, France, etc. The colonizers suppressed and decimated the way of living for the indigenous and imposed their religion, value systems, and culture. This vast power and influence endure today, utilizing the global media continuing to self assert and dominate as the pinnacle of excellence.
Now independent nations of the "New World" continue to build upon the preexisting legal, political, religious, and socioeconomic structures left behind by the former colonial masters. Some native cultures and practices survived and evolved, but a considerable part of this evolution was by choosing to emulate European customs and values.
Mexico and other countries like Belize, and Guatemala has many ancient Mayan temples that outnumber those constructed by the Egyptians. Even after Mexico gaining independence, its architectural preference was for the Spanish style, left behind by Spain. Today these temples are silent reminders that in those lands once lived a people who were from inception the architects of there own identity, unlike today.
European automakers like Mercedes Benz, BMW, Land Rover, and Audi are sought after and are the status symbol for people of higher incomes and social classes. Many American Automakers produce comparable cars but fail in comparison to be able to be perceived as top tier luxury cars. Knowing this, some have chosen to settle to supply the demand of mid and lower markets.
A simple google search of the most luxurious fashion brands at the top will include household names like Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Hermes, Chanel, Gucci, etc. American Brands like Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford, and others then follow. How much advantage does one enjoy for the simple fact of having European origin in the market place? America, the wealthiest and most powerful country, is still fighting for a better seat at the table in Fashion. What chances does a designer with a different perspective and aesthetic have coming from a developing country or region?
The European musical genre known as Classical music today, however unpopular, is still revered as the highest music genre which is mentally associated with wealth and high society. Music from other placed would be labeled ethnic and, therefore, was never allowed admission to mainstream culture with equal regard. The few Mayan Codexes that survived the genocide in the name Christianity lead by Spain contains exquisite illustrations that are works of art. We know who Leonardo da Vinci is, but do we know the names of the artists that used art to document Mayan History and Culture?
In summation, when you have exerted power over the world and forced your customs on those under your control, it gives you the advantage to set the rules and control the narrative. Global trade and industries today are built upon the old framework forged by those who once conquered and colonized. Inclusivity in Fashion and other industries should allow everyone the equal and democratic opportunity of success in the market place.