Colombian born Cloclo Echavarría and Venezuelan born Isabella Behrens had impressive resumes prior to launching Sí Collective. Echavarría was a co-founder of CREO Consulting, a New York-based PR consultancy focused on Latin brands. After nearly a decade as the fashion editor at Vanity Fair, Behrens joined the team at CREO, where she was able to lend her encyclopedic knowledge and experience covering US and international fashion markets. Between the two, the pair has the expertise to help Latin brands in many different capacities. “[Our experience at CREO] allowed us to really identify not only where we saw a potential to truly help Latin talent, but also what our strengths were as a partnership and a team,” says Behrens. “Through our previous work together, we were better able to understand what exactly brands needed, what we wanted to do and what we were good at.” This inspired Echavarría and Behrens to launch Sí Collective, a creative consultancy for 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, PR and sales, the founders are able to help turn an idea into a successful and globally recognized brand with their network of creatives. Below, we spoke to founders Cloclo Echavarría and Isabella Behrens on how Sí Collective has become 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 each brand and designer, a constant across all brands is that our Latin origins, our culture, our heritage and our values are embedded within each of our creations. The stories of our clients and the people we work with are the stories of Latin America, and vice versa. Additionally, we believe there is a common desire within our region to support one another and spark change. Our brands and clients don’t simply want to create beautiful pieces, they want to have a lasting and positive impact on their communities. This can translate in several ways: many brands have important social responsibility programs, for example, and they all foster strong bonds with the artisans they partner with, who are regarded as creatives in their own right. Nurturing the talent of their artisan partners and giving them the tools to work in a safe environment is paramount to our brands. Additionally, the artisanal techniques that many Sí brands use today have been passed down for generations, often from pre-Columbian times, when indigenous societies lived in real dialogue with nature; therefore, protecting their region’s natural resources is inherent to the way of life of these communities. Aside from their huge cultural significance, these techniques are centered on the use of natural materials (like iraca and cumare palm leaves, or alpaca wool, to name a few) and a deep respect for the environment. Therefore, the commitment to creating in an ethical and sustainable way is also something our clients have in common. Many of our clients also have a reduced carbon footprint as all of their products are produced locally; from start to finish, each process is performed within the same country. Just as importantly, we are committed to transparency in our brands’ processes. We believe that sharing with our consumers the stories behind our product 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 final customer; we want to bring them in on the stories and customs of our region and the wonderful people who help turn our designs into reality.
MM: What was missing in the industry that you felt Sí Collective could solve for?
In the past five years or so, so many platforms focusing on Latin American talent have emerged. When we launched Sí Collective, we already had experience within 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 edge, because although our knowledge of Latin America’s talent and culture was key, it was crucial to be able to combine this knowledge with our international experience. Although these brands are quite varied and all require personalized and tailored services, we do see common denominators amongst them. Some of these issues include something as simple as creating a commercially viable product or a strong, cohesive collection or communication of their brand and story, both visual and written. Another issue many brands have is with creating their own, unique strategy– looking outwards too much to see what others are doing rather than seeing that their strength will come from looking inwards and creating their own path.
MM: How do you partner with the brands? What is your role?
Once a brand reaches out to us for help, we do a full analysis – including their product, their story, their production capacity, etc. Our work is extremely tailored and hands on, and because of this it is very important that we only take on brands which we feel can stand apart from competitors, not only within a saturated international fashion market, but even amongst other Latin designers. Showing the diversity of talent coming from our region is so important to us, so having designers, brands and talent offering a unique viewpoint is key. Once we are able to confirm this aspect of a brand, we then offer them a menu of personalized services based on the needs we identify. This includes anything from branding, to sales to creative. It is quite interesting because, on the one side, we are a consultancy for lifestyle, fashion and design brands, but on the other, we are also a collective of creatives. We are essentially a network of Latin Americans with experience in different areas of the industry, from photographers to copywriters, illustrators, models, etc. Therefore, our work can encompass pretty much any need a client might have, with the guarantee of a high-quality service thanks to a carefully built network of people we know and trust.
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MM: Industry insiders know that Sí Collective is responsible for the global success of brands like Agua by Agua Bendita and Escvdo. Explain how your partnership with both of these brands came to be and how those collaborations have evolved?
Prior to founding Sí Collective we had been experimenting with creative services in a more casual manner, [Colombian brand] Agua by Agua Bendita was our first official client for creative. In 2018, a few years after their initial approach, they reached out for 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 a careful brand assessment, we proposed launching a luxury counterpart to their main line. We came up with the idea of Agua by Agua Bendita, and we were hired to be the brand’s Creative Directors. Throughout the past two years, we were responsible for everything from creative, to branding, to sales to PR. We were essentially an extension of the brand’s in-house team and were responsible for making every creative decision – no matter how small!
Our relationship with [Pervuvian brand] Escvdo first began as sales representatives; however, we often found ourselves exploring ways in which we could tweak the product to make it more commercial, thereby increasing the brand’s sales. Even though we loved the ethos behind the brand, and their unique hand loomed fabrics, we felt that the team needed help in the development of the final product. After they saw the work we had done with Agua, they asked us to come on board creatively as the brand’s Creative Directors. 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 develop each collection. We accompany them along 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 caused many leading retailers to cancel wholesale orders, a decision that devastated small and emerging brands, especially those without their own e-commerce and whose brick and mortar locations were closed for months on end due to our region’s severe lockdown (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, making it possible for 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 for navigating future unknowns. Twenty one labels from all over the region joined our initiative in July, and more are still coming on board. Aside from having strong Latin American roots, what unites these designers is a commitment to developing collections that honor nature and reinterpret ancient crafts for the modern world, all while creating lasting social change. We most recently expanded the initiative to include homeware.
MM: What is ultimately your goal with Si Collective? What are you trying to accomplish within the industry?
2020 was a year of unexpected hurdles, many of which have forced us to reevaluate 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 goals. For the moment, we want to contribute to the development of our region in some way. Ideally, by placing Latin America’s talent on the global forefront, but also by using this success to create opportunities locally.