Colombian-born Cloclo Echavarría and Venezuela-born Isabella Behrens had impressive résumés before Sí Collective was founded. Echavarría was the co-founder of CREO Consulting, a New York-based PR consultancy that focuses on Latin American brands. After almost a decade as a fashion editor at Vanity Fair, Behrens joined the CREO team, where she was able to contribute her encyclopedic knowledge and experience in the US and international fashion markets. The couple have the expertise to help Latin American brands in many different roles. “[Our experience at CREO] So we could not only really see where we saw the potential to really help Latin American talents, but also where our strengths as a partnership and team lay, ”says Behrens. “Our previous collaboration has given us a better understanding of what exactly brands needed, what we wanted to do and what we were good at.” This inspired Echavarría and Behrens to set up Sí Collective, a creative consultancy for LATAM brands. The well-connected and very experienced duo act as a bridge to bring Latin American design to the rest of the world in a coherent way. By guiding brands in product development, brand marketing strategy and positioning, PR and sales, the founders and their network of creatives can help turn an idea into a successful and globally recognized brand. Below we spoke with founders Cloclo Echavarría and Isabella Behrens about 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?
While Latin American design is so diverse and unique for every brand and designer, one constant across brands is that our Latin American origins, culture, heritage and values are embedded in each of our creations. The stories of our customers and the people we work with are the stories of Latin America and vice versa. In addition, we believe that there is a common desire in our region to support one another and trigger change. Our brands and customers not only want to create beautiful pieces, they also want to have a lasting and positive influence on their community. This can be translated in a number of ways: for example, many brands have important social responsibility programs and maintain close relationships with the artisans they work with who are considered to be creative in their own right. Fostering the talent of their artisan partners and giving them the tools to work in a safe environment is paramount to our brands. In addition, the artisanal techniques many Sí brands use today have been passed down for generations, often from pre-Columbian times when indigenous societies lived in a real dialogue with nature. Therefore, protecting the natural resources of their region is an essential part of the way of life of these communities. Aside from their enormous cultural significance, these techniques focus on the use of natural materials (such as Iraca and Cumare palm leaves or alpaca wool, to name a few) and a deep respect for the environment. Our customers therefore also have a commitment to ethical and sustainable work. Many of our customers also have a reduced carbon footprint as all of their products are made locally. From start to finish, each process is carried out in the same country. It is equally important that we advocate transparency in the processes of our brands. We believe that sharing the stories behind our products with our consumers is vital 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 customer. We want to bring them to the stories and customs of our region and to the wonderful people who help turn our designs into reality.
MM: What was missing in the industry for which you could solve Sí Collective?
So many platforms have sprung up in the past five years that focus on Latin American talent. When we launched Sí Collective, we already had experience in this niche and were very fortunate to be able to count on our existing customers. We also each had one foot in Latin America and another overseas, which really gave us an edge in hindsight, because while our knowledge of Latin America’s talent and culture was crucial, it was crucial to combine that knowledge with our international experience to be able to. Although these brands are very different and all require personalized and tailored services, we see common denominators among them. Some of these issues include something as simple as creating a commercially viable product or a strong, cohesive collection or communication of its brand and story, both visually and in writing. Another problem many brands face is developing their own unique strategy – looking outward too much to see what others are doing instead of seeing that their strength is looking inward and making their own way to find.
MM: How do you work with the brands? What is your role
Whenever a brand asks us for help, we do a full analysis – including their product, history, production capacity, etc. Our work is extremely bespoke and hands-on. Because of this, it is very important that we only carry these brands that we believe can stand out from the competition, not only within a saturated international fashion market, but also among other Latin American designers. It is very important to us to show the diversity of talents from our region. Therefore, it is critical that designers, brands and talent offer a unique perspective. Once we can confirm this aspect of a brand, we will offer them a menu of personalized services based on the needs we have identified. This includes everything from branding to sales to creative. This is very interesting because on the one hand we are a consultancy for lifestyle, fashion and design brands, but on the other hand we are also a collective of creative people. We are essentially a network of Latin Americans with experience in various areas of the industry, from photographers to copywriters, illustrators, models, etc. Therefore, our work can meet almost any customer need with the guarantee of a high quality service thanks to a carefully built network of people, that we know and whom we trust.
MM: Industry insiders know that Sí Collective is responsible for the global success of brands like Agua from Agua Bendita and Escvdo. Explain how your partnership with these two brands came about and how these collaborations developed.
Before founding Sí Collective, we had experimented more loosely with creative services. [Colombian brand] Agua from Agua Bendita was our first official customer for creative people. In 2018, a few years after their first approach, they wanted to work with us for the second time. They had their main line, Agua Bendita, and wanted us to help them enter the luxury sector. However, after a careful brand evaluation, we suggested launching a luxury counterpart to their main line. We came up with the idea of Agua from Agua Bendita and were hired as the brand’s creative directors. For the past two years we’ve been responsible for everything from creative to branding to sales and PR. We were essentially an extension of the brand’s internal team and were responsible for every creative decision – no matter how small!
Our relationship with [Pervuvian brand] Escvdo started out as a sales representative; However, we’ve often looked for ways to tweak the product to make it more commercial and thus increase the brand’s sales. While we loved the ethos behind the brand and their unique handwoven fabrics, we felt the team needed help developing the final product. After seeing the work we did with Agua, they asked us to get creative as the brand’s Creative Directors. In this role we are an integral part of the design team and work closely with founder Chiara Macchiavello, a textile specialist, and production manager Blanca Diaz to develop each collection. We accompany you every step of the way, from creating the mood board to the final details of each rehearsal.
MM: What is the Fashion Kind E-Comm partnership?
The pandemic resulted in many leading retailers canceling wholesale orders. That decision devastated small and emerging brands, especially those without their own e-commerce, and whose brick and mortar locations were closed for months due to the heavy lockdown in our region (Latin America, some of the longest lockdowns in the world). The partnership offers these Latin American designers a new virtual home on Fashionkind.com that enables them to fulfill 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. 21 labels from across the region joined our initiative in July, and more are coming on board. Apart from their strong Latin American roots, these designers are united by a commitment to develop collections that honor nature and reinterpret old handicrafts for the modern world, while at the same time bringing about lasting social change. Most recently we expanded the initiative to include household goods.
MM: What is your ultimate goal with Si Collective? What are you trying to achieve in the industry?
2020 has been a year of unexpected hurdles, many of which have forced us to reassess who we are not only as a company but as individuals as well. We have spent a lot of time internalizing and best identifying our core tasks and goals. At the moment we want to contribute in some way to the development of our region. Ideally, by bringing Latin America’s talent to the top of the world, but also using this success to create local opportunities.