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Latin America, drawn to luxury leather goods

By Christin Parcerisa


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Year after year the luxury market in Latin America continues to see growth, often despite unstable economies in some of its countries, demonstrating how important the continent is to luxury. However, despite the huge amount of potential buyers, Latin countries have not made strong efforts to become producers for luxury goods until now. The number of local brands are now growing, presenting products with a Latin essence capable of competing with luxury giants worldwide.

2018 presents a challenging year for the luxury industry internationally due to political changes, heightened security, and instability in exchange rates have been affecting consumer habits in most markets. Nevertheless, a global study on luxury products conducted by Euromonitor remains optimistic, with a 5 percent global growth forecast, because, even after a challenging 2016, 2017 represented a 4 percent growth. It is also expecting a 34 percent growth rate between 2015 and 2019 in this industry, particularly in luxury leather goods, like handbags, (15 percent), and shoes (21 percent).

This global growth trend reveals that markets like Mexico and Brazil continue to see steady growth in numbers of luxury consumers. However, the United States’ little growth has been seen in its’ number of luxury consumers. In an interview via email, Evelyn Rodríguez, research analyst at Euromonitor International, commented to FashionUnited: “Mexico is already considered, along with Brazil, the main markets for luxury goods’ sales in Latin America. Most of the sales volume comes from international brands, so most of the goods are imported, and only a small percentage are locally produced.” Despite this, entrepreneurs remain encouraged to create products that reflect a national identity due to the consumer trend to buy local goods.

Abelardo Marcondes, CEO of Latin America’s prominent luxury brand summit, Luxury Lab, mentioned to FashionUnited via email that in more recent years, Mexico has been the birthplace of multiple luxury brands, causing the production rate and demand in this market to grow in the country. “Mexico is expected to continue growth and become a leading market, surpassing Brazil, which is finally getting out of the recession that hit the country a few years ago,” he commented. The growth in the sector is mainly due to local brands diversifying the products and prices offered, reaching multiple markets at once. Additionally, in recent years the region has seen improvement in both quality and design of luxury goods produced. Nowadays, many of these products are considered competition for international luxury brands.

Designer and founder of his namesake brand, Jamie Ibiza shared with FashionUnited during an in-person interview, that this has been one the the best years for Mexico as a premium leather goods producer. “We have been able to cross different borders. However, the most important achievement has been to be head to head with all luxury brands. For example, by being in Liverpool you share the space with all the global brands and get to compete in an international level,” he stated.

Ibiza comments that the growth seen in Mexico has been driven by the country’s high amount of design talent offering high-quality products. Designers native of the country are also expanding their offerings internationally more frequently. Jamie Ibiza is a perfect example of this, opening stores in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Chile within the last two years.

Handbags with Latin style

Mexico, in particular, is beginning to stand out in the luxury leather accessories scene. Luxury items such as handbags, wallets, briefcases, and smaller goods from this country are quickly becoming more in demand for by both national and international shoppers.

“Even when foreign brands prevail in luxury leather goods (LLG), Mexicans are looking for unique alternatives and experiment with local brands. LLG are expected to keep growing in the 5 next years around 8 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate),” Evelyn Rodríguez explained during the interview.

One of the biggest trends the expert shared is that Mexican shopper value the buying experience, local brands are beginning to tailor sales to fit this consumer expectation.

“Local luxury brands are differentiating themselves from international brands with the proposal of uniqueness, different materials, exclusive collections and a particular shopping experience,” Rodriguez pointed out. However, Abelardo Marcondes considers that in order for Mexico to be seen as an important emerging market in both production and sales of luxury leather goods there would have to be a stronger understanding and professionalization of the leather industry as a luxury item, not only as a market need. “We are on the right path, but there’s still a need to change the local market’s perception regarding quality of the national industry, as well as a need to have a bigger supply that reaches and overcomes the standards international brands have,” he mentioned during a interview.

Concerning other countries in Latin America, Luxury Lab’s CEO explains that even though historically this industry has had a bigger development in Brazil and Argentina, nowadays it’s also important to pay attention to Bolivia, Colombia and Chile, where many innovative proposals are going on, with a high quality as well.

Latin-American luxury gems

Despite being one of the most competitive industries today, growth in the region has been a shock to the luxury market due to the lack of luxury brands being sold in many of the countries. Only ten years ago a large expansion was seen when international luxury brands began targeting local retailers, developing a stronger fashion culture in the Lasin audience.

However, Ibiza pointed out, that the increase in brand competition created another issue: “We lived in an era of a strong protectionism and when the market opened up learning the new rules was interesting. Now you have in one single store every producer in the world and before you only had to compete with the national brands, because no one else could enter.”

Jaime Ibiza

The Mexican brand founded by Jaime Ibiza has been designing, manufacturing and selling handbags and accessories since 1982. The entrance of the label to the luxury market wasn’t easy, and to remain standing in this ever-changing environment has been a challenge because both the industry’s and the consumer’s needs are evolving with a faster speed year after year. Nevertheless, today it’s the brand with the biggest growth in Mexico, which has opened new business opportunities like their recent co-branding project with Disney. Additionally, nine months ago the designer opened his first boutique in Monterrey. At present, the brand has expanded its product range from handbags – their star product - to other leather goods, such as diaper bags, makeup bags, luggage, and belts, to name a few.

Recent collection: Nativo, with laser details.
Icon: the stitch, which has two eights linked together, which means abundance.
Price point: 100 USD Where to buy: Liverpool and online jaimeibiza.com.mx


Considered one of the most important Mexican luxury brands for leather accessories, Pantera was created by two fashion experts, Alejandra and Laura Laviada, who, at the beginning, had planned to produce handbags in different types of fabric with unique designs created by them, putting together their talents, since Alejandra is a graphic artist, and Laura is a graphic designer. Nevertheless, their entrepreneurial path led them through the road of exotic leather, which ended up being extremely successful, positioning them in the international market at first, in 2007. As many Latin-American brands, Pantera first launched its products outside of Mexico, in Canada, United States, and France. It wasn’t until they had gained the interest of the foreign buyers that they managed to grow strong in Mexico – in 2013 – where they currently have their own stores and exclusive spaces in the best department stores.

Recent collection: Pantera Men with bags, luggage and accessories.
Icon: tote
Price Point: 300 USD
Where to buy: Via Santa Fe, Palacio de Hierro and online pantera.com.mx

Mario Hernández

Colombia is considered the fourth most important country in America in the production of leather goods, with an array of exceptional accessories, handbags and shoes. Colombia is known for having some of the finest leathers, coming from the fact that it’s the fourth most important country in the world in cattle breeding. Although the leather industry in the country used to restrict its reach to the exportation of raw material, the commerce of leather goods has lately grown with a rate that exceeds 10% annually. Mario Hernández is a great example of the quality Colombian pieces have to offer. The firm that was founded in 1978 with the proud promise to deliver handcrafted handbags of impeccable quality step by step won over the local market, until it was strong enough to become an international company in the mid nineties.

Recent collection: Patent leather
Icon: leather engraved with butterflies, icon since 1998
Price point: 250 USD
Where to buy: boutiques in Colombia, Venezuela, Panamá, Costa Rica, Aruba and Russia.
Online: mariohernandez.com.co


Argentina, one of the most powerful countries in leather in America, is the home of this luxury leather goods brand. Solantu offers a different proposal of leather pieces, handcrafted with exotic skins that come from their own farm, with which they promote a sustainable industry. The brand expects to contribute to the conservation of the Argentinian alligator, and to the community of Argentinian craftsmen, by adding this additional value to the brand. The company’s farm works with a “ranching” model that seeks to ensure the balance between commercial use and long term conservation. Therefore, they protect the alligators during their incubation time and afterwards some of them are released into their natural habitats in order to preserve their life cycle. More than 9000 alligators have been relocated since 2005.

Recent collection: clutches with colored onyx
Icon: crossbodies
Price point: 4000 USD
Where to buy: boutiques in Buenos Aires and Madrid, Harvey Nichols and online: solantu.com

Images: Pantera, Jaime Ibiza y Solantu

Jamie Ibiza
Latin America
Leather goods