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The future looks bright for Latin American fashion students

By Christin Parcerisa


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CDMX - Fashion careers used to be seen as an artistic utopia, where only a few managed to gain success while many others lacked of job opportunities. However, fashion has become one of the most promising industries for those willing to take a chance on it. More and more jobs that satisfy an ever-evolving market are becoming available. The industry is hungry for innovative ideas, and showcasing other divisions for the next step in fashion, where current students can see their working future shine.

“I believe market openness, globalization, and new technologies have meant an increase in the possibilities current fashion students have,” Francisco Saldaña, Director of Undergraduate Programs at Jannette Klein, considered one of the best fashion universities in Mexico, mentioned in an interview for FashionUnited. The expert explained that there once weren’t so many brands and companies related to fashion as there are now, such as online stores, which open new possibilities to students interested in the digital world, where they can now find a way to apply their knowledge in new platforms.

On the other hand, more international brands are opening stores in Latin American countries, which makes more opportunities available. “The amount of brands that are getting here require an identity in the local market, so they need people that know the national market. It’s necessary to fit in when you have another country’s identity, to become understandable for the national market, no matter how globalized we are,” Saldaña mentions.

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, the size of the global apparel business is growing and is expected to generate double-digit growth between 2014 and 2020, and much of this growth is coming from developing markets. It even highlights that emerging markets in Asia and South America currently account for one-third of global revenues for women's apparel, and estimates that over the coming 20 years, this share will grow to over half.

A growing industry with open doors

“I believe that the employment market has grown and is going to keep growing even more,” Saldaña says in an optimistic tone during the interview. The fact is that the job market hasn’t only grown, it has evolved, and with these new opportunities, there are also new challenges. One of the most important ones is that students have to understand today’s fashion language, so they can handle it and present successful proposals.

The challenge isn’t limited to Mexico, all of Latin America is going through a moment that requires a wider vision of fashion. In an interview with FashionUnited, Yeanethe Solís, Undergraduate Programs Coordinator at Chio Lecca University in Peru, mentioned that “due to the growth and globalization of the sector, it has undoubtedly changed. Technology has also been a key factor for information and trends to develop new communication channels so designers can be faster, more practical, and objective when launching collections and fashion products.”

The use of technology is both an opportunity and a challenge, for students and the industry in general. “Technology is not just a distractor, it’s a basic tool in order to become more competitive on a global scale,” Francisco Saldaña highlights. One of the biggest opportunities that have opened up because of technology is e-commerce, both in design areas, and in other fashion related areas, such as purchasing departments, sales, marketing, and advertising. Especially in Latin America, these platforms are beginning to emerge, and those who take advantage of it with a business approach will plow their way through a zone that once didn’t exist.

According to data by Statista, in 2019, 155.5 million people in Latin America are expected to buy goods and services online, a dramatic increase from 126.8 million in 2016. Although the e-commerce market in the region might seem small in comparison to others, such as Asia, data proves that it’s a growing region. In particular, retail e-commerce sales are expected to grow from 49.8 billion dollars in 2016 to 79.7 billion U.S. dollars by 2019.

“[Job opportunities] are very wide because we are living a growing industry in our country,” Jannette Klein’s Undergraduate Programs director expressed. “It’s very interesting, because even though manufacture and production are and have been very important in Mexico, since we are a country where the assembling industry is very significant and requires a lot of graduates, in the past few years we have also seen that national brands have realized the importance of having fresh designers and original proposals, to understand the local market, and, not only offer copies of what the international brands are making. There’s where graduates are positioning themselves.”

A key issue that both Francisco Saldaña and Yeanethe Solís agree on is that fashion is much more than just design, and nowadays there are plenty of opportunities opening up that complement it, and require knowledge to contribute to something different. Whereas it’s in the digital or the physical field, the fact that Latin American countries are creating new proposals, and that several global brands are opening retail spaces inside department stores in these countries, generates openings in communication, marketing, sales, purchases, visual merchandising, personal shopping, fashion styling, and image consulting. Many of these positions, some of them rather new, require a deep knowledge of the fashion industry and the fashion consumers.

It’s important to highlight that the opportunities that have been opening recently are in no way transient, on the contrary. According to BMI Research, the Latin American fashion market was worth over $160 billion dollars in 2016, but because of the way the region is spending on clothing and footwear, the annual growth rate between 2017 and 2021 is estimated to be 7.2 percent, reaching a total of 220 billion US dollars.

Change comes from vision

The fashion world has changed, this industry is located in a moment where its evolution is constant and requires students to look at it with fresh eyes, opening up to the new opportunities it has to offer. Francisco Saldaña explains that, on occasion, there’s a disconnection between students’ expectations and what the industry really requires: “Obviously, what fashion students hope for is living among spotlights, catwalks, models, and magazines, and although it may be part of the job, it’s not everything.” The Undergraduate Programs Coordinator at Chio Lecca University agrees with the fact that one of the major expectations students have is developing and showcasing their talent through new concepts, collections, and fashion products.

Nevertheless, today it’s important to close the breach between the attractive, glamorous, and creative part of the career, and its economic, productive and job generating part. The industry, although essentially creative, demands that many other factors are taken into account to shine in all markets. Getting all factors together require a new vision of fashion. Such aspects, either if its to open a new business, or to take part of a successful one, including consumer satisfaction, being competitive nationally and globally, and having the ability to work with other disciplines. Fashion has become a multidisciplinary industry, that while it is opening new jobs, it also needs all of its players talking the same language, and working together.

“All of this is changing our students’ perception in a positive way, and they are seeing that, while fashion is fun and attractive, it also requires discipline and interdisciplinary knowledge. But above all, it’s not a frivolous career, on the contrary, it’s very serious since thousands of people depend on it, work on it and get their income through it. This is an industry that moves a lot of money globally,” Saldaña points out.

The next step towards the professional world

Yeanethe Solís tells FashionUnited that the young people in Latin America have to be guided by the new consumer generations, both in product and in behavior, so it becomes very important to get to know the insights of these consumers, what they are looking for, and their needs, before entering the job market. Besides, she points out that it’s relevant to compare data, analyze the competitors, and present constant innovations since current generations move as fast as fashion.

The expert considers that present opportunities are not so different from the ones available a few years ago, they are just more specific, which demands students to get in touch with the industry during their education in order to develop and complete their experience. On that subject, Francisco agrees with the importance of being analytical about their areas of interest while studying, in order to add courses or workshops that dig deeper and them a more competitive edge in an industry that values specialization.

Images: courtesy of Chio Lecca y Jannette Klein

Chio Lecca
Fashion students
Latin America