Close your eyes. What comes to mind when you imagine Latin American fashion and accessories? Maybe you visualized colorful woven Mochila bags or ethnic Pre-Colombian gold jewelry? Or how about those sombreros from Mexico? E-tailer Cooperativa wants to break those quick stereotypes–while still staying true to the region’s rich cultural and fashion heritage.
“I want to show you the other side of our culture,” says founder Araceli Graham, who grew up in Mexico but now lives in Texas. Cooperativa was created in November 2015 and currently features about 40 apparel, accessories and footwear designers, most from Mexico and Colombia. She’s actively recruiting others and will soon be adding designers from Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and more.
“Latin America is more refined and cosmopolitan than you think,” says Graham, who used to represent Mexican jewelry designers in the U.S. “But the stereotypes are very strong. I want to show that even when our designers use indigenous techniques, they do so in a contemporary way.” Merchandise retails from around $200 for straw bags to $2,000 for designer dresses.
Designers all get individual bios to talk about where they’re from and their aesthetic. Even so, they seem to surprise the customers. “We do pop-up shops in Texas and everyone says they’re not expecting the merchandise that we have,” says Graham.