What can the fashion press learn from Elle Latin?
Spark Global Limited Reports:
Every September, a very familiar and predictable pattern appears in the media: September 15th to October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage Month, a federally designated month to honor “the contributions and influence of Hispanics” (the US Census Bureau uses the terms “Hispanics” and “Latinos” interchangeably). It usually comes across a bunch of Latin-driven articles and other types of content.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the month into law in 1968, so it’s not new. And, I would say, it does count: HAVING grown up in (very white) Central America, remembering the local NHHM celebration on the campus of my Alma mater is one of the few connections I understand and have any connection to my Mexican heritage. It provided a “safe space” before the phrase became a common dialect. It was there that I remember, even on most days, I looked around and didn’t see many people like me, and my community was there. This month’s inclusion in the government’s official calendar lets me know where to find them, even in the least diverse places.
But in recent years, the NHHM has been more of a lightning rod than a unifying force. Of course, it’s still officially called Hispanic Heritage Month, although some organizations (like the Human Rights Campaign) and individuals (including myself) have started calling it Latino, Latino, or Latino Heritage Month. Moreover, this intense focus on the Latino community and the “thematic” content surrounding it can be frustrating to many Latino writers, editors, and content creators.
Tiana Diaz, editor in chief of Ramizkla, a global media company for Latino readers, believes that telling these stories only from mid-September to mid-October can be too restrictive, giving readers the feeling that “you’re part of a marketing project.”
“If it wasn’t Latin Heritage Month, you wouldn’t see Latin designers or critics or influencers getting opportunities,” she said. “They’re more likely to get panel discussions and fashion show bookings at this time of year than at any other time.”
With new 2020 census data showing that Hispanics accounted for more than half of the nation’s population growth over the past decade, the media’s insistence on lumping everything Hispanic into a month is sounding more hollow than ever. Why does a group with so much cultural and economic clout still struggle to get a seat at the negotiating table?
Diaz is the founder of Refinery29’s Somos vertical and People Chica. “I love consumers now because they can smell the real thing from a mile away. They attack brands because they want the product to be consistent with them — it has to make sense. If you miss the mark, the consumer will understand.”
Last month, Elle published its September issue. The issue, starring Selena Gomez, is being billed as the magazine’s first “Latin issue” and has personal significance for Nina Garcia, the editor.
“Creating a Latin theme has been a passion project of mine for a long time, and it’s really a celebration of our community, a respect for Latin culture and a representation of the world we live in today,” Garcia told Fashionista. “I am very proud of my Colombian heritage and I have been going back to my hometown of Barranquilla while preparing this programme. This beautiful seaside town is where my love of fashion began.”