2018 continues to reaffirm an undeniable truth: the Hispanic Influence on the overall American mainstream remains a potent cultural force. Through music, food, and film, the extending reach of Hispanics not only carries over well into other populations but also finds a strong foothold in them on which to grow. Yet, however remarkable the gains in these areas are, the imprint left by Hispanics on fashion possesses a longer history and, to a certain extent, a greater impact. Latin Haute Couture 101 is now in session:
The Leading Visionary
Measuring influence means examining impact. To break into the spheres of fashion design requires not only creativity but also a firm visionary at the helm. Latin Haute Couture can undeniably claim THE visionary. Cristobal Balenciaga, at once, becomes the Spanish forefather of the world’s modern high fashion. Lauded as the “master of all of us” by Christian Dior and as “the architect of haute couture” by Hubert de Givenchy, Balenciaga revolutionized the female sillouhette introducing innovative garments like the balloon skirt or baby doll dress. With a precise eye for tailoring, Balenciaga not only innovated fashion but also totally reformed how women carried their natural class. His eponymous fashion house continues his legacy with thought-provoking, immensely creative, seemingly disparate pieces that undeniably catch everyone’s attention.
The Modern Masters
If Hispanics claim the Visionary, then they can also claim two eminent successors. Oscar de La Renta — born of Dominican parents — found his calling when commissioned to design the debutante dress of the US Ambassador to Spain’s daughter. More importantly, he honed his craft as fashion illustrator for Balenciaga followed stints with Lanvin and Elizabeth Arden. De la Renta never skimps on impeccable elegance. A de la Renta piece is known for its classic, yet flowing lines accented by vibrant colors and/or embroideries. Impressing a room with gasps is one thing, but doing so with expressive subtlety is the de la Renta signature.
And then there’s Carolina Herrera. Practically trained to see pretty everywhere as a young girl in Venezuela, Herrera’s dramatic fashion choices became noticeable in major circles in New York by the early 80’s which impressed legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. From her first show at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Club, her mark was beyond original. Herrera easily makes the sleek and straight look impressive. Every piece — whether formal or casual, male or female — exhibits clear-cut lines that scream creativity in their simplicity. A poise all their own, dress in Herrera and assume the stoic imprint of high fashion.
The New Blood
As things change in fashion, so, too, do the designers and these names leave Latin Haute Couture in a great place for the future. Narciso Rodriguez, for example, exemplifies the impact of a minimalist style. No frills, no drastic colors, Rodriguez creates designs that prove less is more. Johanna Ortiz — Colombian born, South Florida made — markedly infuses every one of her designs with a distinct femininity that elicits a strong elegance. Pepa Pombo introduced her exquisite line in 1978. Yet, the Colombian brand took an improved direction under the leadership of her daughter, Monica Holguin. With a classic eccentricity reminiscent of the late 60’s, you’ll find pieces that carry the day at any high-end event.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of prominent Hispanic designers that made fashion history or curry favor now. Yet. conclusively the fashion world as we know it today required a distinctly Latin Haute Couture influence to not only modernize but thrive. Truly, these designers bring a unique style, un estilo plenamente Latino.