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For Luxury, Latin Americans Love to Keep it Local

When Louis Vuitton chose Mexican football superstar Miguel Layún as its first ambassador for the Latin American country last year, it signaled the growing importance both the country and region play in luxury consumption potential for international brands and local labels alike.

China may get the lion’s share of luxury’s attention but markets in the Western hemisphere show promise for growth.

In 2019 1.4 million Latin American households, largely clustered in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Chile, will have at least $75,000 in disposable income, the threshold at which people typically begin to spend on luxury, per data from Fitch Solutions Macro Research. BMI Research ranks Mexico as No. 9 for luxury growth in emerging markets, behind Brazil at No. 7 and Chile at No. 10, and Bain describes Mexico as a “strong player” in international luxury. Headlines reporting wave after wave of cartel violence mask Mexico’s promising economy, despite fresh data showing a December sales decline of 3.2 percent—the largest such dip in five years, per data from national statistics agency INEGI.

Louis Vuitton’s choice of stylish footballer, Miguel Layun, as its Mexican ambassador points to the role sportswear and streetwear can play in helping large established luxury players reach new global consumers—and take advantage of fashion’s ongoing casualization. What’s more, Louis Vuitton isn’t the only top-shelf firm showing Mexico some love. Last spring Dolce & Gabbana hosted its Alta Moda runway event in Mexico City, riffing off romantic styles and ornate aesthetics the city was famous for in the 1950s—or as Vogue put it, “an ode to Mexican iconography.”

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Latin American luxury consumers are getting in on the logo trend that quickly signals high-end spending power, with Deloitte’s 2018 Global Powers of Luxury Goods report noting how Mexican consumers “prefer branded products, which is an incentive for luxury brands to invest in the country.”

However, luxury consumers throughout this region also have demonstrated an appetite for local brands that both preserve traditional artisan techniques and employ local craftswomen, and look to their countries for inspiration and pride.

Guatemalan designers Gabriela Luna and Corina del Pinal of the label Luna del Pinal, source their embroidered textiles from women crafters within their native country, creating elevated fashion that takes a cue from heritage fabrics. In Mexico, label Lydia Lanvin celebrates and promotes textiles and crafts developed by indigenous peoples, and has worked with 10 artisan communities to create bold, color-splashed collections. Peru’s Mozh Mozh similarly relies on artisan partners to develop fashion that mixes tradition with modernity.

Deloitte foresees the “West versus the rest” paradigm reversing in the years ahead as luxury sales in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa will overtake Europe and North Africa for the greatest share of consumption. “Most industry observers attribute this development not just to growing sales in emerging markets, but also to innovative retail concepts and business models adopted in these regions,” the company added.