A Statement of Style

The dynamic duo behind the annual Latin American Fashion Summit once again made Miami their runway


Over three jam-packed days prior to Miami’s massive annual Art Basel event this past holiday season, members of the burgeoning Latin American fashion community had another opportunity to show off their brands and hear from some of the most prominent figures in the business. The Latin American Fashion Summit (LAFS) is a yearly event now in its sixth edition. A plethora of thought-provoking discussions and panel Q&As focused on the current state of the fashion industry and included topics such as sustainability, business development, business branding, and diversity and inclusion. A new segment concentrated on the beauty and wellness industry. 

LAFS is the brainchild of Estefania Lacayo and Samantha Tams, a pair of fashion cognoscenti who years ago were surprised by the lack of opportunities for Latin American creatives to showcase their brands to the U.S. market. They decided to produce a “meeting point” in Miami as “the capital of Latin America,” where attendees could learn from established industry figures and network with decision-makers. 

Hailing from Nicaragua and now based in Miami, Lacayo had nearly two decades of experience in the editorial, digital, and retail areas of the industry. A passionate advocate for social development in the region, she joined forces with Tams, a like-minded Mexican who had worked as a senior buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue and specialty stores, becoming a brand strategist and fashion consultant. Lacayo, the more outspoken and outgoing of the duo, is the yin to Tams’ yang of thoughtful comments and quiet intelligence. Together, they have become a recognized force for change.  

During the summit, a succession of panel discussions and one-on-one interviews – often emotionally charged – allowed industry leaders to reveal the trials and tribulations they endured while building their respective businesses. Designer Diane Von Furstenberg spoke about early success with her famous wrap dress and subsequent difficulties both personally and professionally, offering advice to the mostly female audience about perseverance and adaptability. Edgardo Osorio, the Colombian founder and creative director of luxury shoe brand Aquazzura (worn by everyone from Nicole Kidman to Meghan Markle and Jennifer Lawrence) talked about his uneven start after dropping out of the London College of Fashion at age 16. Hiding his extreme youth and forcing himself to master fluent Italian, he joined Salvatore Ferragamo; later he was chosen to design shoe collections for Roberto Cavalli.  

Attendees asking questions to the panel

LAFS’ biggest patron is Craig Robins, CEO and President of the real estate development company Dacra, which provided dedicated spaces in the Design District for talks, panel discussions, and satellite events, as well as an arena for the final design competition: “Pitch to LAFS.” Robins also made available a pop-up space in the District for LatAm fashion and accessory collections, all open to the public. An entrepreneur, developer, and passionate collector of art and design, Robins has single-handedly transformed Miami’s Design District from a rundown area for home design professionals into a major cultural hub. Today, the District contains luxury shopping, restaurants, and wellness experiences, and stages cultural exhibitions and public art installations. 

When asked how his love of art and architecture began, Robins said, “…it was when I got out of my comfort zone and spent a year living in Barcelona. It was there that I discovered art and urban design through the works of Gaudi, Salvador Dali, and Picasso.” A native Miamian, Robins insists the city is unique: “There is something about Miami being a tropical paradise, but also an urban destination, which I find truly special, with its mixture of Latin, American, and European influences.” 

Craig Robins, CEO and President of Dacra with Emilio Estefan, the music producer

Robin’s co-panelist, Emilio Estefan, the music producer, Emmy Award winner, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, revealed his rags-to-riches story: “My father and I fled the Castro regime and lived for a time in Spain in impoverished circumstances until we relocated permanently to Miami. There, we lived initially in cramped quarters with relatives.” He ended his talk by saying passionately, “I am an immigrant who is grateful every day to live the American dream.” 

On the second evening of the summit, a free concert was held in the Design District’s main open area, Jungle Plaza, where Estefan’s (and wife Gloria’s) daughter Emily – a singer and musician in her own right – performed with her band to a packed and cheering crowd. 

LAFS is known not just for the super-stylish sartorial styles donned by the attendees – from early morning until late at night – but also for its glamorous gala on the final evening. This time, the event was held in the historic Alfred I. DuPont building in Miami’s downtown, where the winners in the three categories of “Pitch to LAFS” were announced: The “Designer of the Year” award, given to Colombian Maria Elena Villamil for her couture-like constructions; the “Accessory Designer” award, given to fellow Colombian Paola Sighinolfi, for her chunky, stylish, gold-plated jewelry; and the “Social Impact Project” award, given to Peruvian textile brand Escudo, which employs local artisans to weave handmade knits. Each took home a $20,000 grant, a trunk show orchestrated by online luxury retailer Moda Operandi, and mentorship provided by Miami’s prestigious Instituto Marangoni.  

An attendee at the fashion show in the historic Alfred I. Dupont building  

Between summits, LAFS uses its online platform to keep members up to date on satellite conferences and podcasts, as well as provide networking and job opportunities. Up next is the second iteration of Raices (Roots), LAFS’ international event, which travels to a host city in Latin America each spring. Although this year’s destination has yet to be revealed, Lacayo and Tam’s professionalism and innate Latin glamour will undoubtedly guarantee another successful event. 


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