Miami Beach International Fashion Week, which begins its 14th year today through Saturday, never fails to be the largest gathering of Latin American designers in the U.S.
With 55 designers representing over 25 different countries, the week will include, for the first time, designers from Bahrain, Greece, and Ecuador.
Three designers from the small country that sits on the equator are sure to rock the runway this week. Bringing their distinct style and culture to a city that sizzles, with their couture gowns, unique ready-to-wear collections, and sexy swimwear, they represent the new eco-chic attitude of the home of the Galapagos Islands.
Designer Juan Carlos Guaman, from the house of Carvajal will introduce buyers and fashionistas to the untouched Amazon with his floral gowns inspired by the Yasuni National Park; located in the heart of Ecuador's Amazon Tropical Rain Forest.
Creating his architectural gowns with hand-embroidered orchids, the dresses are fabricated in chiffon, silk organza, and taffeta – all done in a clean minimalist look.
“We’re a season-less country. We’re in the middle of the world—literally,” Guaman said. “The culture of our clothing is function over high fashion, but we’re constantly changing and growing in Ecuador. Our style is classic and pays homage to the Latina form.”
This year, for the first time, Guaman will also present his Prêt-A-Porte collection at London Fashion Week.
“I do feel Europe is more open to Latin American designers. They have less taboos and less preconceived notions about Latin America,” he said. “Ecuador has over 20 different cultures. That opens the opportunity for creativity. And we have very high quality people to design and construct our clothing. We’re presenting a loud and extreme collection—only to be worn by a woman with a strong definitive personality.”
Pais del Sol is a swimwear line created a year ago by Ecuadoran designer Carmen Larrea. Larrea’s ethnic and floral bikinis will be one of the opening night shows this week.
The line recently received a lot of attention from the press thanks to one big- named U.S. celeb – Miley Cyrus. The two met while Cyrus was in Ecuador performing. Larrea got the singer a suit, she wore it on a photo shoot in Rio, Brazil, and Pais del Sol was solidly put on the fashion map.
Larrea’s signature swimwear is made by using a mix of Italian-made Nylon and Spandex, often decorated with hand-embroidered Murano crystal beads, buckles made of natural semi-precious stones and metals, and carved Tagua seeds. Tagua, referred to as “vegetable ivory”, comes from a seed inside a palm tree that grows in the highlands of Ecuador. The seed is often used to replicate the look of elephant ivory for buttons, figurines, beads, and jewelry. Ecuador is one of the largest export countries of the seeds.
She said Ecuador was one of the more conservative South American countries.
“Ecuador isn’t as bold or extreme as Brazil, it’s true, but we’re seeing a boom of emerging designers here,” Larrea said. “Women are following fashion and wanting to be more edgy.”
In addition to the swimwear, Pais del Sol will also show their hand-woven “Panama” hats.
“These hats take an average of three months to a year to hand-weave. The people living in the highlands make them, and it’s a hard process,” she said. “They’re weaved from the Toquilla palm tree, and we’re the only exporter and producer of the real hat.”
Glenkora Comte is one of Ecuador’s most well-known, eco-chic clothing designers. Comte will present a special collection in Miami this week called “Ecuador Loves Life”. It’s inspired by the chameleon nature of today’s woman, Comte’s Inca culture, and her efforts to make clothing in a responsible way.
“I’m inspired by all of the many roles women play today. Whether she works in the home or outside of it, women are constantly in a state of evolution and change,” she said. “And I promote my culture and help my country using “Inca type” design; these incorporate textiles inspired by Ecuador and pre-Columbian people. All in a sustainable way, I use 100 percent of the colors and icons of that time.”
Traveling and working through the support of the Ministry of Ecuador, Comte’s eco-friendly and sustainable design practices can be seen in both the clothing and even the shoes she’s created from recycled materials using leftover fabric from her clothing line.
“The impact on our eco-system in Ecuador, particularly from oil exportation, has been severe. The chemicals used in the traditional methods of creating textiles, like polyester, create a lot of pollution. Creating a mix of jackets, dresses, shorts, scarves, and pants using dyes made primarily from plants, vegetables, coffee, and rose petals."
She said her eco-friendly fashion may not be helping the world -- but it could help her country by offering new innovation, new opportunities and new jobs.
"I’m dedicated to this," she said. "And Miami is great platform to show and promote our work and country.”
Rebekah Sager is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif.
Rebekah Sager is a writer/editor for Fox News Latino. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager