Latina's are natural born fighters. We lead like a bull and fight for what we believe. "It's in our blood" as Araceli puts it and it's no secret that Latin American designers are starting to gain the recognition they deserve from the U.S. and beyond. Araceli Graham has catapulted several fashion designers to fame through a distinct shopping platform called Cooperativa Shop. A destination dedicated to the cultural craftsmanship and beauty usually found as hidden gems in Latin American countries. Now, it's offering accessibility to carefully curated goods to fashion conscious shoppers around the world. With a distinct eye and passion for introducing unknown brands, Araceli paves a new era of cultural shopping online.
Cooperativa Shop was established on the idea of bringing awareness to Latin American designers. How has this impacted the overall presence of Mexican fashion designers in the US?
AG: It's impacted all of our designers in the best and most rewarding ways possible. Before Cooperativa, some of our designers were unheard of and totally unknown to many people - now they have a window and a platform to expand in the U.S. as well as our support as we help market their business.
What was the initial idea that sparked the beginning of this venture and what have been some of the highs and lows of the business?
AG: Initial Idea: It all started about five years ago when I noticed this creative, artistic movement happening in Mexico. I started going to pop-up shops, arts shows, and collective projects that so many of my friends had gotten involved with. It made me feel so proud of their accomplishments and influenced me to do the same - to accomplish something of my own, but in the United States.
"I launched Cooperativa Shop to not only serve as a place for emerging, unknown, and talented designers to grow and transmit their collections, but also as a place to communicate the reality of Latin American culture...
to the rest of the world, to diffuse the obvious associated stereotypes, and to show that there's truly a creative, more refined, and cosmopolitan side to our culture."
Highs and Lows: The biggest challenged we've faced is in the positioning and translation: building a platform that perfectly communicates to the American market while not losing sight of the cultural elements that our designers so proudly express and represent. The highs include traveling to different Latin American countries to meet new designers and always staying on the lookout for trends.
OUR COOPERATIVA SHOP PICKS
As an entrepreneurial Latina, what have been some of the struggles you've had to overcome through the growth of Cooperativa Shop?
AG: Everything has been very positive and has evolved super fast - the only challenge that I face is distance, I would love to multiply myself and be in different places at the same time.
Technology has and continues to change the landscape of running a business. How has technology impacted the trajectory and advancement of Cooperativa Shop online?
AG: If it weren't for technology, we would've never gained awareness from different parts of the world like Singapore, Taiwan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, London or Italy. Our main focus is targeted to the American market but since 'online' is a global concept, we've successfully reached so many other countries without lifting a finger. Instagram has also played a major role in spreading awareness of our business.
While on the topic of technology, what are the top three apps you cannot live without and why?
AG: All of my crucial and vital information (passwords, credit card information, drivers license, passport, bank accounts, etc.) goes to the app One Safe. If my house burns *knock on wood* this app will still give me access to my life. Since I'm always traveling, Uber is my number one whenever I'm in Mexico, Colombia, New York, or Houston and The Weather Channel is another one I cannot live without, since it's how I plan and pack for trips. An app I'm dying to learn how to use is Evernote - I've heard great reviews about it.
What can we expect to see from Cooperativa Shop within the next 5-10 years?
AG: In the years to come, Cooperativa will carry designers from new countries like Peru, Chile and Argentina and will also offer home accessories, emerging art, furniture and children collections.
If we were to take a peek in your closet, what three most recent purchases may we find?
AG: An amazing tunic from Atelier Crump (a new designer you'll find on Cooperative fairly soon), a Johanna Ortiz dress, and a pair of glittery Marni shoes.
What's your personal belief on female empowerment, do you feel that Latina's have to work harder than their peers?
AG: I don't believe that your origins, where you come from, or how you started has an impact on how hard you have to work to achieve success but I do believe that Latina women tend to be harder workers - it's in our blood.
As a business woman with an incredible roster of work accomplishments, what advice would you give to the aspiring entrepreneur?
AG: I once read a phrase from Fortune Magazine that really stuck with me: "Introducing a new brand, publishing your work, finding clients, sharing your ideas, promoting your work, asking for help - you're always so vulnerable. Running your own business, especially at the beginning, is like wearing your heart on your sleeve on steroids." So with that, my advice would be to not be afraid - to jump in the abyss and not fear the consequences.
Last but not least, whom do you admire and why?
AG: Natalie Massenet. She's such a smart woman and she changed the industry with a smile on her face, impeccable manners and great style.
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*Latinas on the Move is a series documenting the lives of entrepreneurial and business savvy Latina women. Let us know who you'd like to see next!*