A handful of young fashion designers from the smallest Latin American country of El Salvador has taken on the challenge of competing against worldwide-known brands by going back to their roots.
“We compete against world brands that have massive production and do so by selling quality with social responsibility,” said Ayax Melara, 29, a Salvadoran who has been a fashion designer for three years.
Melara created the Ayax Jero brand, one of several other new, local brands like Vaiza, Moha and Ingrid Valeriano thriving in San Salvador.
Melara is part of a new generation of Salvadoran fashion producers born in a region of the world in which manufacturers of worldwide known brands often set up their factories with the only purpose of reducing factory salaries to a minimum, even by local standards, he said.
“We, on the contrary, pay our workers responsibly,” Melara said.
While part of the effort has to do with increasing the life standard of people working in the industry, another part has to do with helping the survival of dozens of makers of artisanal clothing material that still cling to ancient-style looms to weave their cotton threads, he added.
“We work with artisans from several towns," he said. "They have an association, and we buy from them. It is in that material that we design our collections."
He added that dresses made by Salvadoran designers tend to favor multiple and rich colors.
Having an information systems background, Melara was new to fashion when he started to create designs for both men and women.
“One could have believed that in El Salvador it would have been hard to grow in the field of fashion, but my brand has been very well recognized," Melara said.
Starting with the fabrics bought from artisans, he draws designs in a computer and then transfers those designs into the material by using a printing process called sublimation.
The group of eight Salvadoran designers are currently working together initially to consolidate a position in Central America, but they will later seek to expand.
“We try to support each other; we are a group,” he said.
The goal is that within five years they will be ready to take their work to markets including South America, the U.S. and Europe, Melara concluded.