The arrival of thousands of Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago looking for socioeconomic alternatives has brought with them the inspiration and ideas of many migrants who show the local community their intention of help the TT economy.
Two of these migrants are cousins Yennifer Muñoz Ramírez and Ingrid Díaz. Their plans for self-improvement have led them to create their own women's clothing factory in TT: Luce Latina.
Ramírez told Newsday: “It is a small business we are starting, but it is our pride, it is like a newborn baby seeks to strengthen every day, not only for us, but also for this country opening its doors to us and needs a lot of our help to keep growing.”
Both women, who have spent more than three years in TT, are professionals who studied in Venezuela and have made a long journey through women's fashion there.
“We started this business in November 2021 out of the need to earn extra money by taking advantage of the talent and knowledge we have in the clothing industry,” Ramírez said.
The initial idea came from another cousin, Cynthia Muñoz Ramírez.
“She was part of Luce Latina, but for reasons of not having the opportunity of school education for her six-year-old daughter, she had to leave TT and return to Venezuela.”
Ramírez, a student of economics and new trends, and Díaz, a specialist in cutting, sewing, knitting, and embroidery with more than 25 years of experience, make the perfect combination.
“With the investment process, we began to investigate if they sold the necessary machines for producing basic garments here. Then we visited the fabric stores, the haberdashery and the other stores for equipment needed to start a sewing workshop,” Ramirez recalled.
Diaz said after getting all the information, calculating accounts and analysing the market, they decided to start Luce Latina.
“We bought the sewing machines, tables and other tools and we started to make trendy swimsuits. We made it public through some networks and since then we have not stopped growing,” Ramirez said.
They invested $20,000 to start the project.
Today, Luce Latina is inspired by the creation of trendy garments for Caribbean women.
"We can make garments for girls, boys and men – but we are focused on women, working with 100 per-cent local materials...fabrics, threads, zippers, chains, lace,” Ramírez said.
They work directly with the client. Ramírez explained the women come to her workshop, show the design they want and, together with the seamstresses, work on improving the ideas, colours, sizes and models. Custom garments take between three and four days to be made and delivered to customers.
They also show their own designs through social networks like Instagram or TikTok. “We make our sales digitally, it is a good alternative. Daily we post the garments that are available in their specific colours and sizes,” she said.
Designs include casual dresses, crop tops, swimsuits, tops, skirts, shorts, pants, clothing for pregnant women, sets, uniforms and pyjamas, among other things.
“Our best-selling garments are those made of spandex since it is an elastic material...We also work with cotton, satin, velvet, polyester, taffeta, rayon, chiffon, jersey and linen,” Díaz said.
"Each collection is based on fashion trends in the same way we work with personalised garments. Once we define the new collection, we do a market study on the colours and material in trend. This study consists of researching on the web and in the stores where the fabrics are sold, since they provide us with useful information for decision-making.
"Then we started working on the collection starting with four pieces of each size – XS, S, M, L and XL. Once the stock is getting low, we replenish each size,” Díaz said.
Luce Latina has been expanding its client portfolio and looking for market alternatives. Deliveries are made through TTPost, private deliveries and payments are also accepted through bank deposit, electronic transfer or in cash, if the client wishes to pick up the order at the sewing workshop.
“We work on making garments from Tuesday-Saturday. On Sundays we take a break and take the opportunity to do the maintenance to the workshop and the machines, in addition to ordering the orders.
"Every Monday is the day to buy materials for personalised orders or for new collections,” Ramírez said.
Also, with the intention of gaining customers and attracting general attention, Luce Latina works on promotions once a month.
“It's marketing, it's strategy, and that's why we try to take care of every detail. Although our business is small and just starting, we always have to think big as entrepreneurs.”
Being a clothing manufacturer in TT is not easy. Ramírez said she has to go to several different stores and areas to get fabrics and accessories for the outfits.
“We buy in stores where they sell fabrics, and in hardware stores. We walked many towns looking for variety and economy. The work is exhausting.”
She said she has been looking at the possibility of importing some items from Colombia.
“We plan to visit the city of Medellín, Colombia, in an expo fair for micro-entrepreneurs where there is an exhibition on looms of the different types of textiles and materials for the production of our garments. Then we will make decisions based on the greater demand in our market about what type of fabric we need.”
Luce Latina still needs to find out the procedure for importing from Colombia to TT.
It is possible importing might mean they have to increase their prices, but they would also improve the quality of the garments.
“We are in the evaluation process. The objective is to continue growing and to be able to establish ourselves as a local brand that can soon expand throughout the Caribbean,” Díaz said.