The first annual ceremony honored Latinx fashion industry greats, centering the work of the creatives often overlooked by the mainstream

If the 2010s had a slogan, it might be Representation Matters, an oft-repeated phrase aimed at uplifting communities typically absent from dominant cultural conversations. The past five years have seen more nuanced adaptations of the expression, especially in the field of fashion. Not only must we see people of marginal identities, or center their work (understanding representation only in terms of labor gets dicey)—we must also set a standard for these groups to be able to express their agency in fashion, as their white counterparts can without consequence.

The first ever Latin American Fashion Awards, held this past Sunday in the Dominican Republic, is the manifestation of this ethos. The unprecedented event was spearheaded by business maven Constanza Cavalli Etro alongside designer Silvia Argüello, who combined their passion to empower their community in co-founding the biennial project. After walking the red carpet, in line with the event’s “Fashion Attitude” dress code, the best and brightest Latinx fashion talent gathered in the iconic Altos de Chavón Amphitheater in Casa de Campo. The ceremony was hosted by renowned Dominican actress and singer Leslie Grace and Argentine-Spanish model Iván de Pineda.

Presided over by designer Haider Ackermann—who opened with a few words articulating the necessity of Latin American talent in fashion—the ceremony distributed 14 awards decided by a prestigious international jury. ELLE Editor-in-Chief Nina Garcia presented Raul Lopez of Luar with Brand of the Year; Indya Moore and Tokischa crowned model Lineisy Montero Dominican Republic Local Star; and journalist Anna Dello Russo offered Accessories Brand of the Year to Daniela Villegas. Other winners included Willy Chavarria (Designer of the Year) and singer J Balvin (Latin Fashion Icon of the Year), who brought the audience to their feet during a mid-show performance.

An evening full of emotional anecdotes and overdue commemoration, the first annual Latin American Fashion Awards celebrates its own community without regard to the mainstream. Representation doesn’t simply matter—it has to be made to matter.