Who’s Next

Gabriela Guaracao wants to bring ‘a little Latin America’ to Philly with a new lifestyle brand

The political organizer and Colombia native expects to launch Americae by the end of the year.

Gabriela Guaracao
Danya Henninger/Billy Penn
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Gabriela Guaracao is pivoting from politics to fashion, and the Philly resident is working exclusively with Latin American designers to do it.

Guaracao was honored last year on our Who’s Next: Politics list for her work with the political action committee Philly Set Go. Later this year, she plans to launch Americae, a Latin American lifestyle and fashion brand for women that will offer clothing, jewelry and accessories. The company will start with an e-commerce site and plans to have pop-ups in the near future, with the goal of a brick and mortar store eventually. She’s working with two partners employed in the fashion industry and is searching for financial backing in addition to her personal investment.

Welcome to the third edition of our “Who’s Next Catch Up.” Each month, Billy Penn highlights up-and-coming Philadelphians under the age of 40 as part of our Who’s Next series presented by the Knight Foundation. In Who’s Next Catch Up, we’ll return to various honorees and find out what they’ve been up to since we first wrote about them.

We talked to Guaracao, who came to Philly from Colombia as a child, about her plans for Americae and what Philly Set Go is up to. The conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Why this direction? It seems to be a major change from politics?

Yeah but it’s not. I am Latin American. So the purpose of this business is to bring a luxury Latin American experience to a U.S. market, a U.S. consumer, expressing that through a vertically integrated brand and experiential brick and mortar.

What do you mean by vertically integrated brand?

It’s basically a direct to consumer brand where we’re controlling the entire supply chain, from design to production to execution to how it’s sold to a consumer. Many brands that are common in this digital age like Everlane and Warby Parker, those are vertically integrated brands.

So why this company and theme?

One I’m Latin American. Two, Latin America’s experiencing what I would call a fashion boom in the last five to six years. Partially it’s because the region is now, generally speaking, very prosperous. Give or take a few countries, it’s very politically and economically stable, so it’s really allowed the creative class to create and do their thing. Some of the high-end designers have now made it to the major US retailers like Sak’s, and they’re experiencing a lot of success. So I used it as an example to demonstrate how much the region is exporting and exploding in its fashion scene. But it’s still very nascent and still very new.

Can people buy your products?

Not yet. We are forecasting a soft launch for the end of this year. That would be where we’re just testing the market through our beta website. We’re working exclusively with designers in Latin America to make an exclusive product for us and for the brand.

What is your product? Can you describe it?

It’s a women’s lifestyle brand, so women’s clothing products: women’s dresses, apparel, accessories, jewelry, handbags.

What’s one idea that you’re most excited about?

Jewelry is something that is very prominent and well done in Latin America and not as well known in the US market. That’s one of the products we’re very excited about to bring to the U.S. market. And for me as sort of like a version of the target consumer, every time I wear a Latin American piece, accessory, everyone always compliments me, like, ‘where did you get this.’ I almost use myself as a test case when I wear things.

Will you still be involved with Philly Set Go?

It’s a work of passion. These two things are almost like an extension of being in the public forum, so to speak. Philly Set Go was my idea combined with one other person, and we have a board of 15. Because we’re now two and a half years into it and have such a big board we have a lot more hands.

What’s something you want to do in the next year?

[Philly Set Go is] fundraising right now, so that we can make a distinct impact in next year’s legislative elections. We also want to have, for the first time ever, pretty organized “Get Out The Vote” efforts for our (millennial) demographic and for our chosen candidates in their districts.

Where do you hope to be with Americae a year from now and five years from now?

One year from now I hope that this thing, this company, will have successfully launched, that our e-commerce is launched and that we will have successfully completed pop-ups because the idea is by 2019 to have the brick and mortar that I mentioned.

In five years, I would hope to make a sizable impact in bringing an authentic, creative, interactive Latin American experience to a US consumer. That’s something that very much drives me right now, bringing a little Latin America the way I know it to you.

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