We sat down with Estefania Lacayo, the co-founder and visionary force behind the Latin American Fashion Summit, for a conversation on style, beauty, and leadership. What began as an annual conference, "LAFS" has transformed into a network and digital platform that empowers and elevates the region's best emerging designers and creative entrepreneurs. Estefania shares her unique perspective on leadership and what makes Latin American design aesthetic so unique - think music, dance, color, and tropical greenery. The self-proclaimed beauty junkie also shared her wisdom on everything from her favorite wellness rituals, to the best beauty practitioners in NYC, and of course, her favorite products to maintain that beautiful, glowing skin.
What is your hometown and where do you live today?
I am from Managua, Nicaragua. I lived in New York City for over nineteen years and now I have moved to Miami.
Can you tell us about your work and mission with the Latin American Fashion Summit?
I wanted to bring together Latin Americans in a retail space and create a platform where we could empower each other. I believe that collaboration makes us stronger as a whole and inclusion is key for growth. Powerful stories should be shared and it is important to learn from one another.
"I believe that collaboration makes us stronger as a whole and inclusion is key for growth. Powerful stories should be shared and it is important to learn from one another."
What inspired you to start this project?
Reason number one to launch this project was that we kept hearing all these wonderful stories of entrepreneurs doing amazing things and we felt these stories must be told. On the other hand, a lot of emerging talents were constantly being taken advantage of by PR agencies or showrooms and a lot of them lacked the proper structure to be successful on an international level. It was an opportunity to give them the adequate tools to prosper.
At first, the idea was to bring outside expertise, but Latin American leaders were just as powerful as the outsiders and perhaps more relatable to our audience. There is so much talent in the region.
How would you describe the Latin American design aesthetic you've watched blossom on the global stage?
Beauty and overall aesthetics are very much a Latin woman’s priority and we can definitely see this reflected in fashion design. The colors, movement and ruffles are all part of the lifestyle. We are constantly surrounded by music, dance, colors, tropical fruits, outdoor greenery and that is reflected in how we live and the fashion that we wear. I think this authenticity is very attractive to outside [retail] buyers. Nobody does it as well as the Latin designers: it’s hard to do the ruffles and the color if you are not living the ruffles and the color! I go back to the designs of Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera and no one else in the industry could have been able to recreate that! If you are not Latin, it is not in your DNA and I think we should own that!
"Beauty and overall aesthetics are very much a Latin woman’s priority and we can definitely see this reflected in fashion design."
In a few words, how would you define your approach to beauty?
Beauty has been important to me since very little. My mother has always taken great care of herself and she has been a great example. I remember when I was 10 years old, we were visiting Miami and went to then department store, Burdines, and headed to the Clinique counter where she bought me this three-step set. She said from now on, I was going to be doing a beauty ritual for the rest of my life. I remember well, it was soap, toner and a yellow moisturizer—that was my first foray into beauty!
A few years after, I began to use sunblock on a daily basis. I have never been the type to fry under the sun. Looking tan is not for me and I have always been very pale and highly conscious about wrinkles and dark spots. I cannot emphasize on the importance of sunblock enough!
"I remember when I was 10 years old, [my mother] bought me this three-step set. She said from now on, I was going to be doing a beauty ritual for the rest of my life."
What would you say is unique about the Latin American beauty philosophies you've encountered?
In Spanish, there is this notion of being ‘vanidosa,’ which in English, translates to being vain or full of yourself. But I think this translation is unfair and doesn’t reflect what we mean—taking care of yourself is not about being self-obsessed, but rather about taking pride in yourself and putting yourself first. We inherit this philosophy from mothers and grandmothers—it’s part of our DNA! I also find great joy in self-care: even during these crazy times, my beauty routine is my glory!
"Taking care of yourself is not about being self-obsessed, but rather about taking pride in yourself and putting yourself first."
What is your favorite inherited beauty lesson from your mother or your culture?
This idea of taking care of yourself but also, washing my face. Regardless if you do twenty steps or two, I think it is very important to wash away those daily toxins.
Can you share the highlights of your skincare routine?
I am very much a beauty junkie and I am always trying out new brands, I am not particularly loyal to any. I change between Sisley, La Mer, Natura Bisse and Lancer.
In the winter, I tend to stick more to La Mer because of its thickness and moisture. If I am in a tropical place like Miami, I go for a lighter face wash or something with glycolic. Then I move on to toner, usually from one of the brands I mentioned earlier. I get glycolic pads from my dermatologist which I use three times a week. I have a lot of pigmentation, so a lot of the products I use aren’t clean. When I was pregnant, I used a lot of Tata Harper. After my pregnancy I started getting so much more melasma.
After this, I use a serum. I am a fan of the Younger Pure Youth serum by Lancer as well as The Concentrate from La Mer. I also use one from Augustinus Bader.
During winter and fall I do Dermamelan, which is the best cream for pigmentation. When my skin is in a bad place, I use it every night. You may peel, but it makes your skin unbelievable. And then I do moisturizer— I have been using The Cream by Augustinus Bader, and in the winter I use La Mer. For daytime, I then apply sunblock. I have one by Dermamelan and another by Obagi—this is a brand that has helped me so much that I get through my dermatologist. Their sunblock is great.
Recently, I have been using an overnight cream Diamond Extreme mask from Natura Bisse. I put sunblock on about three times a day. A dermatologist told me it only lasts for a few hours so I always reapply. The Joaquina Botánica Hydrating Glow Oil is by far my favorite oil - it is the only one I am using now. The light smell it has, it’s so great, and the texture - it’s just awesome. I have this small fridge for skincare in my closet, and I keep it inside.
I also do powders and supplements. I like to add goji berries in my fruit bowl and I add Dr. Vims clean powder to my tea or coffee. I also take collagen every day.
Lastly, I found an amazing silk pillow which I feel has been great for my skin—the brand is called SLIP.
Favorite DIY beauty practice?
I am terribly bad at DIY and I would rather trust the experts. Also, there is something about pretty packaging that I am drawn to. If I am doing it myself it might turn into a disaster!
What feature do you have fun playing up the most?
Skin, definitely! I don’t buy a lot of make up—and if I am, you can’t really tell I am wearing it. I love a fresh face. I think that there is this misconception that Latinas always have a full face of make up, and although it might be sometimes true, I know a lot of us have a less is more approach to our everyday face.
What is your favorite beauty destination?
I like trying different ones. In New York City I go to Joanna Vargas for her Red Carpet Facial if I have a special event. I have also gone to Dr. Barbara Sturm. For Botox I go to Paul Frank. There are so many great options in the city!
Your favorite mindfulness or wellness ritual?
I work out every day—if my kids allow me to! I have been meditating on some days— even if it’s just ten minutes by myself helps me a lot these days. I also love podcasts and feel like they ground me. Listening to inspiring stories of how people built their business is kind of like a meditation to me. I also enjoy reading books from leaders I admire—I am especially drawn to stories where learning from failure or pivoting play a key role. It’s great to learn this stories as many times I feel I can apply their experiences to my own.
My favorite inspiring podcasts on leadership:
- How I Built This with Guy Raz
- Ted Talks Daily
- Pivot by Scott Galloway
- Business of Fashion
- Behind the Numbers
- The Economist
"Listening to inspiring stories of how people built their business is kind of like a meditation to me....I am especially drawn to stories where learning from failure or pivoting play a key role."
Mango and dragon fruit.
Favorite escape in Central America?
Lago de Coatepeque in El Salvador.