Karla Martinez de Salas
Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Mexico & Latin America
Karla Martinez de Salas (@karlamartinezdesalas on Instagram) is the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Mexico & Latin America. She has worked her way up in the industry starting from the bottom at W Magazine, to becoming Accessories Director at the same publication to now being responsible for Vogue in Mexico & Latin America. She moved from NYC to Mexico City, and has twin daughters. I've followed her on Instagram for some time now and Karla seems to be in a different country every other day. She must be one of the hardest working people in the industry and I have no doubt that her strong work ethic is one of the many reasons why she has made it to the very top. She was very quick to agree to an interview and I am very happy with how much time and sincerity she afforded us. Without further ado, here's what Karla had to say...
Solstice: You grew up as part of a Mexican family in El Paso, Texas. Fortunately they insisted that you speak Spanish at home, so that you could grow up speaking both English and Spanish. In addition to this you regularly travelled across the border to Mexico in order to spend time with other family members. How has this multi-cultural upbringing helped you in your life?
KMdS: I think growing up in El Paso really helped me to be more tolerant of the world in general, value the places I visited. Growing up in a small town always makes you really enjoy cities that you visit, especially museums and other culture. El Paso is a very friendly city, and one where two cultures co-exist perfectly.
Solstice: My research indicates that you started your journey in the industry with a cold call to W Magazine asking for a job. Could you please tell us about how to you went from an audacious cold caller to the Editor of Vogue Mexico & Latin America?
KMdS: I cold called W – someone really nice and answered the phone and transferred me to HR. That HR person asked me for my resume and then thought I would be good fit. I always worked very hard. I never took any short cuts, especially when someone recommended me. I never thought anything was beneath me. I think it really helped. I also needed the job and the money – I paid my own way for the most part so I had bills to pay!
Solstice: Is there anyone in the industry that has had a big influence on how you run Vogue Mexico & Latin America? For example, a past editor or someone that has given you invaluable advice.
KMdS: I think what I learned at Vogue US is invaluable, the structure, the order, fashion is a business and it should be always treated as such. Karl Templer and Fabien Baron taught me about image making and creating desire. Stefano TOnchi my boss at The New York Times and later W taught me about style – more than fashion and how it transcends on our lives – how we travel, where we eat, where and how we live.
Solstice: You previously worked for other publications in NYC. How does life in NYC compare to life in Mexico City?
KMdS: Life in NYC and Mexico is very hectic. I like New York because you don't need a car, you get on the subway and see other people, its always dynamic and there are a million things to do. Mexico is different, there is always a lot going on but the city is harder to access walking. If you drive a car there are some days that you might never actually talk to anyone because you spent an hour trying to get somewhere. Its very multicultural as well but a bit more family oriented.
Solstice: You must be one of the busiest Editors in the world. Your Instagram gives the impression that you are in a different Latin American country almost every other day. How do you deal with the responsibility and huge amount of work you have to do?
KMdS: I try and make my trips quick and efficient. I never spend more time than I need to be in most places. Unfortunately this prevents me from seeing places I am dying to visit. For example – I recently went to Peru for two days and have been dying to go to the Peruvian Amazon but I had to get home!
Solstice: Similarly, Mexico & Latin America is a huge amount of ground to cover for the magazine. How difficult is it to condense everything fashion-related from so many countries?
KMdS: Very difficult, Latin America is a very big and diverse region. Some countries are in summer when others are in winter. In Panama, Winter is rainy season. You have to be sensitive to those differences. We try and work with people on the ground in specific countries, especially where we have the most loyal followers – Chile, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Panama.
Solstice: What is your favourite part of being the Editor of Vogue Mexico & Latin America?
KMdS: I love showing the world through our platform what Mexicans and Latin look like (people always tell me I don´t look Mexican and they don´t even know what a Mexican looks like – we are tall, short, dark, fair skinned, tan, brown eyes, blue eyes etc) we are a mix of different things. I also love showing the amazing food, landscapes, culture and native fashion that we have!
Solstice: The golden age of the printed publication is unfortunately over and magazines are having to turn to digital mediums to survive. What do you think about the decline of the print magazines and do you see a future for them or will everything be digital in the near future?
KMdS: I think print magazines are really a reference for style – they are like coffee table books. Have you ever been to someones home with no books? Its quite sad!
Solstice: As a Vogue Editor, you are expected to have a good sense of style. What is your go-to look? And what is your favourite fashion buy?
KMdS: Oh boy, I think I buy too much – I always love a great pair of pants and a blazer, not one that matches – I love buying jackets, you canwear them with everything. I have a hard time selling them.
Solstice: The fashion industry in Latin America is certainly growing in quality and prestige, however there is still a long way to go for it to become as revered as the fashion industries in U.S.A and Europe. What do you think is the key to it continuing its upward trajectory?
KMdS: I think people need to be consistent and keep up with calendars. A lot of the times as Latin we tend to be more relaxed, but we can't be. If we want to compete in the global industry we need to play by the rules of the fashion calendars that are set or have a very strong communication and distribution channel. If you get an order, fulfill that order.
Solstice: Recently Yalitza Aparicio was featured on the cover of Vogue Mexico, which was incredibly important as it went against the stereotype for a fashion publication cover model. Yalitza is an indigenous Mexican woman, with her role in ‘Roma’ being her first acting job. How important to you is it to feature as much diversity as possible in your magazines, especially on the covers? And how are you looking to increase representation of different races and ethnicities?
KMdS: Very important, when I first started I was told to put international models on our covers, then I realised that by featuring local talent and exposing them to the world we could get an amazing reaction. A lot of model agencies are snobby against models doing Latin America, even with Vogue, so we decided to open the playing field and work with celebrities, musicians, artists etc. We featured a plus size model this year as well.
Solstice: What has been your most important/favourite cover to date?
KMdS: I love Yalitza because it changed peoples perception of who could be on a Vogue cover and I love the Christy Turlington cover because she is a 50 year old woman, she is beyond a super model but really a super role model.
Solstice: What advice do you have for people that want to get started working in a fashion publication such as Vogue?
KMdS: Work hard, reach out to editors, make a book, create your own Instagram and curate it.
Solstice: What’s the best way for an aspiring creative to get their work noticed by influential people in the industry such as yourself?
KMdS: I think be consistent and don´t put anything up you aren´t 100 percent proud of.
Solstice: In your opinion, what is the most special thing about Latin America?
KMdS: Its diversity – that means everything from its topography, to its food, to its people.
Solstice: What do you do in your spare time?
KMdS: Read, hang out with my daughters
Solstice:Could you please let us know about the charity you started with your friends, called ‘Proyecto Paz’? We would love to let our audience know more about it and how they can help out.
KMDs: We are an organization that started after the violence in Ciudad Juarez got out of control due to drug violence. We are a group of Mexicans living in New York that wanted to help out but were scared to send money to any organization in Mexico – so we chose organizations such as El Paso Community Foundation that help us send money to Mexico to places where its most needed. We started in Juarez but now have started building houses for earthquake victims in Morelos, Chiapas and Oaxaca. We built over 50 homes. You can go to www.projectpaz.org to learn more.
Solstice: Will you be doing more philanthropic work in the future? Such as creating more projects similar to ‘Proyecto Paz’?
KMdS: Hopefully including more charities!
Interview conducted by Sebastian Santa Maria
Photography by Karla Acosta (Instagram: @karla.acs)
Special thanks to Karla Martinez de Salas for her time and good grace.