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Hispanic Heritage Month: Zen’s Ricardo Rodriguez Talks Why Latinx Leadership is Critical to Success

FN is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. Observed from September 15 to October 15, the occasion recognizes the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. FN invites you to follow along as we shine a light on Hispanic-American shoe designers and entrepreneurs making big waves in the fashion industry. 

Ricardo Rodriguez is one of three brothers from the Bronx, N.Y., who have had an undeniable influence on the sneaker industry and the culture it serves. Three years after their FN profile, Ricardo has a position with a new company, but his ability to influence has not changed.

In 2019, Ricardo assumed the marketing manager role for emerging online retailer Zen. Although the platform is slightly different from what he’s been involved with in the past, which is brick-and-mortar led business with an online component, he is still engaged in wearing many hats including organizing events, bringing on board new brands and more.

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Below, the Rodriguez brother talks joining Zen and why the footwear and fashion industries need to do a better job in recruiting Hispanic talent.

What was Zen the landing spot for you?

Ricardo Rodriguez: “Zen aligned with my forward thinking. They’re constantly trying to push whats next. It’s a small team of young, sharp individuals from different walks of life that have a real love for sneaker culture. We all learn from each other.”

What projects have you been involved with so far? And what projects are coming from Zen?

RR: “Past projects have been collaborations with Murakami for the ComplexCon booth, the skate activation with Diamond Supply, Coachella takeover, Air Max exhibition in L.A. with a VR experience. And we have a lot of amazing projects coming up for the end of 2020 into 2021.”

What benefits do you have being in a family with several sneaker, fashion and marketing experts who are all well respected within the industry?

RR: “It definitely keeps you on your toes. We’re always debating trends and concepts. It’s a nonstop conversation but it keeps us ahead of the game.”

Is the footwear industry doing enough to cultivate Hispanic talent?

RR: “Doors are opening up — slowly. Latinos hold major buying power so its obvious that we should have more representation from inside. There is absolutely room for more.”

Why is it important for Hispanic men and women to have leadership roles within the footwear and fashion industry?

RR: “We know what the consumer wants. Our positions should be stronger. I cant tell you how many times I’ve been in meetings where nobody looks like me and discussing Latino trends and concepts. Latin women and men need to be represented and be able to support ideas that they know will work from experience.”

How can the footwear and fashion industries make sure Hispanics are best represented in terms of marketing and engagement?

RR: “Representation needs to be a lot better. There are major brands that have tried to cater to the Latino community and have got it wrong multiple times. That’s embarrassing to all of us. This shows me that they have nobody correcting them and no Latino leadership to be able to stop these mistakes from happening. It’s disappointing as a consumer when you finally get a product that you feel represents you and something like the colors are wrong or the patterns don’t make sense or the flags, etc.”

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