The Museum at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology has given Mexico City prominence in its exhibition on the top emerging fashion capitals, which opens on 2 June. “Fashion from Mexico is new and exciting,” says co-curator Ariele Elia. “They are using the culture from the indigenous tribes in a way that’s not been seen before.”
One example is Ricardo Seco, who uses the vibrant colours, mystical patterns and ancient beading techniques of the 15,000-year-old Wixárika tribe from the mountains of central Mexico on everything from neoprene bomber jackets to skateboards. “I want to show the cool Mexico with pieces you can wear on the street,” says Seco, who is among many Mexican designers who capitalise on the country’s diverse culture, mixing old and new. Inspired by the landscape, Alejandra Quesada often clashes floral and fauna prints for her modern maxi dresses, sweatshirts and more, while Francesco Cancino of Yakampot adapts indigenous shawls and Tzotzil tribal craft processes for his minimalist slouchy silhouettes.
For Mexico’s fashionistas, stereotypical pieces like the rebozo scarf are eschewed, and so are western takes on Mexican design. “It’s too kitsch,” says Brenda Díaz de la Vega, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar México and Latin America, who in the last two years has doubled the number of local designers in Harper’s Bazaar México. Instead, she says, stylish Mexicans mix a few local designers with big logo, big brand pieces by Chanel, Louis Vuitton or Hermès. Then there’s the current 70s boho chic look à la Navajo tribe. “It doesn’t work in Mexico, because it is too close to the northern view,” says Belén Limón, head of content at the three-year-old e-store Dafiti, with its 400 national and international brands. “Instead we go for the southern tropical colours and fabrics from Oaxaca,” she says.
Yet there’s more to Mexican design than heritage. Carlos Peralta, based in Iztapalapa, gives his slinky slips and delicate camisoles rock’n’roll metal zips and chains, whereas the Guadalajara-based design duo, Julia and Renata Franco, of Julia y Renata, opt for a pared down aesthetic. Their muted white, black and blues focus attention on innovative design details like balloon-effect side pleats and deliberate ragged finishing. “With no formal fashion structures we are free to do what we want,” says designer Carmen Rion, who works with artisans in Chiapas to create textiles for her bra tops, layered looks and palazzo pants.
As Celia Joicey, director of London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, whose show, Made in Mexico: the Rebozo in art, culture and fashion, is opening in Mexico City’s Museo Franz Mayer on Thursday, concludes: “There’s something incredibly exciting about Mexico now, whether it’s colour or it’s food. And we can better understand the culture through its fashion.”