Notes from the Resistance: Mexico’s Fashion Scene is Thriving

Just one month after Mexico City was ravaged by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake, and in the midst of heated American-Mexican debates, Mexico Fashion Week celebrated the country’s deep cultural heritage and its spirit of resistance.

Julia Y Renata, Spring Summer 2018, Mexico Fashion Week.

The shows opened on a sunny Sunday, on the Ángel de la Independencia square, built in 1910 to mark the centennial of the Mexican War on Independence. The dramatic procession of elevated ponchos, ruffled tunics, and flowing silk dresses in rich hues, crafted by the designers of Yakampot with artisans from the state of Chiapas, set a poetic, patriotic tone. While the brand caters to the city’s sophisticated set, the guests were a colorful mix of editors, bloggers, socialites, and artists, many wearing DIY designs and local finds.

 “The textile tradition is part of us, we have many important traditions and iconographies, embroideries,” explained Yakampot’s Francisco Cancino, who was homeless for a month after the quake after his building partially collapsed. “It’s important for new generations to love these elements because global fashion is the same everywhere. We have a beautiful identity and we need to enjoy and protect these traditions. We need to believe in ourselves, in our heritage, our traditions, our architecture until we can see again that we are a beautiful, diverse, and multicultural country.”  

Mancandy, Spring Summer 2018, Mexico Fashion Week.

The city’s underground and queer scene came out that afternoon for a raunchy all-vinyl party, where a nude transgender performer danced and gay couples – some covered in glitter, some sporting vintage prints and hats – embraced to soul and disco beats. Local designers and editors mingled. In the capital, subcultures mix and collaborate, moving between art, architecture, design, music, and gastronomy, and working towards the creative community, particularly after the earthquake. 

We’re a very progressive, tolerant city, governed by the liberal left,” said fashion editor Kira Alvarez, who’s launching Republicà, an e-commerce dedicated to Latin American design, in 2018. “Gay marriage was legal here before New York and marijuana just became legal, too. Rent is cheap and a lot of people work in collectives.” 

This underground spirit dominated at Mancandy’s gender-neutral show, which took place at the city's main train station the next day. The designer Andres Jimenez mixed raver culture and street fashion-inspired camouflage, oversized hoodies, pleather overalls in tomato red and yellow. The show’s theme, Loco, was emblazoned on t-shirts and a swimsuit, replacing the iconic Coca Cola logo. Later Julia y Renata, another local favorite, presented a beautiful collection of crisp linen shirtdresses, silk caftans, and draped dresses and skirts in subdued tones of lemon, ochre, and off-white. And guests were shuttled the next day to Casa Gilardi, the iconic house of modernist architect Luis Barragán for Sandra Weil’s desert-chic show. 

La Troupe, Spring Summer 2018, Mexico Fashion Week.

The organizers of Fashion Week were keen on showcasing not only local talent but the creativity and history of their city. “There are still people that need to be helped, but you also need to keep on living and to show that we are strong and standing,” explained Beatriz Calle, the director of Fashion Week, who witnessed dozens of victims being crushed under a collapsing building the day of the quake. “It’s not only a platform to show fashion but also to show your city, your country, your people. To be proud of our heritage. It’s good for the country to support our artisanal industries. We are proud of being a rich culture and having a lot of talent and we want to exchange with the world.” 

This spirit of resilience was strong throughout the week, culminating with Lorena Saravia’s presentation of urban warriors in minimalist body armours at the Monument to the Revolution. And while it was clear that the city was struggling in the aftermath of the disaster, the week’s event showed that the country’s talent, creativity, and craftsmanship needs to be shared with the world. As Calle put it, “it’s good for us to open our market to the rest of  the world and not to be too dependent on the United States.”