Papaya, banana, fish, or chili in Mexico can make you resent the same foods elsewhere. Experiencing authentic Mexican craftsmanship and style, as showcased at the first Mexico City Fashion Week hosted by Mercedes Benz last April, has the same effect. The vibrancy, sensuality and integrity seen during Mexico City’s most polished fashion showcase is a refreshing, inspiring, example of a city celebrating its unique homegrown talent.
Instead of a static central tent, Fashion Week in Ciudad de Mexico (or CDMX, as it’s now known) is composed of catwalks in distinct locations throughout the city on different days. The roving catwalks overall demonstrated the organic bond between the city and its indigenous sense of style. Cihuah’s Bauhaus-inspired fall/winter16 directly echoed the hard-edged atmosphere at the Auditorio BlackBerry location but other shows offered more subtle compliments to their settings. Pineda Covalin, a brand best known as the Mexican answer to Hermès with its luxurious printed scarves and opulent accessories, instead presented a catwalk collection of loosely constructed, wafting, silk dresses. This graceful silhouette suited Mexico’s sensual climate and effortless elegance.
Much of Mexico’s fashion was confidently self-referential. Ricardo Seco made the strongest statements as the season’s closing show by presenting a witty blend of social satire and highly wearable fashion. In the style of Jeremy Scott, Seco merged cool cuts with pop-culture references in prints plastered with Speedy Gonzalez and tee-shirts mocking Donald Trump’s racist hate-speech against Mexicans. Softer but still proudly self-aware collections championing Mexican style and identity included Sandra Weil’s palette borrowed directly from local flora and fauna and Yakampot’s hybrids of Mexican and Asian-inspired cuts, which commented on changing immigration patterns’ influence on the local culture. Traditionally Indian or Japanese forms were layered with archetypical Mexican shapes in Yakampot’s intelligent collection of harmonious cultural fusions as high fashion.
The aesthetic statements seen at CDMX were defined by local constraints, as well as regional strengths. How designers incorporated and overcame local limitations helped shape the city’s singular sensibility. Fabric choices registered with some sharp-eyed journalists as guided by particular pressures on Mexico’s designers. Alonso Dominguez Sanchez Teruel, a contemporary culture expert and father to Tuna, Mexico’s next top canine model (see here in an ad for txt.ure interior design) explains “Importing is not the easiest thingin Mexico. There is also a particular issue with fabric imports, which are quite difficult to realize. Designers usually bet on a couple of fabrics to base their entire collection on, which is yet another hurdle to rise above for labels. That said, it’s quite interesting to see how designers turn this into an advantage: They use it to present more cohesive collections, and really showcase the different applications of design to each individual look.”
Beyond championing the ingenuity of Mexican designers and craftspeople, the most recent fashion week in CDMX makes a strong case for Mexico becoming the new platform for Latin America’s tastemakers. Brazil is the current epicenter of Latin American fashion. Three distinctive fashion weeks in Brazil represent different facets of Latin American style. Events in Rio embodies Brazil’s bodacious bounce, Sao Paulo’s shows exemplify a sleek, cerebral haute elegance still seen in the city’s political art-world and modernist architecture and Minas Fashion Week, staged in Belo Horizonte, showcases statements by vital commercial brands. By inviting Juan Carlos Obando, a masterful Columbian designer based in the U.S., to show his dramatic but classic draped silk dresses, evocative of Halston, CDMX asserted itself as a powerful platform for a broader and distinctive Latin American identity.