By  on October 30, 2008

Fashion may rule across Mexico, but Mexico City — the largest metropolitan area in the Western hemisphere — is acclaimed as the nation’s fashion capital.

Besides the major apparel manufacturers that are based in its sprawling metro area, designers — from the well-established and more classic crowd to the emerging set with cutting-edge style — have dug roots in local parts of the city, like Polanco, Roma and Condesa, catering to savvy consumers seeking a fresh fashion identity. Mexicans are passionate shoppers, and thanks to accelerated retail development in and around their capital city, they are enjoying a rush to the region’s outlets, malls and exclusive shopping centers, and no longer have to cross the U.S. border just to dress well.

Residents of Mexico City are considerably brand-conscious, and whether they buy at the high end or low, it’s all about the label — which is boldly announced on hundreds of billboards and walls glaring next to glittering new buildings.

After decades of enduring a closed economy, Mexico has gone global, and some brands have repositioned themselves and thrive with boutiques at home and abroad. Mexicans may love fashion, but years ago rarely wore it — at least not until Zara arrived more than 10 years ago and taught them fashion also could be affordable. Mexico City’s fashion personality started evolving around that time, when designers began making a name for themselves with a small group of fashion-savvy consumers. Simultaneously, Fashion Week Mexico was born, the brainchild of designers including the popular Macario Jiménez, initially under the name “Fashion Days.” Today it is a twice-yearly fashion presentation, held at different venues around the city.

José Andrés Patiño, FWM’s general director, said the event’s 10th anniversary took place Oct. 20 to 26 at Campo Marte, on one of Mexico City’s most beautiful avenues, Paseo de la Reforma.

Patiño believes after several attempts, the Mexican fashion scene is finally coming together.

“When the concept started, there was only one fashion show each evening. Today, we have over 30 shows in six days. Designers have finally understood that the runway gets them vital media coverage. Our designers have become more business-oriented. I feel that designer brands like Trista and Santo have great potential and will go international in a few years. We are hooked up to more than 80 different media [outlets] and they all cover FWM in one way or another — that gives Mexican fashion great projection.”

Many observers of the Mexican fashion scene also feel that over the past 15 years, as more fashion schools with better instructors have opened locally, more people are adopting fashion as a serious career option and graduating classes have gained a clearer view of fashion as a business.

“FWM may give designers exposure, but it is really the designers themselves,” observed Gabriela Figueroa, who has worked closely with Patiño in the past, “especially the new, cutting-edge ones, that give personality to the fashion scene.”

A new current of design has surfaced in Mexico City in the guise of urban fashion indies. Emerging designer brands, like edgy Malafacha by Franciso Saldaña and Victor Hernal, Sergio Alcalá’s kitschy fashion manifesto, or Alejandra Quezada’s contemporary reinterpretation of Mexican crafts, cater to young, thrill-seeking consumers who do not visit department stores or boutiques but follow independent designers via small alternative boutiques or at Fusion, an open-air fashion happening staged on weekends in different public spaces. And it is these designers who are considered by many as the future of Mexican fashion. The new wave of offerings by forward-thinking designers — who all show at FWM — also caught the eye of organizers of Intermoda, the only apparel fair in Mexico, which is held in Guadalajara. In January, 21,500 square feet of Intermoda’s show space will be dedicated to options for fashion boutiques catering to younger customers searching for new, and sometimes freaky styles. It is these emerging players on the national scene, authentic chilango born and bred, who will lead the image of Mexican fashion into focus on a world stage and make it hipper in the process.

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