On a three-day break from a tour that was about to catapult him in front of thousands of people at back-to-back concerts at The Forum in Southern California, Alex González gave a short lesson last Wednesday on how to dress like a rock star.
“I cut the sleeves off,” said the drummer from Maná, pointing to a spotted T-shirt that was inspired by black jaguars living in Mexico, where his band is based. “I also cut the sleeves off of this one,” he said, pointing to the black-and-gray camouflage-print T he was wearing that showed off his arms inked from shoulders to wrists with ocean waves, dice, a cross and other tattoo art. He also picked white and gray versions of a top adorned with the image of a ribcage that fades into a skull. “It’s very modern art,” he said.
Even though Gonzalez lives the rocker lifestyle with his black mop of hair and silver hoop earrings, he surveyed the selection of T-shirts and jeans spread on a table at the SLS Beverly Hills Hotel. “Anyone can wear it,” he said. “Maybe they’ll see it and they won’t realize Maná is behind it. That’s the coolest thing — when they see something, they see the quality.”
Thirty years of selling out stadiums would have afforded a luxury to coast into rock-star retirement for Maná, which has been called the U2 of Spanish rock. But the quartet of Gonzalez, Fher Olvera, Sergio Vallín and Juan Calleros is tapping into their fame to launch Ritos del Sol, which continues the social activism that it espouses in its music and current tour titled “Latino Power.” When not advocating immigration reform and urging their U.S.-based fans to vote in November, Maná runs a charity that preserves sea turtles, to which it’s dedicating a portion of the profits from its first apparel line. It also aims to promote Mexico’s apparel industry by highlighting the work of an ethical manufacturer in Puebla tasked with producing the fabric and clothing for Ritos del Sol.
“We really wanted the line to be part of our personality,” Gonzalez said.
For instance, one black T-shirt displays the phrase “cuando L.A. lloran” in a glistening tonal print as a play on the name of their album, “Cuando los Ángeles Lloran” (“When Angels Cry”), which earned them their first American Grammy Award nomination in 1996. Other graphics include roses budding from barbed wire, Day of the Dead skulls and a collage of black-and-white jungle photos. The jeans range from raw blue denim to distressed styles that have been repaired with patches.
Available for men and women, the jeans retail from $37 to $73 and the T-shirts go from $24 to $30. Underscoring the synergy between music and fashion, Ritos del Sol’s e-commerce site went live a few hours before the start of the band’s show at the Forum on Saturday.
Maná spent the past two years hatching the idea, Skyping with the manufacturer, trying on samples that were sent by FedEx to their home in Guadalajara and finalizing the branding that features a red rectangle and matching sea turtle stitched on the waistband. They also observed what their fans wore. Olvera’s specific request to the designers was to refrain from making the jeans too tight.
“I wanted them to design me some black jeans so you can do this on the stage,” said the lead singer as he suddenly sprung from a white couch to stand upright, kneel and bounce back up again.
The musicians have ideas for future collections. Vallin, the guitarist, layered red bandanas under the gaping holes in his light blue jeans that he rolled up to his knees like shorts. “It’s very comfortable,” he said. Calleros, the bassist and the most reticent of the four, resembled a Jedi at one show. “Imagine a very thin, long hoodie,” Gonzalez said in attempt to describe the black getup. “Juan had a really cool look.”
Other than looking good, Maná reminds fans to be good people. “Now it’s a historic moment for the Latino people here,” Olvera said. “Things are turning weird especially with [Donald] Trump. ‘Go and vote’ — that’s what we’re telling all our people. Your vote is the same as the richest guy’s. It’s the same as Trump’s.”
Gonzalez, who is the only American in the group and plans to vote in the U.S. presidential election on behalf of his bandmates, said they’re considering launching additional labels dedicated to other causes like education. Anything they create must live up to a saying that he heard attributed to Lenny Kravitz.
“You are your own fashion,” he said. “The most important fashion is what you’re comfortable in.”