MEXICO CITY — “Mexico is the S–t.”
Or at least that was the by-word many folks used to express admiration for their country during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Mexico’s latest fall edition.
Roughly 15,000 people descended on the event here, which was punctuated with a heavy dose of patriotism as attendees cheered Anuar Layon and Patricio Campillo’s shows evoking strong pride in Mexican culture, heritage and national symbols.
Layon’s black-and-white varsity jacket emblazoned with the “Mexico is the S–t” slogan has become a symbol of Mexico’s anti-Donald Trump discourse though the young designer was quick to note he didn’t create the item to counter the U.S. President.
“To the contrary,” he said. “This is a message of love. There is nothing anti-Trump about it. It’s a tribute to Mexicans, to our welcoming and loving culture, to our struggles through the years and to show that we can be united and our voice matters.”
Layon said he made the jacket before Trump started branding Mexicans as “rapists and criminals,” triggering widespread criticism in Mexico and beyond.
“It was a coincidence,” he said, adding that he made the jacket to uniform the creative team of Mercadorama, a company that designs apparel for the Daft Punk band and which he owns. “I had already made the jacket for my team but now sales have beat all our projections.”
Coincidence or not, the jacket proved popular during the weeklong fashion platform which had 29 runway shows. Layon’s fall collections also contained a stream of leather and army-themed jackets, stripped track pants and boots celebrating Mexico’s armed forces and bearing Mexican patriotic symbols, such as the eagle and the snake.
Then there was Campillo, whose cholo (Mexican immigrant community)-themed collection also drew praise and was accompanied by singer Randy Ebright’s Frijolero [“Beaner”] anthem in which Americans and Mexicans trade insults in a humorous and satirical fashion. Here, too, the designer stressed the song choice aimed to celebrate both cultures’ union by highlighting their strengths and weaknesses and chimed with his The Pack brand’s philosophy to highlight alternative cultures.
Campillo’s looks featured Zoot suits, hoodies and low-waist pants and shorts in leather, silk and other high-end fabric blends. Campillo, who also makes apparel for up-and-coming Mexican designer Lorena Saravia, sells through his Mexico showroom but has U.S. expansion plans.
Saravia, who has seen her U.S. expansion plans delayed, wowed the crowd with a range of elegant evening dresses and ready-to-wear silhouettes as well as new uniforms for airline Aeromexico. Alfredo Martinez, who teamed with fashion label LOB for a capsule collection last year (the first of its kind in Mexico), was also a favorite while Colombian designer Esteban Cortazar’s “gipsy-punk”-tinged collection received plaudits. Paris-based Cortazar is set to roll out online sales this month and intends to expand in Mexico.
Trump’s rhetoric and repeated threats that Mexico will pay for his border wall, have angered Mexicans and fueled interest in Made in Mexico products, from fashion to furniture to food. That is expected to drive Mexican apparel sales to record highs this year, retailers and designers said at the event, which drew nine new sponsors including Mexico City as a major institutional backer alongside Mercedes-Benz. Sheraton, keen to revive interest in its largest hotel in front of Mexico City’s main Angel of Independence Monument, was also a major backer, investing $80,000, said marketing director Florencia Gonzalez Deibe, adding that the chain plans to bankroll similar events in future.
The megalopolis doubled investment to roughly $500,000 after bankrolling the platform for the first time last spring, said MBFWMx’s co-owner and chief executive officer Cory Crespo, adding that City Hall also lent the Angel of Independence, Revolution Monument and Mexico’s first Anglican Church (an abandoned though soon-to-be renovated “decadent chic” building) to the event.
Mexico Fashion Week, which restructured last year to host the event in diverse locations and bring in new partners, attracted more than 900 million social-media hits versus 750 million in the October edition, according to insiders.
Sara Galindo, cofounder of high-end e-tailer Mexicouture, said Mexican fashion has become increasingly popular, luring wealthy women who typically shunned local talent in favor of U.S. or European brands stocked in the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue or El Palacio de Hierro. “Mexican fashion is becoming relevant for the first time,” Galindo said, adding that the “Mexico is the S–t” jacket sold 4,000 items in one month when the site typically sells 150 luxury pieces from select designers. The site ships to 14 countries, with the U.S., Colombia, Argentina and Spain leading demand.
Galindo forecast sales will rise 150 percent to 10 million pesos, or $531,000, this year, helped by the rollout of men’s clothing in mid-May.
Galindo also owns Kilometro 33, a designer boutique chain that supports young brands by advancing apparel collection payments, and talent-scouting firm Disenando Mexico 32. The executive, who was Elle Mexico’s former editor, is also looking to start a venture capital fund with several undisclosed partners to finance future designers, which she claimed have been shut out of NAFTA because the treaty focuses on high-volume businesses. The move is pivotal to help develop a still-nascent fashion sector.
“Small designers don’t have the export volume. They have to pay import and export duties that are too high so many of them have to bring their fabrics in suit cases,” Galindo said, adding that she is pleading with government officials to raise support to the sector.
“We can have high technology but we don’t have the labor to sew” as Mexico remains largely a maquila, mass-apparel producer.
Daniel Herranz, cofounder of new designer platform Colectivo de Diseno Mexicano, said Made in Mexico interest will drive local fashion sales 30 percent higher this year, up from a 15 to 20 percent gain in 2016. “People are investing a lot more in Mexican fashion compared to five years go,” Herranz said, adding that he hopes to roll out an e-commerce site to market young brands by year-end.
Herranz expects to carry 60 designers by then, taking sales to 800,000 pesos, or $43,000.
Colectivo de Diseno Mexicano has both established and up-and-coming designers, including the likes of Cihuah, Hector de la Pena, Carla Fernandez and Maison Manila, a promising men’s streetwear trademark, said Vargas. The platform also carries Alexia Ulibarri, which closed the fashion week.