Efrain Mogollon is bringing Aragua, Venezuela, to the global fashion stage.
In flounces, form-accentuating frills and volume in all the right places, the designer of the namesake womenswear brand tells a story of beauty in new forms — both in silhouette and of an origin the fashion industry has typically overlooked.
Venezuela may not yet be synonymous with high fashion on a global scale, but Mogollon intends to broaden the scope of what the long-insular industry sees.
“It’s a shame that the Venezuelan fashion industry is not recognized around the world,” Mogollon told WWD with the help of a translator. “Venezuelan designers, they don’t have the chance to show their work on an international platform. Most of them continue to work on a national context and that’s because many of them didn’t have the means, they didn’t have the resources to show their work on an international platform.
“When I started, I knew from the start that I had the quality standards, that my work was worth it and that if I didn’t show it on that international platform, I would not get the recognition and I would not be able to share it with a wider audience. And that’s why from the beginning I kept working really hard to show it on an international platform and I had the opportunity to do so,” he added.
Now that the ready-to-wear brand — boosted by an initial presentation and ultimate coverage in Vogue Mexico and Latin America — has been showing during Paris Fashion Week for four years and features prominently on sustainable luxury site Fashionkind, Mogollon considers his greater access a stepping stone to shine more light on what other fashion creatives are doing in the country.
“Slowly making noise little by little helps increase that recognition, not only of me but the other people working in Venezuela,” said Mogollon, who designs and produces his brand with sewers and artisans in Aragua. This Paris Fashion Week, the SS 2023 collection will be available for viewing by appointment from Sept. 28 through Oct. 4.
In this latest installation of WWD’s “10 Questions With,” find out what Mogollon can’t go without in his designs, why he’d have André Leon Talley as a guest at his fantasy fashion dinner table, and what’s next for the volume-loving Venezuelan label.
1. What should the world know about Efrain Mogollon the brand? And Efrain Mogollon the person?
Efrain Mogollon: Efrain Mogollon the brand is about statement pieces. It’s about dressing women in statement pieces that make them feel confident and comfortable and empowered so that when they enter a room, everyone turns around and looks at her and they know that she walked in. It’s about an ode to women and their femininity.
And the person Efrain is a family man, he’s a father to four kids, he’s friendly, positive so always with a very positive outlook to life, very optimistic and he’s someone that likes to live life to the fullest. And that’s something that I like to bring to the brand as well. Who you are as a person is something that translates to all aspects of your life and that liveliness, that really positive outlook, that vibrant feeling, is something that I like to bring to the brand By Efrain Mogollon.
2. What’s the one thing you can’t do without when designing your collections?
E. M.: I was just reflecting about this recently. Whenever I start designing, I need movement, I need to travel, anywhere. It doesn’t need to be somewhere far-flung, it could be somewhere right next to where I am, but moving around gives me inspiration. I feel like if I stay in the same place in the house, my creativity and my inspiration stays in the same place as well. So, getting that new perspective from moving around seeing new things, something as simple as going to the beach. Whenever I feel like I’m not inspired or I’m stuck on the same thing over again, I take a weekend off and go to the beach and I immediately shift that perspective. Kind of like unplugging and resetting.
3. What’s your first memory of fashion?
E. M.: My first memory with fashion is ever since I was little, I paid a lot of attention to how I dressed, I liked to be well-dressed, to have my outfits match, to have them be a good outfit.
4. What do you think people automatically assume when they discover the brand?
E. M.: That it’s an eye-catching brand, especially when it comes to volume and color. People see it and immediately see that it’s an explosion of color and volume but it’s very well-balanced and well-placed and that directly informs their confidence as well. And it’s something that’s palpable because of the way it’s designed. It’s a well-balanced situation between volume and color to give that vibrancy.
5. If you could dine with any three fashion icons, living or passed on, who would they be, why and what would you want to say to each of them?
E. M.: Anna Wintour — it’s a cliché of course, but it’s a reality that any fashion designer would love to sit next to her and talk to her and display their vision and what they do. I would ask her why she doesn’t change her hair…it’s a joke! But I would tell her that I really admire what she’s built and her tenacity and to have turned Vogue into the power that she turned it into and become the authority that she is today.
I think I need a bigger table but I will try to filter it….
André Leon Talley. I’d tell him that I’d admire him, because he wasn’t a white man, nor beautiful [in fashion’s formerly traditional sense], nor typical and he still managed to get where he got and to become this amazing authority in fashion and to lead, as well, a magazine such as Vogue. I also see him as a great example of how important it is to be aware of who you’re surrounded with and how important your network is. He was Black, imagine in those times, and achieved something that even nowadays people continue to strive for. He was a pioneer in that sense and he continues to inspire people around the world.
YSL because I empathize with everything that he went through and I’d like to congratulate him or recognize him for always [being true to himself]. Reading on his story it’s something very personal to me, learning his story about how he was bullied and harassed because of his ideas and being a man in fashion, and at the time someone who had such a clear conviction of where he wanted to go, that’s something that I identify with. But having people tell you that you’re not going to be able to do it or what you’re doing is not going to work, that’s something that I empathize with and that I feel a very personal connection with.
6. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done and would you do it again?
E. M.: The most crazy? I don’t know. There are so many things. This is going to sound like a Miss Universe answer…
The craziest thing I’ve done is planning a trip to Paris in three days and literally packing all my collection in a suitcase and just showing up in Paris with no appointments, no schedules, just with a very strong commitment of wanting to show the collection and show the world what I was doing. It was showing up in Paris and actually getting only one appointment and that appointment was Vogue. And that changed the trajectory of the brand.
I see it now and I think wow that was incredibly immature and crazy but it was worth it.
I found the Instagram account for the [Vogue Mexico and Latin America] editor who was in charge of the schedule [assistant editor scheduling the showroom visits] and stalked her, sent her DMs, private messages, pictures of the collection and she kept saying they were fully booked, they had no time, they liked what I was doing but they were fully booked. And so finally they made an appointment at 7 p.m. right at the end of the day when everything had already finished, but they made it and that was it.
7. Is there anything you wish would come back in fashion?
E. M.: I’m sure that everything is meant to come back. Anything and everything is meant to make a comeback…fashion is so cyclical, like decades and inspiration, everything is so affected by what we see every day that I’m sure everything is going to come back.
8. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
E. M.: Pasta. I’m a repressed Italian.
9. What’s on your bucket list for Efrain Mogollon, the brand, in the next year?
E. M.: I’m mostly focused on and very excited for the next year on partnerships. I want to be able to bring a new perspective to the design and take the brand where I want to go.
I’d love to explore the Asian market because I see it as a challenge to take the Asian market out of its comfort zone. Talking about a brand like By Efrain Mogollon and all of its volume, that’s something that’s not necessarily typical for the Asian market.
10. What should the world know about Venezuelan design?
E. M.: That we’re strong muscle from Latin American roots. Our designs can be worn throughout any season, they’re infused with vibrancy and color, and that vibrancy and color that are signature of us in Latin America and the Caribbean and that’s what we want to bring to the world.
Venezuelan design is infused with strength and resilience because of everything the country has been through and that’s something that’s infused with everything that we do.