Tag Archives: Fashion

Mexican Fashion grows up and gets classy

30 May

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Malinchismo, or preference for all things foreign, has always been a part of Mexican culture, and the fashion world is no exception.  Malinche was an indigenous slave who became Cortez’s interpreter and subsequent lover, a women who many blame for the downfall of the Mayan empire and, hence, for all of Mexico’s problems (a la Pandora and Eve and all women throughout history, but that’s a whole other blog post or 2 or 300 right there).   Thus the word Malinchismo was created in her honor (or dishonor) to refer to a predilection for foreign things or people.  It is important to understand the concept of Malinchismo because understanding Mexican culture in and of itself is a difficult operation, and the fashion world here in many ways reflects that.

Mexico has long struggled to define itself individually, after years of harsh colonial rule and dictators and then finally a political party that kept “winning,” mysteriously, for 70 years in a row.   Now a different party is in control, free trade is booming, and Mexico is finally growing up and becoming a global force in and of its own right.  Yet it is still dependent in many ways on other countries to help guide its path, and “free trade” for all its benefits has created a dramatic cycle of economic subordination and cultural influence that seems to be unbreakable.

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And so, just as Mexico struggles to break free from this vicious cycle and plods the long slow road towards economic and human development, Mexican designers also endeavor to define a uniquely Mexican style.  Unlike deconstructionist Japan or timelessly elegant Italy, Mexico has yet to create a singular, defining statement that remains, above all else, uniquely Mexican.  And while many designers embrace the ethnic patterns and traditional colors of indigenous cultures, many are frustrated by such a narrow, stereotypical view of Mexican style and long to break free of such suffocating interpretations.

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The struggle to create a uniquely Mexican style was vividly, and at times painfully evident at last weeks Mercedes Benz Fashion Mexico, an upscale event where over 20 designers presented their Fall collections.  In the face of swine flu, earthquakes, drug wars, and a financial crisis, the show went on, although it was twice rescheduled because of the influenza outbreak.

I saw some things I loved, some things I hated, and some things I couldn’t quite figure out.  I saw some great clothes, some gorgeous models (who, in true malinchista form, were mostly imported from Brazil and Argentina), and lots of high society elite.  But mostly what I saw, on runway after runway, was a culture trying to finally define itself and a fresh desire to create something beautiful that Mexicans can proudly claim as their own. Hopefully, in a few more years, that desire will come to fruition.

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