The designer writes exclusively for VOZ about his experience growing up in the diaspora and how this influences his work.
Photography: Briana Quintanilla, Fashion Assistant: Victoria Maldonado, Creative Director: Valeria Ghersi Valdivia, Models: Amaia Navarro and Sophie Castillo
My work is centred around my heritage: with my father being from Peru and mother being from Grenada & St Lucia and myself being born in London. My work is about understanding my multicultural identity living in the diaspora and reclaiming, retelling and recontextualizing influences from my culture’s past by modernizing them. I find it important to empower people by showing Peru and my cultures in ways that haven’t been done before.
I have always used my practice to understand who I am. In the past I have been called many different cultures, Filipino, Indian, Maori, Fijian… I find this annoying. I am from South America & the West Indies, and I find it important to represent this within my work. I want to proudly showcase where I’m from and all the things that make me, me. I identify as Latinx. Being a Latinx person in the UK is really important in my eyes. I know Latin American people don’t like to be clumped together and called the same, as we come from different countries and have different cultures — especially with words like Hispanic being colonial-made— but Latinx represents not just men but women and nonbinary people with non-gendered pronouns, making it inclusive.
Our cultures are different, but in the UK, outside of our geographical borders, we are away from our family and out of the motherland, so we look for people who are similar to us and make our own found family. We yearn to communicate in our mother-tongue, to eat food that transports us back to our abuela’s kitchen and to dance and listen to music, beats and vibrations, which remind us of past generations. We long for a community that can provide the warmness that isn’t normal in the UK. That is the beauty of our countries. To me being Latinx is that warm soothing feeling of togetherness, that sentiment I get around other Latin American people. They understand your culture and history and are connected to you in some way. I might not speak Spanish, but I have a warm connection to the mother tongue that’s spoken by my sister and that my father spoke… a sense of familiarity to the words.
My style of work is maximalist. I love creating joyous, bold, in-your-face colours and prints. Making clothes is something I have done since I was little. When I was 10, I would hand-stich little capes for my Jack Russell dog out of old clothes or fabrics I would find. I believe clothing has the power to change our moods, make us feel good about our bodies. I want the people who wear my clothes to feel invigorated. I want people to smile when seeing my clothes on someone because of a cheeky colourful illustration or because it just brightens their day. I believe clothes shouldn’t be made for the idealised body standard but for real body sizes, big and small. I want to break these boundaries within my work as clothing is essential for human beings, and plus sized people shouldn’t feel rejected or like outsiders in the conversation of clothes and who has the right to wear them.
My work is also inspired by rock’n’roll and metal gigs, which I have been attending since I was a teenager, and by the community of people that I grew up going to festivals with. I was influenced by seeing the bands I loved and the people in our community with neon brightly dyed hair in leather jackets that were customised and graphic t-shirts with metal iconography — like Iron Maidens’ mascot, Eddie, or Motörhead’s mascot, Warpig. All this has deeply inspired how I customise and decorate my creations.
I’m currently working on my pre-collection for my MA in Fashion: Textile for Fashion at Central Saint Martins. I am focusing on dressing plus sized men. As a plus sized man myself I feel like we are always overlooked in the industry and constitute a forgotten market that hasn’t been utilised. Designers and buyers often have a problem with their brand associating their image with plus sized customers. When there are clothes available in bigger sizes, these have just been sized up instead of being designed for a big man and often without understanding our bodies and curves. Looking back at my past work I have almost always fully clothed my male models and made my female models look sexy by revealing skin. This is something that I am working on changing as I want to show plus sized men in a sexy, desirable, and confident manner.