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Barragan's FW21 Collection

El Chopo – an unconventional market frequented by metalheads, punks and atypical characters with varying interest – is one of Victor Barragan’s biggest inspirations. The Villa Coapa native and designer would go alongside his older brother and despite their parents’ disapproval. “It left a big mark on me. It was stimulating,” says Barragan, “I witnessed taboo subjects, which influenced how I talk about race, gender and sexuality in my shows and how I use shock value to give a more impactful message.”

 

While in Mexico, the 2019 CFDA nominee started designing, producing, and selling t-shirts inspired by internet and meme-like imagery. He credits the internet for inspiring him to pursue a creative career. “I wanted to belong to that [online] world. I wanted to play that game,” says Barragan, “seeing that it was so distant made it inspirational.” When making t-shirts was not interesting for him anymore, he enrolled in a trade school where he learnt all the practical skills of garment construction such as pattern making. “The class was mainly made up of older women,” he says, “I picked up those skills from them.”

 

At the age of 23, the designer “had nothing better to do” in Mexico and felt very limited by his resources, so he decided to move to New York. “I was very young and did not have much experience,” says Barragan, “I was just like ‘Ok, let’s do it.’ I still can’t believe I live here and have all these opportunities.” Reflecting and acknowledging how hard it has been to settle in the USA for numerous reasons – including obtaining a green card – he says he wouldn’t make the decision again as lightly. “The USA is a blessing and a curse,” Barragan says, “it has given me so much, but has also taken so much from me in personal matters. You can’t have it all.” He is referring to the lack of connection he now feels to his home country due to being away for so many years. In a very Barragan-like manner, the designer had his first show only six months after moving to the city. It was a success, which gave his namesake brand major exposure in international platforms like i-D.  “I was very naïve, but I went for it, I asked questions and started meeting people through mentorships,” he says, “I am still learning and trying to maintain Barragan at a rhythm where we obviously don’t compete with major brands but that works for us.”

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Victor Barragan for Tequila Don Julio

His works often talks about serious subjects using comedy to transmit the message. The designer’s subversive takes on themes like colonisation, migration, racism, and sexuality prevent the label from being just a clothing brand – his garments convey a message, but in a bite-size format. “I wanted to express how I felt in cultural scenarios – like for example when I moved to the USA – and show the experience of various people, first and second generations, who are a little lost socially and culturally and feel like they don’t belong,” says Barragan, “transmitting the situation through humour and sarcasm opens up the conversation. People feel heard and create an emotional bond with the label.” One of his main goals is to represent Mexicans and Latinos without all the stereotypes. To do this he references uncommon elements of his own culture – like when he reinterpreted Mexican street clowns’ attires in his SS21 collection – and gives them a different meaning by placing them in a different context. “Playing with that through humour, and not in a strict academic manner, makes it feel natural and digestible,” says Barragan, “It’s something I’ve felt when people look at me, they can’t possibly imagine that I am educated in art and culture. I like to play with my image in that way and it is something we do with the brand as well.”

 

How he created the label’s logo is also a great example of his particular way of working. It was inspired by Mexico’s Camino Real’s logo, which Barragan had always found interesting. He discovered it was designed by the same architect that created a lot of Mexico’s iconographies, Lance Wyman. “His work was beautiful, because he understood the country’s needs,” says Barragan, “many people can’t read but depend on public transport, so his work is very iconographic – people are guided through the city by the images.” He highlighted how Wyman, despite not being Mexican, had such a deep connection to the country and also a strong creative power over it, which can be seen to this day. The logo he created for Camino Real was inspired by an archaeological area in Yucatán, “I always thought it was interesting that they had hired a foreigner to understand how the country worked and what it needed, but Wyman did a great job,” says Barragan, “[The process behind the creation of our logo] was to retake the work done by a foreigner that came to Mexico, and do the same with a Mexican that was taking the logo out of Mexico. It’s a play on how design evolves and how we are all connected by this cultural exchange that will continue to happen. We are not creating something completely new, just reinterpreting what we already have.”

Barragan's SS21 Collection

In the future, Barragan wants to focus on creative direction and design more broadly without being tied down to fashion exclusively. He is particularly drawn to interior and industrial design. “I know what fashion can offer. Now I want to try something new and collaborate with people,” he says, “working alone can be overwhelming, so having a dialogue can make ideas better and more impactful.”

 

Whatever field Barragan designs in, it is safe to say he will take that instinctive decision-making technique with him. “I started this as a way of expressing my discomforts, but it was the best way to creatively and positively put all my feeling and ideas in one place,” says Barragan, “I was happy that Don Julio looked at my process throughout the years and appreciated that I was doing things intuitively. The brands authenticity remains there, we don’t want that to get lost as it develops and grows.”