When I slid into my seat at Marimacho Spring/Summer 2014 debut, I found myself instinctively imitating a posture I’d seen in countless photos of NYFW front rows – legs crossed, eyes narrowed, and lips pursed in what I hoped resembled an expression of glamorous indifference. I had few references for what a fashion show is actually like (aside from what I’d seen in movies), so I suppose I was expecting a blasé hush to descend over the audience. Instead, raucous cheers and whoops erupted the minute each model hit the runway. So much so, that I eventually found myself thinking of it less as “runway” and more as “fashion soul train”.
The celebratory, informal atmosphere was a good match for a brand that eschews the unattainable trappings of the mainstream fashion industry in favor of something more inclusive. Designers Crystal González-Alé and Ivette González-Alé, partners in life and art, describe Marimacho as “classic fashion for the unconventionally masculine.” Their clothing tailors silhouettes traditionally associated with menswear to female and transgender bodies – these are suits for those who need shorter sleeves and more bust room, pants for those who may not have a man’s slender hips.
While this was Marimacho’s first full collection, their line actually launched in 2010 – and the turnout for their fashion week debut reflected the community of supporters they’ve built over the years. From the performer line-up, to the models, to the audience packing the house, Marimacho’s FUBU ethos was visible at every turn. “Everyone we worked with was either queer, poc [people of color] or both,” Ivette explained. In fact, many of their collaborators were sourced through QPOC (queer people of color) events and underground parties. I recognized Shomi Noise, who DJ’d the cocktail hour preceding the show, from the designers’ own monthly party Azúcar, a queer Latin dance throw down that packs Bed Stuy bar One Last Shag. Precolumbian, the Philadelphia-based genderqueer artist who DJ’d the runway show, described a goal closely aligned with Marimacho’s own: “Creating spaces that are positive, inclusive and safe” and “work[ing] tirelessly to resist racism, misogyny and homophobia…in the club!”
Backstage before the show, I watched models of all races, ethnicities and gender identities get blue and silver streaks painted into their hair by Cesar Ramirez (a nod to the deep sea/Atlantis theme). Most were friends or friends of friends of the designers, but even the models hired through a formal casting process were quickly adopted into the fold. Arisce Wanzer, a full-time model I spoke with, referenced this community atmosphere – one uncommon in the fashion world. “We [models] actually had to do a workshop, and I was like ‘oh, that’s interesting…’ I’ve never done that before. Usually I show up and walk and then I go home. Whereas this was a whole experience: we had a walking lesson, we talked about our gender identities and how we felt about the world today in terms of gender norms. It was really interesting. Everybody was really positive and happy – I was used to the bitchy fashion world so I was already in bitch mode when I walked in, like ‘ah what is this shit, whatever.’ But then I actually became friends with these people, which is a strange experience in the fashion industry because nobody is friends. So this was a lovely change of pace.”
As for the clothes themselves, I must confess that my vocabulary for fashion is limited. All I could think is that is that the collection of full suits, tops, bottoms, bathing suits, and outerwear looked fresh and comfortable, like they sprung from the pages of a dandy picnic editorial or a spring wedding at a European villa. Suit jackets were paired with tailored shorts or drop-crotch pants and button down dress shirts, all in lightweight fabrics (silks, mesh, and linen) and colors (blues, corals, silvers and seaweed hues) atypical of menswear. Some of the pieces also referenced athletic/lounge wear, creating a look I call “classy pajamas meets track suit” and a friend of mine recently dubbed “cozy boy” (…we tried). Taken together, the dandy-inspired pieces felt both casual and sumptuous, striking the perfect balance between put-together and not trying too hard.
With this milestone out of the way, Marimacho looks forward to expanding their business. Fans of the line will soon have the opportunity to order custom made-to-measure suits. Speaking about their future plans, Ivette told me: “Ultimately, we would like to be vertically integrated – have our own local factory, produce all of our fabrics in house, etc. We would like to open a storefront in the next year or two, but our priority right now is beginning our made-to-measure suit service. Starting next year we will be offering locally-made custom suits, which gives us the freedom to make clothing for any body type.”
We’re excited to see what they have in store.