Mexican fashion designer Victor Barragán is a texture freak. Fall/Winter 2015’s collection was comprised of waxed leather, broken out from his previous season’s dark denim overlays. A red cocktail dress has suffered a seismic shift and the final version is sewn unevenly, along the line of fissure. Sections of fur coat dangle from shoulders and t-shirts are deconstructed, patched back together by ’90s style silver mall rat chains. A leotard’s sleeves sink to the floor; gravity seems off. The look could make a control freak’s skin crawl, until they give up and admit that the oddness compliments, and even excites.
Barragán’s imagery (he’s just as well-known for the images as the clothes) is full of other textures: orange salmon threaded with regular lines of white fat, pierced down pressure points with lines of diamonds. Everything glistens. A photo of a plate of squid gives one deeply, happily conflicted emotions. It’s soft cyber, edible cyborg. Again, you could mistake this for unsettling in a bad way until you realize that the way you’re unsettled is very, very good.
These are not your standard fetish looks, at least not in the open way of Zana Bayne. These are subtle clues that you’re a freak. A belt with silver loops that are slightly too protruding to be considered normal, leather pouches wrapped over (and around) the torso, a cut-out in a jacket’s back that invites the viewer to touch the the wearer’s lumbar. Really short skirts with super high slits. And a belt. When you flag Barragán, you flag fashionista perversion.
To make subtly sexual clothing you have to have your finger squarely on the pulse of your warm-blooded customer. That kind of taking of the vital signs of the internet seems to come naturally to Barragán, who once turned Tumblr on end with an image of a bok choy handbag being worn carefully on a forearm.
Victor grew up in Mexico City and started making t-shirts for a cult online audience when he was still studying sewing and industrial design at UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico). His first garment was a shirt printed with Winona Ryder, ’90s babygirl and patron saint of comebacks. He called the business YtinifninfinitY, and endeared himself early on to internet iconography-hungry customers with more designs, like one featuring a young Leonardo DiCaprio crying desktop icons.
The capitalino eventually dropped out of school to focus on what was an obvious talent for underground marketing and fashion design. He sold branded jock straps, sports bras, and briefs in addition to neoprene jackets and crop tops that turned their wearers into marshmallows.
Eventually, he felt the pull to New York City, where he is now based and where he has had his highest profile showings to date. In 2014 he decided to morph YtinifninfinitY into Barragán (though the original YtinifninfinitY handle carries on as Barragán’s Instagram mood board). He needed a switch-up to take the freedom to go beyond streetwear. Basically: “We needed something something more serious so that they’d take us seriously,” he says. Before he debuted the edible aesthetic with Barragán’s social media, “I started to experiment way before the change in name, creating editorials in my living room and kitchen,” he remembers. “Salmon is my favorite dish among the presentations.”
Victor says his fateful journey into food styling was an attempt at highlighting the temporality of both edible matter and fashion. But the experiment in switching up the flesh on which fashion is laid turned out to be so popular among his followers that it still led back to business. “Later, I began to get requests from magazines. That was the most interesting.”
Victor’s ability to question the rules and regulations of fashion with distorted garments and everyday kitchen items worn in unexpected ways has provided the industry with a badly-needed fresh take. Last year Vogue called him “the new guard” at NY Fashion Week. His runway models smeared themselves with Vaseline on that catwalk, rubbed their crotches with convenience store pastries and spat at mirrors. The aggressively sensual runway was streamed on Cam4, a web cam site.
Barragán recently styled FKA Twigs for the August cover of Elle Magazine, the preternatural vocalist and dancer dripping with curving silver earrings and scarlet anthuriums. Barragán seems like a perfect pairing for the star, two artists playing with the edges of eroticism as in her sleekly subversive “Papi Pacify” clip, in which she’s choked while she begs to be subdued. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, it’s so shocking’, but you were doing it last night,” the British singer later commented to the Guardian.
Now Victor’s on the brink of Barragán’s brand debut on September 8 for New York Fashion Week. The line is showing under the auspices of Made, which is also presenting Chromat, Adam Selman, MISBHV and Luar, the new line from Hood By Air co-founder Raul López, among other designers. All wares will be hawked in a pop-up store, open September 12-14. It’s a very cute lineup, a leveling up in professionalism and corporate tie-in from Barragán’s show last year. “It’s the first time we’ve had to follow rules, contacts, sponsors,” he says.
Barragán produces his clothing back home in Mexico. Upward movement is the goal and currently NYC seems like the best home base. “When the global economy evolves, I suppose the fashion business will too,” Barragán says when asked about whether he thinks fashion will ever diversify in geographic location. For now, it’s all about pushing the brand. “NYC works well because of the purchasing power of the city and its cultural spotlight,” he says.
The new collection will continue Victor’s penchant for unisex lines, and takes its visual cues from the cultural remixing achieved by Mexico’s thriving punk scene. NAAFI’s Mexican Jihad is providing the collection’s soundtrack (the designer and the creative director/DJ have a fruitful creative relationship) and there are rumors that it will be one of the racier collections we have yet to see from the young designer.
“We hope that someone who wears the clothes has the attitude to pull it off without wearing anything underneath,” Victor recently told Made. “We’re nervous,” he tells us of the high profile unveiling that will be taking place. Nerves seem somehow out of place for a person who turned produce into couture, but then it’s possible that Victor just likes the tension.