Mexican fashion designer Ricardo Seco, 50, was received in the United States with a warning: “Don’t even mention that you’re from Mexico, or that your designs come from there,” he recalls being told. He landed in New York six years ago, with the dream of making a career for himself in the fashion industry.
At that point, Donald Trump was only famous for his millions. But now that being Mexican constitutes a source of confrontation with the new president, the designer feels it is necessary, more than ever, to raise his voice.
And so he is making, quite literally, fashion statements. Seco took his provocative messages to the New York Fashion Week, held in February. His collection included a coat in the colors of the Mexican flag and the embroidered slogan: “Proud Mexican immigrant.” He also made jackets with the Mexican flag on one side and another country’s flag on the other. He sewed quotes by 19th-century Mexican president Benito Juárez and messages in honor of Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain, into military-style jackets.
Being a Mexican abroad will always be difficult
Ricardo Seco, designer
“It has had an exposure that no other collection ever had, both in social networks and in sales,” he explains over the telephone. “It had a global impact. I had never been stopped on the subway before over one of my collections.”
But rather than calling it a matter of good timing, he would rather use the Greek term Kairós, which alludes to an opportune moment. And the moment is ripe: never before had defending one’s Latino roots been as trendy as it is now, thanks to Trump’s attacks since even before he became president.
At one of the presentations of his collection, which is named Juntos (Together), he overheard a girl tell her friend: “I would so wear that right now!”
His clothes are aimed at a Millenial audience, because, as he explains, “they were not born with the malinchismo [a term for someone who prefers foreign things to those from his own country] that we were born with; they are more unique, not so easy to convince, they have to feel it.”
In general, however, the collection is for “people with a pro-positive attitude.”
Seco remembers that when he began the collection in July 2016, many colleagues told him: “Don’t do it, you’re going to get deported.”
“You’re turning into an activist, a designer wouldn’t do that,” said others.
And it wasn’t easy, because, as he says, a migrant in the US must always live with that fear of deportation, of returning to one’s country of origin with the sense of being a loser.
But a successful career gives him the strength to reply: “It seems like a designer cannot speak, cannot say what he thinks, must wear that mask depicting him as an outlandish or superficial character. But fashion is also a reflection of what is going on in the streets – only, in this case, from the vantage point of a Latino and his personal circumstances.”
In the meantime, Seco has also launched a project called Yo soy México to help Mexican photographers, designers and models who cross the border with the same dreams as himself did six years ago.
“Being a Mexican abroad will always be difficult. It is common to feel belittled. But it is necessary to show Mexico’s talent without fear.”
Seco is not the only designer to embrace Mexican nationalism in the face of verbal aggression from the US government. Shirts and jackets bearing the slogan México is the shit, which means that Mexico is amazing, according to its creators, have become an urban trend.
It seems like Donald Trump has given a new impulse to political expression through fashion. Recently, an LA-born man with Latino roots published a letter complaining about a costume being sold on Amazon, which he described as racist. The costume mimicks a brick wall and bears the slogan : “Mexico will pay!”
English version by Susana Urra.