Earlier this week, designer Victor Barragán presented his Fall 2020 collection in his hometown of Mexico City, foregoing the traditional fashion calendar. Considering that European fashion weeks have been significantly disrupted by the spread of coronavirus (if we're all going to die, we may as well be dressed nicely), this turned out to be a smart, practical move – but Barragán, who has previously shown in CDMX, New York, and Paris, had a more emotional justification for the show's locale.
"It's become increasingly important to me to further put Mexico on the map of fashion and creative culture," he wrote in an email from Paris, where he's holding market appointments. "Showing in Mexico City creates an impact for the community there, while inciting global interest in the city as well."
Barragán's sexy, architectural work tends to have a mish-mash of influences, evident on his popular Instagram. He's shown JNCO-like low-rise jeans, sent club kid models down the runway with hungover eyes and hickies, and initially made his name on t-shirts that drew on essential pop culture moments from the '90s and early 2000s (Leonardo DiCaprio crying M-DOS folders, a chopped and screwed version of the Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair makeout scene from Cruel Intentions, the Friends logo with the word "Lesbian" printed in its stead).
But Mexican culture – and Mexico City's intrinsic hipness – has always been essential to his work. This season, Barragán titled the collection "Brujería," and the severely well-constructed garments were inspired by witchcraft and the occult. Sheer, nipple-revealing lace and heavy chains, worn at the neck and waist, abounded; the models looked prepared for ritual, magic both black and white. The clothing, styled by frequent collaborator Tess Herbert, was also gloriously sexual: unexpected, angular cut-outs (often at the chest, or, in the case of one particularly excellent pair of trousers, the knees), huge low-rise jeans with leather daddy signatures, dangerously low necklines, and beautifully tailored suits styled without shirts underneath.
"I wanted to interpret the history of Mexican brujería of the 16th century, when brujas used sexuality as power and protection, mixed with the whimsical magic of wizards and jesters," Barragán wrote. "I feel there's a sense of women empowerment, when they can look and feel sexy without judgment. You can see this interaction in our sexy dresses, as well as oversized power suits, this time incorporating a hood of mysticism."
Besides lace, leather, and denim pieces, textures veered toward the cuddly – broad-shouldered suits, blazers, sleeveless coats, and a winter gown looked soft as teddy bears, and several pieces, including '90s erotic thriller-style thigh-high boots, were trimmed with a chinchilla-like faux fur. Barragán "wanted a warm contrast to the very sexy lace pieces. After all, it is a Fall/Winter collection." But not too warm – one faux fur cocktail dress included underboob cut-outs.
"It's the first time I really sourced this many wool textures," he continued. "And of course, I do my best to stick to faux fur and vegan leather."
Barragán's label has had a significant presence in New York and Mexico City for years. But last year, he was nominated for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, an honor that takes a designer to a higher-profile place. Has his work changed since?
"I think my design process is now even more considerate of wearability and signature brand moments," he wrote. "However, conceptually, I still remain very true to my personal experience and try to tell stories from my background." He hasn't lost his edge, or sense of humor: one male model sported a shirt reading "Daddy, I had a bad dream!" in blood-red stretched serif font paired with sagging leather trousers, a look that just screams trade. Daddy's boy may have had a bad dream, but the show was a good one.