Made in Mexico
A NEW EXHIBITION EXPLORES HOW THE MEMORY OF FRIDA KAHLO HAS TRANSFORMED HER HOMELAND INTO THE DARLING OF THE FASHION AND ART WORLD
Mexico is having a moment. There’s now a demand for everything from authentic street food to Day of the Dead iconography, ensuring that Mexican culture has made it into the mainstream. The new exhibition Made in Mexico: The Rebozo in Art, Culture and Fashion, at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London delves into the South American country’s influence on the creative industries worldwide. A collaboration with the Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City, this is a chance to discover exciting work by contemporary Mexican artists, photographers, fashion and textile designers. Notable displays include a painting by Pedro Diego Alvarado and an evocative installation by Mauricio Cervantes
The exhibition focusses its narrative around the rebozo, a traditional Mexican fringed shawl. “The rebozo is a crucial symbol of Mexican life and identity,” reveals Hector Rivero Borrell, Director of the Franz Mayer Museum. In fact, many credit the resurgence of Mexican fashion to the rebozo and one woman in particular who made it part of her signature style; the revered artist Frida Kahlo. Many of her paintings feature herself and her subjects wearing the rebozo and throughout her life, Kahlo played an integral role in ensuring this shawl, steeped in folkore, became the wardrobe staple of her country. A famous photograph of her wearing one was even featured in US Vogue in 1937.
Senora de los milagros - Lady of Miracles. Ikat Rebozo
This recurring theme in her work and wardrobe continutes to inspire artists today. The exhibtion explores the history of the textile industry behind the rebozo and how Kahlo ensured its place in Mexican fashion. Since the 17th century, expert artisans have woven the rebozo on a loom. Each garment is painstakingly crafted from silk, cotton or wool, using traditional techniques. The rebozo was, and still is, worn by expectant mothers during pregnancy and after birth as a baby carrier. Crafting a rebozo is an artform and each piece is an heirloom. Women traditionally keep their rebozo for life and upon death, it becomes a burial shroud.
Kahlo embraced the rebozo in the 1920s and famously chose to wear one at her first wedding to artist Diego Rivera. She has since become an unofficial poster girl for the garment. ‘Frida Kahlo wore the rebozo for many reasons; notably to show political solidarity with the working class and their struggles. She also wore it to identify with the historic roots of her country,’ reveals Hilary Simon, the exhibition curator. To Kahlo, the rebozo represented an independent Mexico, a country that could finally acknowledge its rich heritage.
Aquilano Rimondi, Missoni, Valentino
It’s testament to her influence that the rebozo is a wardrobe staple for many Mexican women today, including Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Lila Downs who wears hers on the red carpet. Mexican Vogue recently dedicated a fashion story to the rebozo and a number of international fashion houses have referenced the shawl — and Mexico in general — in their S/S 14 collections.Valentino showcased a floor-length version while Missoni sent rebozo-style wraps down the runway and Aquilano Rimondi incorporated Mexican tones into jewel-coloured dresses.
Homegrown brands are raising the bar too. Trista has achieved international acclaim for its earthy, feminine tailoring. Anndra Neen’s hand crafted jewellery is stocked on Net-A-Porter and worn by Michelle Obama. And Mexican-American designer Raul Melgoza is an A-lister favourite. Flamboyant UK designer Zandra Rhodes, the brainchild behind the Fashion and Textile Mueseum, has designed pieces inspired by Mexico for the exhibition, along with celebrated Mexican designer Carla Fernandez who takes inspiration from traditional textile-weaving techniques. ‘Fashion designers are working with and experimenting with the rebozo in many regions of Mexico. It is still worn on special occasions by most Mexican women,’ explains Simon. The significance of rebozo transcends time, it’s an investment piece to be cherished for life. In an age when fashion trends come and go, the rebozo, like Kahlo, will always be en vogue.
Carla Fernandez, Carnival Tlaxcala Mexico 1974
Made in Mexico: The Rebozo in Art, Culture and Fashion, runs from 6 June – 24 August 2014 at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London
As an artist and a woman, Frida Kahlo remains an enigma and an inspiration. Now The Frida Kahlo Exhibition in Rome offers a rare glimpse into the life of the woman behind the rebozo. On view are over 40 of her masterpieces, selfportraits and key work from major public and private collections. So what made her quite so captivating?
Kahlo was born in 1907 in Mexico City. She began painting in the 1920s while recuperating from a serious road accident. She developed a faux primitive style of painting called Neomexicanismo, which drew on indigenous colours and symbols, and became famous for her tortured self-potraits. Kahlo died in 1954, aged just 47, and although she enjoyed success in her lifetime, it wasn’t until the 1980s that her art became internationally renowed.
Kahlo had a passionate yet tempestous marriage to Mexican artist Diego Riveria. They married in 1929, divorced in 1939 and then remarried in 1940. Many of Kahlo’s paintings depicting herself and Diego together show their struggles as a couple, and how she viewed him as unattainable.
The fashion icon
The clothes Khalo wore reflected her feminist beliefs and love for her country’s culture. Now Kahlo has become a muse for a host of contemporary fashion designers. Jean Paul Gaultier dedicated his S/S 1998 collection to her. Riccardo Tisci paid hommage with his A/W 10 couture collection for Givenchy. And supermodel Claudia Schiffer featured in a Kahloinspired fashion shoot for German Vogue in 2010. Big brows included.