When the experimental Mexican fashion label Sánchez-Kane debuted its “Latino Couture” fall collection in February, designer Bárbara Sánchez-Kane chose Mexico City’s Museo Experimental El Eco as the show venue. The gallery was an appropriate setting, given the clothes doubled as art. For the collection, Sánchez-Kane explored the idea of “Macho Sentimental,” twisting menswear signatures and reworking them to feel more non-binary. She showed everything from blazers slashed with cut-outs exposing the body, to fitted corset tops, ruffled white button-ups, and even full-on pink gowns printed with daisies. Modeling the genderless clothes was a cool cast of local characters, including the Mexican singer Pablo Osorio, all playing into Sánchez-Kane’s mission statement: To not only to create beautiful garments, but to foster a creative community in the city.
Sánchez-Kane is one of Mexico City’s most exciting brands to know at the moment, while Mexico’s fashion scene more generally is rapidly evolving. In Oaxaca, modeling agencies like Talento Espina are bringing underrepresented communities to the forefront, including Karen Vega, an 18-year-old Oaxacan beauty that recently landed in the pages of Vogue Mexico. In Mexico City, a number of exciting designers are also redefining what a traditional Mexican brand can look like; The Pack, for instance, is challenging menswear norms while honoring the style legacy of Charros. What makes Sánchez-Kane stand out in particular, however, is its long-standing emphasis on community.Photo: MikePhy
Founded in 2016, Sánchez-Kane is originally from the south of Mexico in Mérida, Yucatán. She began her line wanting to explore the intersection of fashion, art, and performance—combining all of these elements with the purpose of defying gendered fashion norms. “In Mexico, it’s a very dominant, macho country,” says Sánchez-Kane. “We're still fighting for a lot of things, like basic rights for women. I [wanted to make] clothing that anyone can wear.”
Sánchez-Kane’s keen eye as a designer is thanks to her unusual background. She first studied industrial engineering in Mérida, but decided to pursue fashion at 22 following a health scare. “I had ovarian cancer, and that changed everything,” says Sánchez-Kane. “I was like, you need to do what you actually want to do and listen to yourself.” After overcoming cancer, she went on to study fashion in Florence and interned with Bernhard Willhelm in Los Angeles. These combined studies shine through in her work today, which riffs off twisted shapes and exaggerated proportions. “Engineering is all about experimentation with materials,” she says. “Pattern-making is very engineering, it’s being playful with structure.”Photo: MikePhyPhoto: Eugenio Andrade Schulz
All of the label’s pieces are made by local artists, and Sánchez-Kane enjoys the process of collaborating. “Every garment needs to tell a story,” she says. “I know everyone who produces it. I do experimental patterns in the atelier, and then everything is outsourced; denims, cottons, leathers. I go to the professionals.” She’s also partnered with other local brands, such as Varon Jewelry, on special one-off pieces. “There’s a community here and we support each other,” she says. “That's why I moved to Mexico City. If you're having a drink, you can turn around and start talking to someone, and [find out] this person does embroidery. People are very open with sharing their knowledge and their experiences.”
Sánchez-Kane says Mexico City itself inspires her just as much as its denizens. “Just going downtown, you will see all the inspirations of Sánchez-Kane,” she says. “Mexico is very kitschy; I like to play with the heritage.” She often incorporates traditional Mexican motifs into her clothes, particularly drawing from architecture in the city. For her “Latino Couture” collection, she even made a series of dresses that are inspired by the gift-wrap ribbons that you can buy from the city’s roadside stands.Photo: Eugenio Andrade Schulz
Though she is very much part of the change, Sánchez-Kane says he has been enjoying seeing Mexico’s fashion community take risks and break from the mold. “Fashion week has been going on for years, but it’s still very traditional,” she says.” There’s some brands coming up that have more identity instead of just [doing] cocktail dresses. That’s how I saw the scene when I was growing up: Cocktail dresses and wedding dresses.” She’s also been hopeful about seeing more Mexican representation in fashion outside of the country. “There’s more representation of the Latino community with models, and hopefully it’s not just a trend for big brands,” she says. “There’s a lot of power right now—even in this strange year.”Photo: MikePhy