During the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910 and continued for a decade, large numbers of women joined the fight for a just society. Called Soldaderas, they were crucial to the liberation of Mexico and they undermined the strict gender codes of the culture, whereby women were forced to adhere to a life of domesticity. The Soldaderas are remembered in Mexican history, but traditional gender roles and oppression of women in Mexico still exist today and prove that since the revolution, not a whole lot has changed in terms of equality. Sadly, this year violence against women in Mexico is at an all time high according to government data. A record 26,171 emergency calls were made in March to report violence against women. Sabrina Olivera grew up in Mexico City and witnessed this violence and inequality firsthand. It’s why she decided to shift her career as an assistant designer and focus on her own independent label that gives back to those in her country who have suffered domestic violence.
Olivera, who is currently based in Brooklyn, launched her ready-to-wear line Soldaderas last week. Named for the female soldiers of the revolution, the collection is made up of three styles of printed pants, all featuring pockets at the lower leg, as opposed to the hips. The practical, utilitarian style, fit and the visible stitching allow for more comfortable movement and symbolize a modern piece of armor for women who are constantly having to run from violence or protect their bodies within their own homes. The pants are all produced between New York and Mexico City, and Olivera uses deadstock fabric, mainly vintage tablecloths and curtains found in Mexico, partially to subvert the traditional domestic roles of Mexican women. Currently, the collection is available on Olivera’s website and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Red Nacional de Refugios A.C., a foundation in Mexico that supports shelters helping victims of domestic violence.
Olivera is passionate about giving back through this project, but she also “wanted to celebrate female power in my country during a period when gender violence is at an all-time high,” she says. “Many women in Mexico are still Soldaderas in a way, especially those that are oppressed because they’re of a lower class, they’re women of color, or they live on the peripheries of the major cities. Every day is a fight for them.” Olivera hopes that her clothes will inspire those who wear them to learn more about the violence against women in Mexico and encourage them to help combat it, even outside of their donation to the Red Nacional de Refugios. As she notes, “we are in a time where everything is changing and a lot of people are becoming more involved in activism. Fashion has to adapt accordingly and give customers options to shape and decide how the future will look.”