Western style is often associated with Americana. It conjures up images of country music, John Wayne movies, and classic Wrangler jeans. Dig a little deeper though and history will show that Black cowboys and Mexican charros, among other cultural groups, helped shape the look of western fashion long before it was whitewashed by Hollywood. Skilled at roping and riding, the Mexican horsemen known as charros have always maintained a flamboyant uniform consisting of cropped embellished jackets, embroidered skirts, and wide-brimmed sombreros, among other pieces. Now a new menswear label out of Mexico City is spotlighting the idiosyncratic style of charros in a new, unexpected way.
Patricio Campillo launched his men’s line, The Pack, in 2015. The designer was born and raised in Mexico City, where his studio is based, and grew up immersed in charro culture. His father collects charro antiquities, and many of his family members also ride horseback as well. “My parents have a ranch, and we used to spend three days a week over there [when I was young],” Campillo says. “When I was three or four years old, they tied me to the saddle and hit the horse.” Campillo conceived of the idea around 2013 while he was consulting for Mexican womenswear designer Lorena Saravia. She offered him a chance to create a small menswear collection. “It was the first time that I ever designed,” he says. “I discovered that it was my true love.”Photo: Courtesy of The Pack
Given his upbringing, it was only a matter of time before Campillo began mining the charro aesthetic for inspiration. “The idea in the beginning was to just create a basic wardrobe for men,” he says. “It didn’t really feel like it had a voice. Then I started having a lot of fun.” He nods to riding style by refining rough-and-tough textiles such as leather and denim, applying them onto dressier pieces such as two-piece suits or sleek trench coats. Much like the traditional charro costumes, his clothes also challenge gender norms, making use of skirting and soft draping to reconfigure classic suiting. “I’m designing for the contemporary Charro, where sex and gender identity are not relevant,” he says.Photo: Courtesy of The Pack
Campillo—who is a self-taught designer—also references childhood memories of Mexico City. “My grandfather used to have this beautiful house in [Jardines del Pedregal]. I lived in that house for a couple of years.” Campillo says. “It’s a residential area where the landscape, plants, and biodiversity are unaffected by the houses. It’s this brutalist, beautiful environment with clean structures on top of volcanic rocks. There's this beautiful duality that I'm very inspired by.” Sustainability is very much part of his vision, too: Campillo works with a variety of vegetable dyes and biodegradable fabrics such as silk. Recently, he has been experimenting with oxide dyes made from organic beans and beetroot as well, which result in a tie-dye effect.
To stay true to the mission of his label, Campillo shoots his look book with Mexican models. “To me, they look like Aztec gods,” he says of his campaign stars. “Rather than exoticising someone, I'm just celebrating a beauty that is unique.” Often, Campillo will look locally for talent; he discovered one model for a recent shoot just outside of his store in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood. “I just found him smoking outside,” he laughs. For Campillo, the impulse to represent charro culture runs deeper than clothing. “Charro culture is something so beautiful, and I'm so keen to keep it alive,” he says.Photo: Courtesy of The Pack