Interview with Merma Negra: In search of genderless fashion

180 Grados, Design, DF, Diseñador, diseño local, Diseño mexicano, fashion, Merma Negra, Mexican design, moda unisex, unisex -

Interview with Merma Negra: In search of genderless fashion

Merma Negra is the joint project of Jessica Escobar and Gustavo Castellanos. In it they develop what they call “experimental sewing”, with a view to proposing a new Mexican identity, urban and without gender limits.

180º: Who makes up the project?

Jessica: Merma Negra started two and a half years ago. Gustavo and I started it because when we started dating, we realized that we shared a lot of clothes and we had a very urban, half- raver style , which was sometimes very difficult to find. We decided to make clothes that we could share. We do the design and planning of collections and now we have one more member, Rodrigo Salmerón, who does the entire web part and supports us in different things when necessary. Clearly the team is larger, it includes production and other people without whom we couldn't do anything.

180º: Are you both designers?

J: Yes. Neither of us are fashionable, Gustavo is a Graphic Designer and I am an Industrial Designer; Somehow we found a middle point of creation for both of us in textiles.

180º: What do you seek to express as a brand?

J: We want to break with the idea in fashion that some things are for women and others for men. We have seen that this line that divides genders, especially in this new century, is less real than it has been portrayed to us. That's something we want to share with others. We also try to produce responsibly. We try to buy mostly Mexican fabric, to pay a fair price for the workmanship of each piece. Nor do we release collections every six months like a brand that wants to establish itself in some normal way and enter this fashion market that we feel can sometimes be ruthless would do. We don't want to work that way because it means throwing away months of work and also throwing away your wardrobe. We try to make pieces that last a long time, to make basics that can be used for everything. That's what we try to look for: responsibility around the garment and working on this identity that is in some way uncertain, or at least without classification.

180º: So how are your collections organized?

J: We make an annual collection, approximately, and we really like to experiment with the same piece in different colors or different textiles. Sometimes we add new things to a garment we already had. The beauty of working with clothes is that when you change the textile, even if the pattern is the same, it changes completely.

180º: Do you have any favorite fabric so far?

J: It's a complicated question. I really like cotton as a fiber, it has a wide range of textiles. We use it in shirts, we have a very iconic black dress that is cotton with 5% elastane. We always try to use fibers that are mostly natural.

180º: What are your main inspirations?

J: We are a brand that thinks about the city. We are motivated to think about the functionality that garments must have for someone who has a life with the dynamism linked to living in the city. We also travel every time we make collections, the last collection was inspired by New York. This year we went to Nicaragua and also to Oaxaca, so we are trying to incorporate the natural wealth that both places have into the city environment.

180º: Tell us about “experimental sewing”.

J: It is a term that Gustavo came up with, it is basically using haute couture cuts or patterns and surpluses and asymmetries to give a very particular drape and structure to the garments. Somehow let the fabric express itself.

180º: What has it been like to insert all this into the world of Mexican design?

J: It's been a lot of fun. Sometimes complicated from the point of view of production in Mexico. It's difficult to find people who want to dedicate time to your project. Now there are many platforms like the Lonja or the Souk and stores like 180º; There are people who help you. We are trying to create a new Mexican identity, that is not only linked to folklore and flowers and colors, which are clearly part of us, but I think that now there are many new designers who are trying to unify and redefine this identity through design.

180º: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?

J: I think it's fair to establish a defined production process. It hasn't been so much the market because the people have received us very well, we were able to find our own space. It is production, finding someone who wants to be part of the project, because it is not just about hiring someone and that's it, but it must be someone who is committed and contributes to the process.

180º: What is your creative process like?

J: We started thinking about the collections by taking some trips. We think about what pieces we want, usually there are 10 or 12. On the trip we take photos of all the things we can find: textures, buildings, everything that is around us. Then we start drawing and look for images of what we would like to do. After that we divided the pieces and didn't speak until everyone had theirs. Since we have those pieces in sketch, we get together and try to make them unified. There we see more sewing details, changing collars, expanding sleeves. After that, patterning begins and two or three samples of each piece are made until they are perfect and sent to production.

180º: Teamwork as a couple must be very interesting

J: Gustavo is very easy to work with. I hope it is as easy for him to work with me. Clearly there are differences, but I think we both trust each other's aesthetic vision a lot. It has been very nice to work together, for him and I there is no person we trust more. Collaborators come and go, but we are here. It is a project that was born from the impetus of both. I think we have developed such a deep friendship that everything works very well. Also, since the clothing is unisex, it is important for me to see the clothing on both to know what works to achieve the asexuality we want in the garment.

180º: What are they doing now?

J: We are working on this year's collection, which is going to be winter-like. We just did a collaboration with Perrier for some summer pieces, in which we tried to use a lot of inspiration from our trip to Nicaragua.

180º: What are your future plans?

J: Gustavo has just made a jewelry collection that we want to incorporate into the brand, although we still don't know exactly how. We would like to start selling outside of Mexico, find other markets and take this new identity that I speak of to other places. This year we worked a lot on the standardization of production. Apart from that, Gustavo and I do artistic projects that are incorporated, not exactly into the brand, but into our work. There is an aesthetic line that we always follow.

180º: Where did the name come from?

J: We wanted to call ourselves Marca Negra, but two months before registering it we discovered that there is a mezcal called that. We already had the logo, which for us is a very important part of our identity. We made stickers and pasted them everywhere in the city like graffiti artists, just with that idea of ​​the urban. Since we didn't want to change the logo, we started looking for words. We realized that sometimes we make garments that have production losses, like scarves, and that's where it came from. Waste: that which is left over and we try to take advantage of it instead of throwing it away.

180: When did they reach 180º?

J: Two years ago, in October 2014. When Gustavo and I started the brand, Bernardo opened the doors to us and helped us a lot to choose and form a design line, which is why we are very fond of 180º.

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