Some designers create for the imagination, some for reality and then there is Rio Uribe from Gypsy Sport who doesn’t bother to differentiate between the two. In fact, this blurring of lines is a hallmark of his brand, which digs deeply into the American Chicano experience and then filters it through Uribe’s perspective as a queer man.
This season, the designer showed off in Los Angeles, the city he grew up in and which he returned to during the pandemic. It originally planned to show here in March 2020 but the coronavirus has turned this on its head. The mood at the Petersen Automotive Museum, where his catwalk show was taking place at sunset in the Pacific, was exuberant. When the lights went out, there was screaming and whistling, and the clapping began before the first model even stepped onto the catwalk. The clothes matched the mood.
“The main arc revolves around Chicano culture,” said Uribe. “But there are so many subcultures under this roof.” So he summarized the looks of different groups: the boastful machismo of the low-riders; the ornate street look of the Cholos and Cholas; the zoot-suit-wearing pachucos and their elegant pachucas women who flourished in LA in the 1950s; and the whitewashed, exotic version of the “bombshell latina” offered by Old Hollywood. Sprinkle a large dose of the drag and fashion scenes over these elements and you will get a feel for Uribe’s vision.
Highlights of the collection, shown in a street cast group representing a wide range of body types and gender identities (nothing new to Uribe), were the oversized shirts that were worn half buttoned and dropped off the shoulders; the athletic shorts with lace edging; sequined hooded robes in royal blue or candy apple red that looked somehow threatening and glittering; and shapely clothes made of oily, smooth latex. When asked which piece best encompassed the collection, Uribe referred to a range of rounded, genderless jackets loosely based on Cristobal Balenciaga’s bubble jackets, but with airbrushed and pinstripe motifs from the low-rider scene. Perhaps the most successful design was a basketball jersey, which was elongated into a floor-length, low-slung dress and rounded off with a voluminous peplum and sequin embroidery. It was casual, glamorous, and just a little winking, just the kind of boundary-breaking work Uribe is known for.
The whole affair, from the cast to the screaming crowd to the theatrical designs, had a certain Almodovian flair. Like the legendary director, Uribe has a combative and fantastic worldview that is also based on personal experiences and memories. That way there was a certain wistful undercurrent beneath the dazzling facade. Uribe has managed to channel its otherness into upbeat designs that welcome people from all walks of life, and this collection continues that thread. All in all, a very fabulous return for this prodigal son.