“I don’t want to be worn by a homophobic billionaire rapper, I’d rather be worn by a broke ass young queer who really wants to wear my piece and knows what it means. ” Fashion designer, CHEMA DIAZ criticizing the commodification of queer movements. Chema also discusses his latest collection, BANDIDO, inspired by his experiences as a queer Spanish immigrant in London, growing up in a matriarchal structure, the reappropriation of cultural elements, genderless collections and more.
YOUTH and CHEMA DIAZ
Growing up how did Spanish culture influence the rebellious nature of CHEMA DIAZ?
I grew up in a matriarchal structure: my mom, my grandma, my great grandmother and my aunt were the closest references in my life. These women, their strength and strong sense of style have shaped me into what I am today.
You’ve mentioned your clothes are inspired by and made for Queer people. How do you weigh in on fashion houses commodifying a movement for market share?
To me, it makes no sense that you sell an $800 hoodie with the gay flag on it and [then] you keep supporting homophobic artists or still don’t put trans models on the runway. I don’t want to be worn by a homophobic billionaire rapper, I’d rather be worn by a broke ass young queer who really wants to wear my piece and knows what it means. I would love to see if any of these brands that try to cash in on the pink pound ever do something apart from marketing stunts to support the community, or are even verbal about the problems we face.
A ROSALÍA track that would feature in a CHEMA DIAZ fashion show?
My BANDIDO show features DE AQUI NO SALES from ROSALÍA’s latest album! You can check the amazing mix we played on my website.
How does CHEMA DIAZ approach activism and how political are your collections?
My activism doesn’t involve donations, because I barely have money to survive and push the brand forward in the position I am. My activism shows in the people I cast for my photo shoots or shows, the clothes I make that do not understand gender roles or assumptions, or the prints I design. My intention is not to be a political brand, I would be as fake as the brands I was mentioning before, but I like to make people think and open their minds when they see my designs.
“BANDIDO is a hedonist person, someone who goes out on a Friday and comes back on a Monday, someone who can enjoy the carnal pleasures of life and is unapologetic about it.”
Karl Lagerfeld would insist that his collections came to him in his dreams. Do you have a process for designing a collection or does the concept manifest more mechanically?
All the concepts or collections I have presented are the outcome of years and years of mental links and concept development. 2007 is a collection inspired by my real connection between my life and those of celebrities. BANDIDO is the result of my life and experience as a Spanish immigrant in London. I do not have a process for designing, it just comes through my mind wherever I am.
On an emotional level, how would you describe creating your latest collection, BANDIDO and what is the significance of BANDIDO?
BANDIDO literally means “bandit”. But a BANDIDO is not only someone who robs farms in the far West. BANDIDO is a hedonist person, someone who goes out on a Friday and comes back on a Monday, someone who can enjoy the carnal pleasures of life and is unapologetic about it. My grandma used to call me BANDIDO when I was coming back home drunk as a teenager. Also, BANDIDO is the song by Azucar Moreno who represented Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest 1990 (the year I was born) and it is such a good flamenco house banger!
CHEMA DIAZ adopts a punk attitude juxtaposed with an almost “Que te den” homage to traditional Spanish culture. Talk to us about the philosophy behind the collection?
It meant my first big fashion presentation ever, and doing it about something as close to my culture and my country in a foreign country was something risky to do. But it felt [like] the right thing to do for a first show. In this collection, I explored my roots, my nature, my local references, and it was a bit hard and risky to do so. In Spain wearing the Spanish flag is similar to wearing a Swastika in Germany, and re-appropriating that element I believe hasn’t been well received by many people. But I want to show that Spain is not only homophobic, racist. Spain is a country full of divas, beautiful transexuals, flamboyant gays, colour, sun, lust, party, hedonism.
That’s the Spain that I am and am interested in.
“FUCK ME I’M AN IMMIGRANT”
What can we expect from the future direction of CHEMA DIAZ?
I just want to keep creating things I like and be able to live off this.
What do you see as the next conventionality that fashion will dismantle?
I am hoping for a total genderless fashion. This does not mean girls in plain jeans and grey hoodies, but just non-gendered collections. Clothes are clothes at the end of the day, so hopefully, we can see more and more brands doing this.
Spanish artists and designers coming through that we should have on our radar?
In fashion, I love Studio44, a really clever genderless brand from Madrid. Music I can suggest La Zowi, ROSALÍA, Bad Gyal or Amaia.
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
FUCK ME I’M AN IMMIGRANT.