Type of project
Senior Thesis, Art Direction, Branding, Fashion Design, Graphic Concepting, Fashion Studies, Interactive Installation, Mixed Media Installation
School of Art, Art History and Design Perry Family Award, 2018
It all started with one question:
How does design help to create the perception of value?
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
Mercado Bardas is a luxury apparel and accessories company. A culmination of various inspirations and nostalgic references, the collection reinterprets visual codes from Mexican culture as luxury items. Visual codes in this context refers to the designed symbols, creative motifs and visual communications that have inherited significant cultural importance. These codes range from historical figures such as Mesoamerican deities to contemporary everyday culture such as gas station logos and table games. Traditionally, these images have been interpreted by Western audiences as having little to no perceived value.
In this installation, the audience is challenged in their perception of what codes are considered valuable and how they define value. By interacting with the objects, considering their assigned monetary value and observing their imagery, there can be a greater reflection on how western visual codes have heavily influenced and assigned the perception of value in modern day luxury fashion.
Mercado Bardas is the combination of two Spanish words. Mercado directly translates to market. This market is a place to exchange goods, currency, ideas and community. Bardas has multiple meanings, in one context it is a border, a fence and a wall. In another context, Bardas are also communication devices and part of the semiotics of the urban Mexican landscape. Bardas are used to advertise and convey information in an urgent, effective and low-cost manner.
During the period from between Spring 2017 until the end of the year 2017 I was mainly preoccupied with initial sketches and site observations of luxury fashion stores, pop up shops, observations of the Mexican landscape and initial sketches of what my store could look like. Alongside this I wrote two grants that secured $2000 in funding for the project. Below is a selection of sketches and site-specific observations.
In addition to the physical store and its creative execution, the important process of the research that led to Mercado Bardas is showcased in my undergraduate thesis “This Book is Valuable.” This publication was written and designed in fulfillment of graduation within the University Honors Program. The research was conducted in various phases throughout this past year, with the majority during a fall semester in Paris. This provided a wealth of resources and site-specific opportunities for observation, interaction and further interrogation in the fields of design, visual culture and fashion studies. This Book Is Valuable is an anthology of three essays The first essay is about immaterial capitalism, a system of knowledge, skill and imagination based capital. The second essay is about the strategy of artification, using fine art as a way to link systems of value together. It is also about how luxury conglomerates use political influence to diversify their portfolio and increase revenue. The final essay is about how popular and everyday culture that is perceived of having little value, has become utilized extensively in luxury fashion.
Concepting for the collection included everything from initial location and site sketches, 3D Models, design iterations,apparel and accessory layout and concepts, pattern testing, communication with vendors and more. The following gallery represents a wide variety of in process photos of the concepting involved with the project.
Brand & Design
The Mercado Bardas brand came about from exploring ways to take codes from everyday Mexican culture such as barda wall typography, sarape patterns, line weights and geometry from Huichol textiles, precolombian design and colors from the urban landscape.
The Mercado Bardas logo was developed with the inspiration of traditional Barda walls in Mexico. These are hand-painted, feature arched and bubble-letter type alongside over-the-top phrases over-promising quality of products and services.
Osea is a word that is used in the same way as 'like' is in English. Typically, it is over-used by the 'fresa', preppy and upper-class youth. The design contrasts with the copy by using a geometric pattern and a typographic system that originally comes from Huichol textiles, and to a greater extent Aztec calendars and Toltec stone poles. This code was reinterpreted by Lance Wyman for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The mix of preppy vernacular and indigenous codes is a large social contrast in contemporary Mexico.
Quetzalcóatl is a Mesoamerican deity, in Nahuatl langauge his name means "Feathered Serpant". Quetzalcóatl was known as the god of wind but furthermore was worshiped for representing merchants, arts, crafts and knowledge. This design depicts Quetzalcóatl as a two headed serpent, an interpretation seen various times in Aztec sculpture and codices. The double serpent represents both rebirth and the duality of the physical and spiritual world, a duality that hints towards his canine twin, Xólotl, the god of the underworld.
From the origin legend of Mexico to modern day, the cactus is an extremely important icon of the everyday in Mexico. This design pays homage to the plant and visual codes from the 'Loteria' bing-style game and tejido craft. Loteria is a game with illustrations relating to Mexican life and culture. Tejido is the craft of sewing and textile making.
Petróleos Mexicanos, PEMEX, is the state-owned petroleum company in Mexico. The company is the second largest non-traded company in the world and one of the most prominent in Mexico. Recently deregulation has led to price surges upwards of 20%. This has made obtaining fuel hard for many laborers due to both price and scarcity. This logo was chosen due to the impact the company has in life.
Xochimilco is a vibrant neighborhood in Mexico City that is known for the 'trajinera' boats that run down its canals. The vibrant designs showcase motifs such as florals, paper cutouts and mythical alebrije creatures. Despite being one of the most recognizable of Mexico's landscapes, the canals are in danger recently due to an increase in water pollution, endangered species and overall conservation challenges. This is a problem that continues to point towards uncontrolled urban expansion in Mexico City and beyond.
This colonial era design was used primarily among indigenous artists that worked creating murals inside convents. Inspired by the Spanish, they used their own iconography to sign artwork. The double parallel hook in a sense means "Artist”, but to a greater degree is representative of a master of craft, a masterpiece, a creative. The icon later reemerged in Diego Rivera's tombstone. A subtle and powerful reminder of Mexican artistry and creativity rooted with a deep history and mixed origins.
A unique aspect of Mercado Bardas was the pricing system that was created. To create a sense of value, standard entry level luxury prices for clothing was converted into the Mexican peso, this transformed the prices to what is in line with high-end and in some cases ultra-luxury level brands. In the end the price tags were displayed in both English and Spanish, each reading like a small introduction to the artifact and allowing the audience to question whether the price was in USD, Mexican Peso or a completely different system of capital.
To introduce audiences to the F/W 2018 I art directed the ad campaign. “Hasta La Raíz”, spanish for “To The Roots”. I wanted to tell a simple but important story, it doesn’t matter where you go in life, you will always have your roots and your heritage. As a collection inspired by everyday cultural aspects of Mexico, I took this narrative to S. 24th street in Omaha, a nostalgic place that reminds me of so many important parts of my own experiences as an immigrant growing up in Nebraska. Here we see the beautiful and vibrant neighborhood celebrated with fashion pieces that reflect the cultural identity of being Mexican. Styling reflects a sort of reimagined “Abuelita” complete with chunky shoes and socks to complement plastic mesh bags with saints. To see these images celebrated in the context and style of a luxury fashion ad we can begin to find value and appreciation in these visuals without the need to gentrify them.
The Pop Up Shop
The pop up shop installation, part of the Undergraduate Capstone exhibit featured a variety of touches ranging from vintage fabrics, indigenous plants, vinyl wall and floor art, and colorful touches alongisde. These created an immersive atmosphere that at once reflected the visual codes of Mexico and those of luxury fashion pop up shops.
This project would not be possible without the mentorship of my undergraduate thesis advisors Stacy Asher and Aaron Sutherlen, funding from the Elgas Project Grant and the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. Special thanks to faculty and staff from the College who also helped make this project and installation possible.
Advertisement Credits: Art Direction: Car Photography by Pha Nguyen, Models: Yracema Rivas and Karla Martinez, Styling: Neo Saito, Karla Martinez
Production credits: Screenprinting by Ink Alley, Shoe fabrication by Zapateria Gaytan, bag and textile fabrication through independent vendors in Mexico.