Amplifying Latinx culture within the fashion industry

By 23 October, 2023

Experimental short film Ode to the Papaya by Edward Heredia showcases the Spring/Summer 23 collection by London-based fashion brand, Anciela.

Named after her grandparents Angel and Graciela, Anciela is the four-year-old brainchild of Colombian-Chilean creative director Jennifer Droguett Espinosa. 

With a decade of dynamic experience in the fashion industry under her belt (working at London Fashion weeks, Dutch luxury fashion house Viktor and Rolf and emerging fashion brands), Droguett became acutely aware that “there was always something missing”. The endemic lack of Latinx representation in crews and creative and design teams, in addition to lukewarm and poorly executed sustainability practices, led her to conceive the first imaginings of Anciela. 

With a supportive network of friends and sustained collaboration, the fashion brand has developed organically and reached the upper echelons of the fashion world, with its latest collection ‘Latin Notes’ showing at London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2024. 

In the spirit of weaving close-knit creative communities, Edward Heredia, a filmmaker and director of Colombian origin based in London, reached out to Droguett with an Instagram DM after he learnt of her work through his friend, the singer Desta French. Heredia was keen to experiment more within the fashion industry and Droguett was eager to pioneer new filmic frontiers of fashion and so the partnership flourished. After first meeting, the creative partnership had “infinite chats” musing over a concept for a prospective film and as their friendship deepened, the backbone of the project began to form. 

The Spring/Summer collection 2023 itself is inspired by ‘Latin music divas’ of the 20th century, including the divisive Brazilian Carmen Miranda and the electrifying Cuban ‘queens of salsa’ Celia Cruz and La Lupe. As Heredia concedes, the vision he and Droguett created for the short film was incredibly ambitious, as they sought to inject the film with the musical influences and spiritedness of the three icons and mirror their migratory journeys from Latin America to the United States, while simultaneously maintaining self-awareness that the video would principally serve to exhibit the collection. 

The film became a deeply personal project for both Heredia and Droguett, as the music of the divas was a part of their childhood memories, and the way in which they themselves moved abroad from Latin America in the pursuit of their artistic aspirations reflected the divas’ migratory stories. Through employing a majority Latin American crew, a roster of Latin American women as models and working with Colombian street artist VaneMG to create a mural featuring the three divas especially for the film, the atmosphere felt more familial on set. Edward notes “it was almost as if we were somewhere in Latin America”.

The final result is spectacular in its high-drama artistic interpretation of the themes of violence, migration and identity through the vessel of the collection. The film is divided into four chapters that mimic the journey of migration, and through the interpretive movement of the models, the pulsating light effects and the ethereal soundtrack by Mateo Urbano which includes archival audio footage of the three divas – and most significantly, the motion of the flares, pleats and gravity-defying structures of the clothing – the film ebbs and flows through the psyche of a migrant as they reconstruct their identities in a new land. The fractured and dark nature of the second chapter, entropy, alludes to violent and obliterated memories of conflict in the motherlands, whilst the last chapter speaks to the tensions of inhabiting both former and more nascent selves. Just as the collection defies Latinx stereotypes through the deconstruction and reinvention of classic Latin soul, salsa and mambo costumes, the film paints a beautifully complex portrait of Latin Americans in London. 

Droguett is thrilled by the reception of the film by younger Latinx people and Heredia is delighted to be able to say to his younger sister that “there is a fingerprint of your culture in a British landscape.” Meanwhile, the film showing at London Fashion Week symbolises a tangible victory in amplifying Latinx culture within the fashion industry, a notoriously difficult industry to crack. 

Riding the wave of their first film, Droguett and Heredia collaborated again on a film for Anciela’s latest collection ‘Latin Notes’, which showed at London Fashion Week SS24.

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