Some designers create for fantasy, some designers create for reality, and then there’s 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 draws deep inspiration from the American Chicano experience and then filters it through Uribe’s perspective as a queer man.
This season, the designer showed up in Los Angeles, the city he grew up in and returned to during the pandemic. He originally planned to show here in March 2020, but the coronavirus has turned that upside down. So the vibe atop the Petersen Automotive Museum, where its parade was staged as the sun dipped below the Pacific, was bubbling over. Boos and whistles rose as the lights went down, and the applause began before the first model even reached the catwalk. The clothes matched the mood.
“The main arc is about the Chicano culture,” Uribe said. “But there are so many subcultures under this umbrella.” So he gathered the looks of various groups: the swaggering machismo of the Low-riders; the street look adorned with cholos and cholas; the Zoot-costumed Pachucos and their elegant Pachucas wives, who flourished in Los Angeles in the 1950s; and the whitewashed, exotic version of the “Latin Bomb” offered by Old Hollywood. Sprinkle a heavy dose of drag and vogue scenes over these elements, and you’ll get a feel for Uribe’s vision.
Highlights of the collection, featured on a street distribution group representing a wide range of body types and gender identities (nothing new to Uribe), were the oversized shirts worn half-buttoned and dropped off the shoulders; lace-trimmed sports shorts; royal blue or candy apple red sequin hooded dresses that were both menacing and glitzy; and shapely dresses in oily and smooth latex. When asked which piece best encompasses the collection, Uribe pointed to a series of rounded, gender-neutral jackets loosely inspired by Cristobal Balenciaga’s bubble jackets, but featuring airbrush and pinstripe designs inspired by the Low-rider scene. Perhaps the most successful design was a basketball jersey that had been lengthened into a low-waisted maxi dress, finished with a ruffled basque and sequined embroidery. It was laid back, glamorous, and just a little ironic, exactly the kind of border-breaking work Uribe is known for.
The whole affair, from the casting to the screaming crowd, to the theatrical designs, possessed a certain Almodovarian flair. Like the legendary director, Uribe embraces a vision of the world that is campy and fantastic, but one that is also rooted in personal experience and memory. In this way, there was a certain nostalgic current under the dazzling facade. Uribe has managed to channel his otherness into upbeat designs that welcome people from all walks of life, and this collection continued that thread. In short, a very nice comeback for this prodigal son.