When I was a reckless poster and would blab on about things without really thinking about what I was saying, I think I may have pondered a little about chola girl style. That's curious and naive me probing into a sub-culture that doesn't even vaguely figure into my daily life. I got many responses from people, who liked to use shouty capital letters and no punctuation to enlighten me, along the lines of "Ya KEEP it up wit the cholita style. Fuck the haters. We be ridden' on some real shit." That's me TOLD.
Nearly six years down the line and Vogue Italia got in to a little bit of hot water with their "Haute Mess" editorial, photographed by Steven Meisel, that amplified and exaggerated certain chola and "ghetto" style traits and stereotypes, which then prompted chola-centric rebuttals and much internets commentary. These are the sort of no-go social and cultural lines that Vogue Italia seem to cross on a regular basis, baiting the public to berate and comment on them.
Is there any positive spin on chola within the fashion remit, without prompting angry arched (and I might add, thin) eyebrows and accusations of political incorrectness? When I went to Mexico, I was told, that surface-only imitations of chola style were more prevalent than any actual genuine gang activity. It reads to me like a strange counterculture. Like punks today without any of the political motivation. Like people who borrow style traits from teddy boys/girls, mods and punks but discarding the political and cultural context of those tribes.
Therefore it was interesting to come across a designer who managed to reference chola style without going in for any derogatory dig and recontextualising the subculture to the point, where it might even be undetectable to cholo girls themselves. Roberto Sanchez is going it alone as a solo designer and his S/S 12 collection was an interesting insight into his vision away from TEAMO, the brand that he alongside his former design partner Rafa Cuevas became well known for. It's a far more brutal and personal aesthetic that Sanchez is going for and it seems cathartic for him, after doing collections that came with commercial restraints for TEAMO. I dove right into his S/S 12 collection but completely missed out on his rooted A/W 11-2 collection, which was really dedicated to his love of Mexico and included in that are cholo references, such as the interlinked tattoo and graffiti culture in Mexico, and the attitude of cholo girls. Yet when these motifs are placed on stark white shirting with voluminous poet's sleeves and long white skirts, contrasting leather and cotton, Sanchez distills his perspective of Mexican cholo references into something quite beautiful and displaced. The black eyeliner and drawn in brows becomes inky black jumpsuits and demure floor length dresses. Any hint of aggression is removed and instead, Sanchez celebrates Mexican street culture with a purist eye.
Likewise for his latest A/W 12-3 collection he turns to the white shirting as a foundation for his interpretation of Mexico City downtown style. The slightly cheesy car-brand printed jumpsuit to me feels like the Mexican version of designers such as Christopher Shannon in London, who play off chav culture and their associated style imagery. The simultaneous celebration and derision of chav culture in the UK can definitely be similarly compared to the mainstream adoption of chola style (seen by the likes of Gwen Stefani and Fergie). They're both immediately outward facing cultures that are based on aestethics more than assessing character or actions. Sanchez takes what he has seen and what he innately knows about Mexican gang culture and cleverly works that into his collections so that they're free from stereotyping. Something that shock-tactic, pageview-driving editorials could learn from.