Photography by Jacinto Ariza

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First, the fête:

By Stephanie Marban

Before the big walk-off, La Catrina started off with a celebration. As guests walked into the NMMA, they were greeted by young men and women dressed in Catrina costumes. The guests were also treated to a fine dining and wining experience, courtesy of Maya Restaurant — the menu of ceviche and tacos al pastor filled tummies and hearts. The room buzzed with excitement for the upcoming show.

Working my way across the room, I came across several fashionable and uniquely dressed individuals. Given the theme of the night, it was not as big of a surprise to see a woman in a kimono with thigh-high boots. But I also saw many a little black dress, the go-to workhorse of the fashion world.

After eating, drinking, mingling and general merry-making, the doors to the main event opened. Going further with the night’s theme, the ceiling was adorned in brightly colored papel picado, and soon after Radio Arte general manager Jorge Valdivia gave a short speech, festive folkloric music began to play to claps and cheers. Soon enough, the models gracefully made their way across the runway, moving like fierce specters. Some models donned masks, others had veils covering their faces. One stunning model appeared with a gray Catrina mask and a giant cross covering her face, and walked with a power and purpose that even gave me a chill down my spine.

And now for a departure from the fiesta and theatrics, here is a detailed breakdown of the main event.

Second, the fashion:

By Roberto Del Rio

Closing out the month of September, La Catrina Fashion Show at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen was one of the best exits I’ve ever seen. Designers Gary Gonzalez, Horacio Nieto and Elda de la Rosa presented strikingly diverse collections that nonetheless managed to revolve around the Day of the Dead theme and topics of mortality, death and yes, even life. The event itself was a marriage of cohesive choreography, impressive execution and, above all, an immense pride knowing that these designers with their otherworldly pieces are from and/or based in our backyard.

First up was Gary Gonzalez, who dedicated the line to his late brother. His show was a cornucopia of organic earthiness with a hint of ’70s disco. Several models sported fantastic, colorful masks that looked like the calaveras de azúcar, those grinning, black-and-white masks iconic to autumn in Mexico. Indeed, this collection, which opened the show, created a somber and more austere mood that segued into Horacio Nieto’s more optimistic take. That’s not to say that Gary’s pieces were lifeless — they exuded the drama of life, with its struggles and tragic choreography. And the main piece shown was accompanied by some very strange and very powerful theatrics that were equal parts Greek tragedy and Mexican surrealist symbolism.

Horacio Nieto was next, with a collection that was part geography lesson and part blast from the past. Influenced by Frida Kahlo’s infamous (for its status in absentia) Paris Vogue cover, the collection’s palette was warm and exuberant, with a very healthy use of florals. In terms of accessories, there was a deconstructed abuelita sort of vibe to it all, beginning with the modern version of your grandmother’s favorite accessory. You know the one: abue keeps just about everything in it, from receipts to Mamisan to emergency jewelry. And though usually these are angular and woefully awkward to carry or pull off, Horacio’s were beautifully adorned with Catholic imagery. The best part? That they were being pushed onto men. Still, the ladies fashion took the cake with Nieto’s signature affection for chromatics of all types.

Lastly, Elda de la Rosa’s collection featured a less biographical take on the theme of the night. What she did was channel the modern, en vogue Mexican (or otherwise) woman. Greens and reds were very prominent, as were grays and lace. Lace, in fact, was wonderfully peppered throughout all three of the collections, which managed to keep it classy and not go overboard (a fate that happens often when using the beautiful fabric). Elda also presented her signature bridal couture, which even made this observer’s cold, black heart momentarily illuminate itself when I caught glimpse of her gray wedding dress with tasteful long black veil. Completely epic. I don’t necessarily believe in marriage of any kind, but if this is the future of bridal couture, Anderson Cooper, will you marry me? (Don’t worry; we won’t wear the dresses. I might wear this, though). Her other pieces worked on a classic level, with workaday suits and fitted separates that no doubt could adorn the likes of early 20th century women or contemporary vintage mavens.

See slideshow of La Catrina Fashion Show 2011 on Flickr »

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