By Olivia N. Castañeda and Elizabeth Morales
Photos by Jacinto Ariza 

As part of the Sor Juana Festival: A Tribute To Mexican Women, the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) hosted the second annual La Catrina Fashion Show: Cultura Meets Couture. After a sold-out showcase last September, this year’s fashion show kept the celebration of Mexican culture thriving for a full house of local and out-of-town fashionistas last Friday night. Designers Claudia Urrutia, Elizabeth Lara, and returning designer Elda de La Rosa wowed the audience with their exhibitions of diverse collections that celebrated the female form. In addition, Mexican folk artist Lilia Vega’s collection of handcrafted Dia de Los Muertos masks served as the closing showcase of the night.

The evening began with attendees mingling and enjoying delicious comida Mexicana provided by Fogata Village while eagerly anticipating the show’s commencement and three face-painted “catrina models” teased them with glimpes of what was to come. “I can’t wait to see the show! To see what they have!” says an excited woman amidst the crowd. The audience did not hesitate to pose with the models before the flashing lights of photographers.

Two models wore special occasion floor-length evening dresses by De La Rosa: a red dress with twinkling sequins cross the waist and another wearing a grey V-neck, sleeveless mermaid dress with a sheer black, polka dotted fabric over, that ruffled from the knee down. Another model wore a sexy black lace jumpsuit created by Urrutia. After the one-hour cocktail party, the doors to the main room burst open with the spotlight highlighting only the black runway and music drawing the crowd in like a magnet. Soon after, the people settled in their seats, organizers said a few words, and the show began.

View La Catrina Fashion Show 2012 Slideshow on Flickr »

CLAUDIA URRUTIA

Up first, Urrutia presented her women’s winter 2012 collection of faux (save the animals!) fur coats, vests, hooded cashmere capes and wool coats with faux fur trimmings. The strong structured coats and vests were form-fitting, often cinched at the waist giving the models a very a feminine silhouette. Urrutia described her collection as being, “Elegante con un poquito de sexy. La mujer se debe que sentir sexy”. She presented the ‘fur’ in an array of neutral, warm tones, but also the occasional eye-popping purple. Her playful choice of color palettes paired with classic cuts resulted in a glamorous reinvention of 60’s mod, demonstrating a modern take on icons like Twiggy. While her staple material was present in almost every look, the collection also incorporated other fabrics such as suede and wool. Among them, a beautiful violet wool pea coat with ivory fur trim around the neck and arms, which seemed to be a mature interpretation of Veruca Salt. She draws much of her inspiration from the 1920s and ‘40s styles. “Since I was little I always admired elegant actresses,” she said, referencing old-Hollywood black and white films and Marilyn Monroe. Along those lines, closing out her show was a beautiful lime-green beaded evening dress from her Fall 2010 collection that was accompanied by a faux-fur hooded cap.

The 39-year-old designer graduated in 2007 with a B.A. in Fine Arts from the International Academy of Design and Technology (IADT). Afterwards, she was exposed to faux fur fabric and realized her liking to the material, which she says looks very similar to real fur and doesn’t harm animals in the process. Urrutia works with sizes 6 to 14, and offers tailoring services. Her prices range from $50 to $350; more can be seen at her website.

ELIZABETH LARA

Wedding and special occasion designer Lara was second to present. Her wedding collection was made up of the traditional, virginal, white floor-length dresses with a train on the back, as well as non-traditional knee-length dresses. Her collection also exhibited many hair pieces that were all handcrafted by Lara. Added to the mix was a long dress in a soft pink with a delicate silver sequined racerback. Her designs can meet any bride-to-be’s style. “I look at the ‘40s and ‘50s for inspiration. I love everything that is romantic. I like my stuff to be really, really girly,” said Lara, 27,  in a phone interview, days before the show. Her collection, which consisted of mainly full skirted gowns was a sweet and classic representation of the modern bride. However, it was the closing look that solidified her youthful vision. The closing look consisted of a ivory mini dress with a sheer detachable skirt that sat at the model’s hip. Her youthful take on classic looks made her pieces more accessible to a contemporary audience while still being elegant.

Like Urrutia, Lara graduated in ’07 from IADT with a B.A. in Fine Arts. A couple of years ago, Lara was an intern for returning Catrina designer Elda De La Rosa and it was after this when Lara was inspired to pursue bridal fashion. “I fell in love with [De La Rosa’s] work and working with gowns and wedding dresses. I thought that that was my calling because I enjoyed it so much, and at the same time I was also planning my own wedding. [I thought] maybe I could do this as a living. That is when I started my business,” said Lara, of making her own and bridesmaid dresses and party accessories. She works with all sizes and customizes too. The collection sells at prices from $600 to $1,100. Her online store is available on Etsy.

ELDA DE LA ROSA

And the last to present her fall 2012 collection was last year’s veteran, bridal and special occasion designer Elda De La Rosa. In a surprising contrast to her collection at last fall’s La Catrina Fashion Show last, this year it did not consist of mainly bridal pieces. It was a cohesive collection that was comprised of vintage-inspired business wear and classic evening gowns in addition her signature bridal couture. Her show began with a series of Mad Men-inspired looks which featured form-fitting dresses and an androgynous pant suit. The flawless transition into evening wear celebrated the female shape in elegant silhouettes that were reminiscent of the 1920s. And of course, her collection could have not been complete without her signature bridal ensembles. Accordingly,  some of her designs were accompanied by the ever adorable flower girls who not only carried with them La Catrina masks, but were also dressed in Elda de La Rosa. Her show did not fall short of last year’s; it exceeded expectations. Her fresh perspective on classic staples in a woman’s closet is what makes her design aesthetic timeless.

This season she explained that she has created more ready-to-wear evening dresses than before, and drew her inspiration from the various fabrics she picked up along the way during her travels across the country. “It all came from just looking around and wondering the streets of Los Angeles and New York, and seeing what I would find in fabrics. When I see a pretty fabric, I just take it up, buy and run with it,” said De La Rosa. Seen on the runway were her classical silks, laces and jersey materials. “To me the romanticism of la catrina and the females — it is all in the fabrics that I have chosen. The colors are dark and they are dramatic; just the way the catrinas are,” she says. De La Rosa creates custom wear, and traditional gown prices start at $1,900. To view her couture gowns, go to her website here.

LILIA VEGA

Closing out the event was Lilia Vega, who unveiled her Día de Los Muertos masks. Vega moved to the U.S. three years ago, and is originally from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. She currently lives in central Kentucky. Backstage, standing next to a table covered with her creations, she explained that since her childhood, she was always attracted to el Día de los Muertos. And just two years ago, with the encouragement from her husband, she began making catrina masks and became the artist she yearned to be. Today she is self-employed specializing in “Paper mache skull masks and Day of the Dead craftwork,” according to her Facebook page. Regular masks are priced from $45 to $300, and featherhead dressed masks are $1,000 to $2,500.

The handcrafted pieces were an homage to traditional sugar skulls which adorn many cemeteries during All Saint’s Day in Mexico. The masks were a parade of color that also exhibited the many facets of Aztec culture that inspire her artwork.

Hers was an eclectic showcase that truly embodied the quirky nature of the masks that at times were depicted laughing. She is donating her alluring mask called Xochipilli — the name for goddess of art, dance and love — to the NMMA. However, the most striking them was the mask Lilia Vega is donating to the National Museum of Mexican Art. The piece is a tribute to Quetzalcoatl — the “feathered serpent” as he is referred to in Aztec mythology. It is a stunning emerald mask with black feathers adorning the head like a crown and accompanied by pyramid drop earrings. Lilia Vega’s showcase of intricate masks truly embodied the theme of the night, a celebration of la cultura mexicana.

After witnessing an elaborate and lovely display of fashion, the night concluded with a fashion market where the audience’s glimmering eyes became filled with contentment as they purchased a garment or mask of their choice. A very fitting end to the evening. So, until next year, ¡feliz día de los muertos!

To support and purchase garments from these three amazing designers, go to Claudia Urrutia’s, Elizabeth Lara’s, and Elda de la Rosa’s online stores. Check out Lilia Vega’s craftwork at her Facebook page too!

Missed the show? Want to see the fashion for yourself? Watch Gozamos’s footage of the event at Gozamos.tv!

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