Taken from our #Pride Issue. KALTBLUT chats to Colombian born fashion designer Mateo Velasquez, a talented London-based graduate of Central Saint Martin’s, on his new series “Leather Boys”, on the topics of homoeroticism, hyper-masculinity and his self-exploration of his own queer identity.
Hey! I’m well, trying to keep myself busy in these trying times.
How’s lockdown life treating you?
To be honest it has been sort of a blessing in disguise. A much-needed break to stop and reconsider, evaluate and decide what’s worth going back to, and at what pace, once this is all over.
How are you staying motivated as a designer?
I take it as an opportunity to start fresh with thoughtful actions, re-visit old projects, exercise and keep mindful about what I can bring on next.
What’s your earliest fashion memory and when did you know you wanted to create your own designs?
I remember my grandmother customising clothing for my father back in Colombia, then throughout my teenage years, I was obsessed with Jeremy Scott. I saw myself identifying with the non-conformity of his work, but it wasn’t until I arrived in London at the age of 17 when I first became interested in making. I started sewing clothes for myself as I could never find things I actually wanted to wear.
You recently dropped the first part of your ‘Leather Boys’ collection; talk me through the main inspiration for this series?
I found the initial reference for this project on ‘Casa Susanna’ a series of documentary snaps discovered at a flea market taken in the mid-’70s depicting a group of ‘heterosexual’ men who would travel to a refuge outside New York where they were allowed and encouraged (often by their own wives) to dress as women; that took me into researching further into subcultures where flexibility in gender behaviour is allowed, where the hyper-masculinity atmosphere allows for homoerotic behaviour, sexual fluidity and expression.
What can we expect from part two?
The collection has been developing organically. Part One explores the more feminine and fragile side of the story and it develops into the sexual and the exposed, giving way to explorations of queer identity and the leather archetype based on non-acceptance and rebellion coming in Part two.
How would you say Leather Boys differs in comparison to your previous collection?
When I started this project I knew I wanted it to have a holistic view all-around, making garments, not for the sake of producing and self-satisfying my creative pursuits but instead, making it responsibly by up-cycling most of the materials from garments found at car-boot sales, charity shops and so on.
Have you expanded or developed any elements from your previous collections?
I’m influenced by my own queer identity, so the running themes of gender and exploration of queer culture, as well as some multicultural elements, are something innate within my aesthetic and design process.
As a young designer, how do you think you can stay unique and stand out in your own way?
Stay true to yourself. No one else out there has experienced the things you’ve been through, and all of those small realities within yourself, those very authentic and personal stories are what make you different and hopefully, that will be reflected in your work with a strong sense of rooted identity.
When you aren’t designing, where would MV be and what would he be up to?
I’ve been boxing for a while now, creatives often tend to constantly overthink, overwork and overrun things in their minds, so it’s good to find a way to switch off even if just for one or two hours a day.
As most things, just a social construction. Something we, as a society and as individuals, need to redefine, deconstruct and accept in all its myriad forms and complexities in order to liberate ourselves from societal expectations, gender norms and gender hierarchy.
Well said. Do you have a favourite piece from the new collection?
I’ve quite enjoyed deconstructing things and finding new ways of presenting tailored jackets, which, unintentionally, becomes something quite symbolic at the same time.
What is your favourite city to visit and why?
I love going back to Medellin, they call it the city of eternal Spring. It feels like that joy we all love and have when Spring comes back, but all year round, and also, the kindness and charm of the people.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
I love seeing how other people re-interpret my garments, making it an open conversation, which is always evolving. There’s nothing more gratifying than giving people the opportunity to self-express themselves in one way or another.
What’s the most important thing you have learned so far in this industry?
To believe in me.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t stress out if it seems like some things don’t work out the way you wanted them to, let go and things will fall into place in ways you never thought possible.
Finally, describe Leather Boys Pt 1 in three words or less.