Alejandra Jaime Mendoza, is María Magdalena, the 24-year-old Andaluz designer who left everyone speechless with the presentation of her first collection, “WE ARE CATTLE” at MOVE Moda Sevilla 2014 and at the South 36.32 N International Fashion Festival in Cádiz. The collection is full of meaning and visually stunning; a declaration of the designer’s intent that will leave you talking. At So Catchy! we like to look for talent when it’s just beginning, show it to the world and share that feeling that something wonderful is going to happen here. Only days before the collection was first shown on the catwalk, we sat down with Alejandra in the emblematic neighborhood of Triana and this is what she had to say.
So Catchy!: How did you discover your love for fashion?
Alejandra Jaime Mendoza: I came to Sevilla to study a degree in law, in fact I studied for three years, but I really didn’t like it. I did it because my parents had always told me to get a degree that was useful. Maybe if I’d studied journalism or something similar I would have gotten more into it Law wasn’t really my thing. It took awhile to realize I didn’t want to continue, and more time to tell my parents. When I finally told my mother, I had already decided that I wanted to study fashion. But I didn’t really have any idea what a degree in fashion was all about. Like most kids my age, I liked fashion and shopping, going to fashion shows, reading magazines, but that’s really only a part of the world of fashion.
SC!: Why did you choose to study at CEADE?
AJM: Because it’s close to home. I’m from Lepe, Huelva, and am lucky enough to have a house in Seville. If I’d gone to Madrid it would have been too expensive, and I’d heard good things about CEADE.
SC!: How would you sum up your time at university?
AJM: It was difficult in the beginning because I didn’t know how to sew or make patterns or anything really. I couldn’t even draw, I’d never done it. Nowadays I’m quite good because they give you a solid foundation and in the end you’ve got some experience with a little bit of everything.
SC!: When did you realize that you’d made the right choice in opting for fashion?
AJM: When I was doing the final project for my first year of studies, when I saw the finished clothes. It was amazing to me, and it felt good. I’ve also realized that this is a way for me to express what I’m thinking. I’m a creative person, I love to write, not professionally, but I always find time to write things down. And with fashion I’ve found a way to unload everything. For me, it’s an art form more than simply fashion design.
SC!: Of your classmates, who do you think will be taking their work to the next level?
AJM: I love Sergio Parrales, I’m a huge fan of him and his collection “Bocoyes y Cuarterolas”. Our styles are very different and I like that, he’s also a good friend of mine and it helps our work. He tries to be a bit more modern and I’m a bit more classical. He’s consistent and very talented.
SC!: Where did the idea for WE ARE CATTLE come from?
AJM: In my second year project I got inspired by globalization and the consumer society and this collection follows that line, leaving the politics to the side and focusing more on society, “We’re livestock”, we follow “the system”, we don’t complain, we’re pushed to the sides of everything. It also speaks to the desire I have inside to say no to the system, to break away from the establishment, combined with the desire to add my two cents to try and open people’s eyes.
SC!: Why did you choose to use pigs as the central animal in your project?
AJM: It’s an animal that we consume, and we use every last bit of them. It’s a metaphor for the large multinationals that take advantage of society, in this case, and so people are represented as pigs. One of the details that I love is the collaboration with my friend Laura González Domínguez, who made the earrings that mimic the tracking tags that they put in pigs’ ears.
SC!: Tell us how you chose your materials.
AJM: This was one of the more difficult aspects of the project as I had no previous experience in choosing materials. I wanted a thick fabric so I was happy when I found mouflon. To counter the heaviness of the fabric, I included satin and waterproofed polyester for the dress and the patterned trousers. I found everything on the website Círculo Textil. They’ve got many samples of the fabrics and you only have to send them the design that you want printed. The teachers, Salomé Góngora, Lola Lucena and Rocío Cantalapiedra, have also been extremely helpful.
SC!: The illustrations that appear in WE ARE CATTLE also capture the eye, where did they come from?
AJM: That was one aspect of the collection that I was very sure about. I did the drawings and then I sent them on to some of the illustrators here in CEADE, Jaime Pizá de Silva , Jairo García Macías and Pablo García, so they could digitize them. I’m pretty happy with the results. They also digitized the María Magdalena logo.
SC!: “Another brick in the wall” is the song that you chose for the show, tell us why you chose the song.
AJM: It was a coincidence. I was with the illustrators and the song started playing in the background. When I first heard it, I liked it, even though I didn’t know what it was about. So when I watched the music video, which is a clip from the movie The Wall, and I saw what it was about, I realized that it was closely related to ideas behind WE ARE CATTLE, and that it should accompany my collection.
SC!: How did you come up with the name María Magdalena and where did you get the logo?
AJM: It all began with a blog that I started a few years ago called “Las Bragas Sucias de María Magdalena”, Mary Magdalene’s Dirty Underwear, but never actually wrote anything for, maybe only a post or two. In the first year we had to come up with a logo and I remembered the name of the blog. I still liked it and so I decided to use it as my brand name. I like the historical character of María Magdalena as well. A part from my religious beliefs, I think she represents an anti-hero and feminism; she was a woman who worked as a prostitute and who, despite this, was associated with one of the most important figures in history.
SC!: And where did you get the inspiration for “WE ARE CATTLE”?
AJM: There were a few things that inspired me. On the one hand there’s the “cani” aesthetic, and on the other is hip-hop music, specifically the last album from Tote y Shotta “Héroe”, o Los Chikos del Maíz.
SC!: Have you already started thinking about your next collection?
AJM: Well, I think I’d do something completely different. The same sort of thing happens to all of us at CEADE; we spend so much time working on our first collection, taking care of every last detail, going over and over the same idea once and again that in the end, what you really want is to do something completely different. I wouldn’t like to have a specific style; just because I made large hoodies for this collection doesn’t mean I have to do the same for the next. I prefer to concentrate more on the concept behind the collection, choose an idea and develop everything from there. I have a special connection with the film Kill Bill, I love the aesthetics, the choice of colors and, despite the fact that CEADE really pushes you to come up with new ideas, to have you develop your own ideas and not work off of something that already exists, I’d like to take an already developed idea and rework it, make it my own. I’m constantly bombarded by my own ideas but I really don’t know what I’d do for my next collection at this point.
SC!: In your day-to-day life, where do you find inspiration?
AJM: I love cinema, especially when it makes me think. Woody Allen’s Whatever Works is one of my favorites, and I love Patrice Leconte’s La Fille Sure Le Pont and the movie Hard Candy. As for music, I listen to a lot of Flamenco, El Cigala, and Camarón… And my favorite designer is, without a doubt, Jeremy Scott, I love what he’s doing at Moschino. I also look up to Gianni Versace and Alexander McQueen and as for young designers, I think Leandro Cano is an incredible guy, his work is exceptional.
SC!: Have you thought about collaborating with other designers or artists?
AJM: I’d love to do something with Alexis Amador, a sculptor and woodworker who made the belts for Sergio Parrales and his collection. We met him through Todo Muta.
SC!: What does your immediate future look like?
AJM: What I’d like to do is another collection and I want to make sure I keep working. Unfortunately the economic situation limits what I can do. I’ve been looking into various competitions and catwalks to try get WE ARE CATTLE out there and hopefully to find a way to do another collection. When you finish the degree you feel a bit lost and you don’t always know where to look. Another problem is the language barrier. I’d love to improve my English so maybe I’ll head to London at some point in the future, and I wouldn’t rule out going to live in another city in Spain, if it would benefit my career. I think it would be temporary but I see it as necessary, to go abroad, visit other cities and places, see how other people live and meet new people. I think that it’d be both personally and professionally enriching.
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Photos courtesy of Lourdes Rodriguez and Michael Padilla
Translated by Michael Padilla
Want to see more from Maria Magdalena’s collection? Check out these pictures from #MOVEModa 2014.