Mexican culture is comprised of a unique amalgamation of Spanish and indigenous influences that represent the mixing of different traditions and time periods. Imagery and symbols from pre-Colombian tribal history, Spanish and indigenous religious culture, and modern Mexican artistic culture alike have all had an impact on traditional Mexican fashion as well as on contemporary fashion around the world.

Aztec and Mayan Culture

Fashion designers have long utilized and taken inspiration from the art and textiles of the pre-Columbian Aztec and Mayan cultures that inhabited central and southern Mexico. Aztec and Mayan art often consisted of images of deities and sacrifice, but also of painted and woven geometric patterns featuring triangular and arrowhead shapes interspersed with rectilinear shapes. In recent years, popular contemporary designers such as Opening Ceremony, Mara Hoffman, Proenza Schouler and Missoni have shown designs inspired by Aztec patterns, often updating them with neon colors or combining them with other influences.

Religious and Folk Art

Mexican religious culture is full of icons and imagery culled from Catholic, Spanish, and indigenous religions and folk traditions. One of the most important festivals in Mexico is the Day of the Dead, a celebration of the lives of friends and family who have died, and is associated with images of skulls and costumed skeletons. These symbols were an explicit inspiration for Riccardo Tisci’s Autumn/Winter 2010 collection for Givenchy, which featured skulls and crossbones; and has also appeared in mass-market fashion such as in Freak of Nature’s “Day of the Dead Bodysuit”, featuring a large skull graphic decorated with roses.

Frida Kahlo and Modern Art

Twentieth-century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo took an interest in traditional clothing, and collected and wore typical long skirts, peasant blouses, flowers, pre-Columbian jewelry and rebozos, or traditional scarves. She painted herself in these and in special regional costumes — most famously, a dramatic, pleated face-framing ruffle from Oaxaca. Today, her self-portraits serve as a historical record of the vibrancy of traditional clothing, as well as visual inspiration to fashion designers and stylists decades later. A few recent examples include Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, whose 2010/2011 collection was also inspired by Kahlo; and stylist Giovanna Battaglia, who stepped out at the 2012 Met Ball in a Kahlo-inspired Dolce and Gabbana dress, floral crown and hair braid.

Traditional Revival

Today, Mexican fashion designers have updated many of the same traditional items, including embroidered blouses, rebozo and elaborately decorated cowboy boots, based on their popularity among people in Mexico and worldwide. Mexican designers have also influenced contemporary fashion with heavy use of florals, embroidery and bold colors. Mexican designer Christian Cota, who was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 2010, has explained that he is heavily inspired by the vibrant colors of the sky, desert and sunsets in Mexico.