What is it about Frida Kahlo? More than 60 years after her demise the unconventional Mexican artist, who’s remembered above all for her searing self-portraits, is being celebrated on the catwalk and setting the cultural agenda. When a bracelet with the artist’s face on it’s noticed on the wrist of Theresa May, as occurred on the latest Conservative social gathering convention, Kahlo-mania can safely be mentioned to have entered the mainstream.
In excessive vogue, Kahlo’s affect might be felt within the maximalism of Alessandro Michele’s heady Gucci aesthetic. For autumn/winter 2017 that meant florals and daring bows, ruffles and clashing, all in step with Kahlo’s love of extra; rings, flowers and embroidery.
Her affect was additionally there within the sparkly purple hearts, lace and horticultural prints at Dolce & Gabbana and within the sizzling pink on catwalks from Balenciaga to Burberry. The boxy, mannish tailoring – a key look this season – at Céline and Isabel Marant remembers a household portrait from 1926, by which Kahlo is wearing her father’s suit.
It’s no coincidence that one of many UK’s most high-profile cultural establishments, the V&A, will host an exhibition that can take a look at her by way of the prism of her most intimate belongings. This would be the first time these belongings have left La Casa Azul in Mexico City, the place after Kahlo’s demise in 1954 they have been locked in a room by her husband Diego Rivera and solely launched in 2004.
Susana Martínez Vidal, the writer of Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being, says the explanation designers look to her is extra about her spirit than her garments: “The designers aren’t just focusing on the skirt, the blouse, the indigenous look, they could have taken that from anywhere. What they really focused on was her personality and the way she wore those clothes.” For Vidal, she “defined one of fashion’s magic words– attitude”. No marvel pop stars have channelled her aesthetic – from Madonna and her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour corset to Rihanna’s ANTI album and the type of FKA Twigs.
Circe Henestrosa, curator of the Frida Kahlo museum’s exhibition Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo, at present exhibiting in Mexico City, thinks the truth that she was forward of her time is essential to her relevance. Her attitudes in the direction of gender have been progressive – her relationships with men and women, and her penchant for fits, imply she has been hailed as a contemporary queer icon.
Her affect additionally reverberates past excessive vogue. On Etsy her face decorates yoga pants, skater skirts and hand-knitted jumpers; and her aesthetic is nodded to within the watermelons and cacti motifs of this 12 months’s ubiquitous vogue kitsch. Kahlo was a “flower power pioneer” who “anticipated the hippie movement and Coachella”, in accordance with Vidal – look to the craze for flower crowns, piled excessive, typically on high of Kahlo-esque plaits. While as we speak’s usually tend to be from Claire’s Accessories, Kahlo made hers with dahlias, bougainvilleas and peonies from her garden.
Of course, Kahlo has influenced vogue prior to now, even in her lifetime. When she visited France in 1938, Elsa Schiaparelli honoured her by designing a gown named La Robe Madame Rivera. Kahlo’s corsets, worn after a bus crash in 1925 that left her with a damaged spinal column, are among the many most persistently referenced parts of her apparel – from Rei Kawakubo’s spring/summer season 2012 assortment to Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy haute couture assortment of autumn/winter 2010. For his spring 1998 collection, Jean Paul Gaultier created a gown that mirrors Kahlo’s in her 1944 portray The Broken Column.
But why is she proving so potent a muse in 2017?
At a time when range is lastly being celebrated in vogue, Kahlo’s emphasis on her personal blended heritage feels prescient. She celebrated her identification as mestizaje (blended European and Mexican) by sporting conventional clothes. While the ladies she blended with have been dressing in European kinds, she made the Tehuana gown, which comes from a matriarchal tradition of Oaxaca, her signature type. British designer Osman Ousefzada, who referenced Kahlo for his spring/summer 2016 assortment, says that she’s “not your average Wasp, western Trump-type”.
There’s one thing that feels very present about her model of activism, too. “She was one of the first women to use fashion to broadcast a feminist message of independence, work and equality,” says Vidal. Feminism has spawned many latest statement T-shirts, so it’s no shock that Etsy is dwelling to many the place Frida’s feminism is teamed with the modern vernacular: on 1 T-shirt she sits above the phrase “fierce”. Seller Garth Heckel thinks it sells so properly as a result of she is “seen as a strong feminist icon”.
To some folks it might sound that she has grow to be what Che Guevara was to the 90s; her commodification simply as ironic given her politics. But she created a private model, which additionally feels very now, and sheds some mild on why she is perhaps so appreciated by selfie aficionados reminiscent of Kim Kardashian, who in 2015 channelled Kahlo’s closely laced look from Me Twice, and Beyoncé, who dressed as her for Halloween the 12 months earlier than. She was the “original selfie queen”, says Vidal. “Nearly a century earlier than today’s global obsession she detected and compulsively exploited this human need to share one’s image to feel less alone.” She was, Vidal provides, her “own best work of art” and if she have been alive as we speak she would “be a real influencer … with a legion of followers”. As Frida herself put it, “I am my own muse, I am the subject I know the best.”
Her perception within the thought of jolie laide, or stunning ugly, feels very of the second, too. Look to the attention-grabbing great thing about fashions favoured by manufacturers reminiscent of Vetements and Balenciaga for reference. Kahlo was all about accepting her pure seems to be – as Vidal places it, she “highlighted her flaws to vindicate the beauty of imperfections”, pencilling her monobrow darker with Revlon eyeliner. Her monobrow and upper-lip hair are a blueprint on this age of #bodypositivity – and really feel radical given the case of a mannequin just lately bombarded with rape and demise threats after showing in an Adidas advert with hairy legs.
Kahlo’s is a search for this season, however anticipate Frida-mania to hold on lengthy past spring. She might need died greater than 60 years in the past however, as Kahlo herself mentioned: “The only ones who die are those who never lived. And whoever lives on after death produces in those who come afterwards new sensations, longings and desires.” Lucky for us, she’s proved herself proper.