In a world of FaceTune, plastic surgery-induced symmetry and rainbow filters, "pretty" is more attainable than ever — but that ubiquity can render it mind-numbing. It's this backdrop that makes Victor Barragán, along with his eponymous fashion label and popular Instagram, shine. Full of references to low-brow pop culture moments, sexualized fruit and tribal tattoos, Barragán's work has become a favorite of anyone who would rather be interesting and ugly than forgettable and nice-looking.
It all started with DIY T-shirts. As an industrial design student in Mexico City, Barragán started making tongue-in-cheek shirts that incorporated nostalgic pop culture references — think Leonardo DiCaprio crying tears made of MS-DOS folders, or more recently, "L.E.S.B.I.A.N." spelled out using the "Friends" logo — for fun.
"Growing up in Mexico, we were always watching American TV," he explains over the phone. "It was the only way we could digest American culture."
Before long, his pieces had attracted so much attention online that Barragán decided to expand to a full line under the name Ytinifninfinity (the word "infinity" spelled backward and forward).
While he now lives in New York, has a four-person team that operates in two countries, produces under his easier-to-spell last name Barragán and puts out far more than just t-shirts, Victor's ironic humor and taste for the un-pretty has carried forward in his eponymous label. Considering that it's won him buyers at Opening Ceremony, collaborations with the likes of Maryam Nassir Zadeh and fans amongst fellow cool-kid designer peers at labels like Vaquera, Collina Strada and Gauntlett Cheng, that's a good thing.
"I think it's a new era of young designers showing at New York Fashion Week," Barragán says. "Young people here are creating amazing stuff."
He's undoubtedly one of them. In seasons past, Barragán's signature aesthetic has manifested in jewelry fashioned out of sex toys or raw fruit, bags fabricated to look like rocks and Frankenstein-like collages of clothing made out of seemingly incompatible materials. Creating intriguing runway presentations — like his first NYFW show, which saw models pushing a makeshift "boulder" up a platform in an ode to the myth of Sisyphus — is a priority, too.
"The actual show/performance is the most important part because it's the best way for me to execute my vision and share my designs in front of an audience," Barragán says via email. "For me, fashion is more than just about selling clothing for wholesale — it's about telling a story."
In his latest collection, modeled by art hoe icons like Alexandra Marzella (also known as @artwerk6666) and Richie Shazam, it showed up in a recurring graphic flame motif found in "tribal" tattoos and extremely low-rise bottoms that called to mind pop stars from the mid-aughts.
"I like to reference the streets in Mexico City or here in New York," Barragán says. Those two cities also play a concrete role in his production process: all the fabrics are sourced locally in NYC, while the garments themselves are produced in his hometown of Mexico City. "I really like to show my own culture, too. I'm tattooed; these flame graphics that we used on the last collection are really popular [in Mexico]. I tried to show them in a different way on the garments."
In keeping with many of his designer peers popular with the downtown crowd, Barragán's approach to gender doesn't fit neatly along a binary.
"When we're designing, we're never really thinking about gender," he says. "We never have an intention like, oh, this is gonna be for males." But for Barragán, that doesn't mean making one-size-fits-all pieces that ignore specific body parts — it just means that underboob zippers or a crotch cutout seemingly inspired by male genitalia are really there to be worn by anyone, regardless of what their bodies look like. Sex and sexiness are never far from his mind (he is, after all, the guy who can make diamonds on a bell pepper or raw squid seem almost scandalously erotic), but he also enjoys de-sexualizing things that are typically sexualized.
"I think if people are gonna wear the clothes, they'll wear them how they want," he says.
So what's next for Barragán? He plans to get his pieces into a showroom in Paris with Gauntlett Cheng, push his work into bigger boutiques and generally hope for the best.
"I don't have anything like a goal for five years; I don't have insane expectations," he says. "I just want to keep playing with the brand and see how far it can go."