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The Mexican muses behind Cushnie et Ochs SS18

From Frida Kahlo to surrealist collages, we unpick the design duo’s inspiration for their latest collection

With a heavy Latin-inspired bass soundtrack, a flash of colour, and a swoosh of flowing dresses, Cushnie et Ochs presented its SS18 collection. British-born designer Carly Cushnie and American-born Michelle Ochs looked south to Mexico for their starting point, bringing together classic silhouettes with a feminine twist. 

If Mexico City is the next up-and-coming, cool-kid hotspot, rife with artists, galleries, sunshine and flavour, then Cushnie et Ochs is onto something with its reference point this season. As designer Carly Cushnie recently tied the knot in the cultural locale, it was a no-brainer for the pair to look to for inspiration. “The culture is so rich there,” she said. More than just a destination, the pair chose to spotlight creative locals like Frida Kahlo. “We always look to strong female characters, whether it’s fictional or historical. We want to make sure female empowerment or embodiment is represented.”

Here we unpick some more of their references for SS18. 

FRIDA KAHLO

Following the recent announcement that the V&A in London would be opening a new exhibition dedicated to artist Frida Kahlo, for SS18, designers Cushnie and Ochs also looked at Kahlo’s legacy. Make no mistake though, the Frida of this runway was updated to a Cushnie et Ochs standard – which meant finding a way to modernise and asking, “what would she wear now?” For hair, it was a sleek, defined topknot that was practical, with a cartoonish twist. The opening look was a jacket dress borrowed from the boys, coupled with “corset boning and badass floral boots.” “We wanted to exemplify her femininity, her sensual, soft, sexy side, but she was also masculine in a way. She was also tough and went through a lot.”

LUIS BARRAGÁN

At Cushnie, the typically-dark cloaked crowds of Fashion Week got a hefty dose of colour, brought on by swaths of tangerine-hued fabrics, bright pops of cartoonish oversized florals and cupcake-frilled pastels. “A vivid, passionate colour palette clashes together, contrasted by various shapes and angles – a visual that is informed by the vibrant aesthetic of Mexican architect, Luis Barragán.” In these times, the boldly-hued clothing was welcomed, reminding us that sometimes fashion is there to delight and inspire us. Or as the pair put it: “It makes you want to go back on holiday.”

ERNESTO ARTILLO

For their second season venturing into handbags, the design duo introduced a mini version of their classic satchel. With a futuristic take on shapes, the cross-body bags added a three-dimensional angle to the free-flowing softness of the clothing. The out-of-this world effect that the purses bring on are no coincidence – “these details are a nod to the cut-and-paste, abstract and surrealist floral techniques of artist Ernesto Artillo.” Onlookers were also drawn downwards to the standout shoes on their feet. Debuting Cushnie et Ochs footwear, the collection included black mesh thigh-high boots covered with punchy floral applique and pointy slingbacks with the signature floral print.