Ed Mendoza is expanding our horizons, one garment at a time. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins last year (where he received the prestigious L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award), the emerging designer has been busy pushing the boundaries of what representation can look like in the fashion industry today.
Mendoza is a natural when it comes to colour. His designs are renowned for their bold palettes and psychedelic prints. Think big, billowy garments etched with striking drawings and rich iconography. It’s an ode to his multicultural upbringing in West London, and a tender love letter to his Peruvian, Grenadian and St. Lucian heritage.
Following the launch of INTI, Mendoza’s recent collaboration with photographer Daniela Muttini and art director and stylist Cayetano García Sahurie, we speak to the young designer about his time studying at Central Saint Martins, his design philosophy, and the importance of heritage.
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You graduated from Central Saint Martins last year, and your graduate collection was the first at CSM to exclusively feature plus-sized people on the runway. As a young designer, did this feel like a particularly risky move?
At that point as a young designer studying at Central Saint Martins, I realised the most important thing was to create a collection I believed in and made me happy. It was the first piece of work or body of work that I actually understood how it felt to wear and move in the garments, creating clothes representing plus-sized people who look like me and don’t fully feel represented in the fashion industry.
Plus-sized garments tend to be minimal, understated, and muted. Something that I love about your designs is that they take up space and make use of a full spectrum of colours and textures. Can you talk to me about the role of colour and texture in your design practice? Do you think there is a sculptural element in the way you design garments?
Colour is something important to me — it can change your mood and brighten up your day and bring good energy to the people around you. I care about how clothes look and fit on the person wearing it.
I love to create things that haven’t been done before and I like to push what fashion can be.
I care about creating shape, the texture and visually how the garments look. I feel like you have to take up space and feel comfortable and not feel constricted in what you wear. I want the people who wear my clothes to be able to feel free and have the clothes to be their best selves, to show up and show off.
I think there is a sculptural element to my work. When you work with Big Bois and give them grand shapes that are moulded around their curves it creates something sculptural. It gives space for the fabric to breathe and accentuate their bodies and sizes in the right way.
Your father is from Peru, your mother is from Grenada and St Lucia, and you were born and raised in West London. Much of your design practice is about reclaiming and reinterpreting your heritage and culture. How have you come to understand your own identity through your work as a designer?
Yes, I think I have understood my own identity through my work. It’s been through traveling connecting with my family and visiting where I’m from, understanding what makes me me and why I love colour so much. I know it’s through my multi-cultural background. Looking at the amazing textiles from Peru and colour and natural beauties of The Caribbean and my heritage.
Speaking to family members and talking about stories of their past or their grandparents and being connected with my ancestors. Infusing those memories and iconography within my work but with my own twist and concoction of things that inspire me beyond my culture.
It’s through seeing festivals and how people traditionally dress. Through photographs and photographers like Martín Chambi. Chambi really gave me a sense of the past and how people lived and were photographed through the indigenous lens without trying to force a narrative on the photo.
I read that you used to hand-stitch little capes for your Jack Russell dog as a child. Can you pinpoint where your love for fashion and design began? Have you always been interested in this world? What draws you in?
My love for fashion began studying textiles at secondary school and learning about amazing designers like Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and eventually Walter Van Beirendonck.
Before then I was always taught from a young age to repair my clothes. One hobby I had through that was creating superhero capes out of old clothes appliquéing them into something new for my cheeky little Jack Russel dog, Max — who would parade around the park in my creations.
My dad was a dental technician and my love for creating came from seeing my dad creating dentures or fillings. I would always go after school and see him mould people’s teeth and working on these pieces. Being around that was something that has influenced my drawing style today. I’ve always being obsessed with teeth and people’s facial expressions. I would also create jewellery with him. So, I would say that was my first sense of design.
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Tell me about your recent photography series, INTI, which was created in collaboration with Daniela Muttini and Cayetano Garcia. What is the significance of the sun in Peruvian culture, and how has this symbolism influenced this photo series?
Cayetano: This photo series served as a celebration of our Peruvian heritage abroad. It was a collaboration between three Peruvian creatives reinterpreting the symbols of our shared history. In this case, the sun, which is a transcendent figure in Andean and pre-hispanic mythology. Its presence in our culture is still current to this day.
I am fascinated by your use of Peruvian and Caribbean imagery. There is something special and unique about the way you interpret and integrate ancient iconography into your designs, which, in contrast, feel and look very contemporary. Your graduate collection, for example, featured denim pieces that had drawings of birds and warriors etched into the fabric, which I believe were inspired by the images carved into the adobe walls of the City of Chan Chan. There is a beautiful blending of the old and the new at play here. Can you talk about the creative process that goes into integrating ancient iconography into a contemporary design practice?
It has to be something which really connects to me for me to take inspiration. I’m really inspired by featuring civilisations that existed before the Inca’s and showcasing what diverse indigenous cultures Peru has had. The Chan Chan were these amazing people who created the biggest adobe city 600 years ago.  I love looking at Pre-Columbian sculptures and the folklore or meaning behind the objects and their function.
I feel as much as I take inspiration, I have to have my own handwriting and add something to the object that I’m inspired by rather than just making a carbon copy. I add my sense of humour to the characters as well and I render it merging it with my inspirations and view of those objects in a future lens. I feel like it’s representing and celebrating our past and what we are in the future.
Ultimately, how do you want people to feel when they wear your clothes?
I want fans of the brand to feel great in my clothes, feel sexy and their best selves and feel like they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. I want the clothes to brighten their day and put a smile on their face.
What’s on the horizon for Ed Mendoza?
On the horizon is I’m dropping my website soon which I’m super excited about having a space for people to finally buy some of my clothes and ceramics.
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