Jose Vilca is fresh out of Mod’Art International Peru design school and is already receiving international attention. His 2014 graduation collection, “Héroes,” won first prize for menswear at Mod’Art and has been featured in sites like Notjustalabel.com. The collection can be appreciated in a spring/summer ‘15 editorial for his clothing brand, Dhosis, and stands out for its comprehensive and provocative vision.
Héroes is a project “based on an investigation concerning heroin addiction and rehabilitation,” states the designer, and is created “with the idea of demystifying the topic, proposing clothes that emphasize change, functionalities and dynamics.” Indeed, the very name of the collection alludes to the shattering of the idea of the addict as non-hero by combining the words “heroes” and “heroin.”
The setting for this story is a colorful gym, occupied by two pale young men and a young brunette who meander about. The clothing is equally colorful, with knits in pinks and blues (and a standout grey tunic with an extra pair of sleeves to tie at the waist, peppered with pieces in denim, swimwear, and a hot pink overcoat. Yet the sulky demeanor and posturing of the models interrupts the cheerfulness of the color, bringing the viewer back to focusing on the reality at hand: a story of addiction and its remnants.
A closer look at the garments reveals details that act as reminders of an addict’s journey: unfinished hems on a pair of board shorts or the frayed straps of a denim dress. There’s also the clinically transparent rain jacket worn over a white t-shirt, hygienic and alienating at the same time. It is also manifested in the knitted “H” on a hot pink sweater, with one side of the letter dangling in black fringe.
One can find similarities with fashion imagery from the early 1990s, which was dubbed “heroin chic” and was accused by the mainstream for glorifying addiction (and the resultant emaciated body it wrought). One famous editorial was that of a young and very thin Kate Moss, photographed scantily clad and mindlessly wandering around her apartment by Corinne Day. These photographs aimed to expose a crude reality of young, urban life of the time,oftentimes ignored by the fantasy-filled pages of fashion magazines.
Corinne Day, ‘Kate Moss, Kate’s Flat 1993
Though the images for Héroes certainly appear more staged than the 1993 editorial featuring Moss, we can see a similar mission of capturing a perhaps more candid glimpse of what it means to a carefree youth, where drug use is part of the culture. Yet unlike the darker, grittier images of the 1990s, imbued with a nihilistic aesthetic, Héroes takes no shame in exposing the scars of addiction while at the same time showing no signs that suggest destructive relapse.
Indeed, the imperfections are flaunted, accepted – and in the case of the one-piece swimsuit that is printed with syringes, a past addiction is quite literally present. What the editorial seems to convey is a moment of transitory identity, where confusion and apathy reign in between addiction and rehabilitation, as one can perceive in the demeanor of the models.
The color-filled gymnasium, a symbol of health and strength, juxtaposes with the slouchy and withdrawn postures of the models, reinforcing a sense of ambiguity and in the process demystifying any easy-to-understand image of what a rehabilitated person could look like.
Vilca’s first contribution to Peru’s fashion scene is noteworthy. The Héroes collection shows creativity, skill and a point of view that is provocative and attractive. Here’s hoping we see a lot more from the designer. Vilca tells us there will be a limited run of the collection for sale. For more information, visit Dhosis’ FB page.
Photography: Yukimi Moromisato
Make: Edu Gold
Models: Belen Pedraz, Luis-Enrique Zela-Koort, and Koko Kun
Styling: Jose Vilca