Paris reveals the intimate connection between Frida Kahlo and fashion

Paris inaugurated a large exhibition of nearly 200 objects by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) that were hidden under lock and key for half a century, along with a revealing exhibition on the great influence she left on contemporary fashion.

From the famous huipiles that helped her become a celebrity, to the orthopedic boots that painfully marked her life, through the corsets that she herself decorated, the Galliera Museum, a temple of sewing, exhibits these objects for the first time in the capital. French.

After Kahlo’s death in 1954, these objects, along with thousands of photographs, were locked up by order of Diego Rivera.

They were not discovered or cataloged until 2004. Since then they have been exhibited sporadically, in cities such as London.

“The image of Frida Kahlo endures because she was able to break many taboos of her experiences through her body (…). A person who was dealing with issues of disability, happiness, her political convictions and her gender identity, ”the exhibition curator, Circe Henestrosa, explained to AFP.

The viewer then understands, when stepping into the room dedicated to the couturiers’ creations, the enormous influence left by those objects and dresses.

Jean-Paul Gaultier vindicates the corsets and ribbons of the painter, Karl Lagerfeld photographs the top model Claudia Schiffer with eyebrows together and with a bow “à la Kahlo”, while Valentino recovers the glare, those spectacular headdresses around the face that recall the images of the Virgin.

Mutual cultural appropriation

The history of Mexican clothing and Frida Kahlo is actually a demonstration of how cultural appropriation tends to be something mutual, which in the case of the rich Mexican history, lasts for centuries.

In some indigenous regions, such as Chiapas, the clothes (such as the huipiles) are assigned by the Christian religious authorities after the Conquest, to identify the indigenous tribes.

Other attire, such as the glitter, embroidered with ruffles around the face of the indigenous woman, arise precisely from the fascination of the women of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec with the image of the Virgin, resplendent with the rays that surround her figure.

Centuries later, it was Frida, the daughter of a mestizo Mexican and a German, who “appropriated” that genuinely indigenous image.

Without ever setting foot in Tehuantepec, but proud of her heritage, she turned these regional clothes into a quintessential Mexican symbol, as was the suit or charro hat.

“We have many traditional dresses, but (she) chooses a dress that signifies a powerful woman from a matriarchy. She chooses a dress that helps her communicate her political convictions”, explains Circe Henestrosa.

Frida Kahlo traveled to Paris only once, to participate in a collective exhibition, in 1939.

“She seems to walk around dressed like this. There were many very eccentric-looking women, but none could have rivaled the Mexican costume,” painter Vassily Kandinsky wrote after the exhibition’s opening.

The loop of appropriation closes with the death of the painter, and the inspiration that produced the current creators.

The floral, white and yellow glow stands out, which the Comme des Garçons brand proposed in 2012, covering the model up to size.

Or Alexander McQueen’s metallic underwired corset for Givenchy in 2001.

Some fabrics that could come from places as far away as Holland, and that arrived in Mexico in the 17th century, set foot on European shores again, to the delight of fashion masters and fans.