written by
Sabina Negrete

Antonio Zaragoza Makes History with Paris Runway Debut of Liberal Youth Ministry

Interviews Fashion 10 min read

Liberal Youth Ministry debuted their latest collection, SINFONÍA JUVENIL, at Paris Fashion Week for the first time ever. It's the first Mexican-owned brand to do so. Antonio Zaragoza, the brand's creative director, spoke to us about the process behind the collection and his incorporation into Dover Street Market.

What’s the story behind joining Dover Street Market?

Antonio Zaragoza: I believe the brand was a little different from what the fashion scene in Mexico wanted, people didn’t understand the concept. However, I persisted on developing the brand. It was always clear to me that the person who could take us to the next level was Adrian and Rei from Dover Street Market. I contacted Adrian in social media when he published a Francis Bacon painting, in which I commented with a poem I created as a type of brand manifesto. He had wrote something under the painting that I felt connected with my message. After this interaction, he began noticing the brand. In 2017 I traveled to Tokyo on business and wrote to Adrian in the hopes of meeting with him. We didn’t end up meeting then, however, this was when Adrian sent my portfolio to the DSM buyers, he then said he would contact me when he thought it necessary.
Liberal Youth Ministry’s brand manifesto
A year after, I began building my studio in Guadalajara, Mexico. I wasn’t really selling a lot of clothes back then, I barely had the means necessary to pay for my studio’s rent. At the end of 2018 I began a relationship with Kenia, who is currently my wife. Everything began to change, I travelled to Europe looking for inspiration, with the purpose of creating something other than clothes, maybe music or architecture. The brand was falling apart and I was ready to leave it behind. While I was London I received the news that Adrian was there as well. I sent him an email asking if we could meet in person, this didn’t happen, but we ended up meeting in Paris a few weeks later. We met at the Commes des Garçons offices, I wasn’t really prepared at the time, I didn’t have any samples of my work I could show, so a day before I prepared some photos. I arrived at the offices, met with him, Dickon Bowden DSM’s vice president in Europe and Asia as well as James Gilchrist, who is CDG’s and DSM’s vice president in the USA. Knowing them better today, I feel they thought something about my brand made sense to them. That day, Adrian bought my collection for DSM LA and DSM New York, the next day I came back to Mexico and began working. I like the fact that me and my wife lead a very calm life, coming from Guadalajara, Mexico a place incredibly unrelated to what I was doing gave me a certain type of freedom to create beyond what a certain market demanded.
It’s a double-edged sword, in the end it’s unexplored territory simply because not many Mexican brands can go on to present their work in Paris. It’s interesting because of the fact that there are no existing industries to back you up, it’s complex and were everything can come crumbling down.
Es un arma de doble filo, al final es territorio inexplorado ya que justamente no hay muchas marcas que puedan trascender a presentar su trabajo en Paris. Eso es algo interesante, por el hecho de que no existe ninguna industria que te respalde, es complejo y donde todo se puede venir abajo.

Listen to the whole conversation in Spanish here.

It was very difficult developing this collection because I was diving into the unknown, it took me about two months to figure out what I wanted to create. After some time, Adrian contacted me again, It took me a week to finish it after that, we photographed it and sent in the pictures to DSM. Everything was produced within my studio, a single seamstress worked on the first 400 pieces. In the middle of the season the collection was completely sold out, I was completely amazed by this since the brand at this time was completely unknown. The people buying our clothes bought them because they genuinely liked them, because it was interesting to them, not because of the name behind it. It was something completely pure. I received an email from James who was very pleased with the outcome of the collection, he invited me to join a showroom. I flew to New York to meet with him, the rest is history. In a certain way it was a type of magnetic attraction being there with them and forming a part of it all.

There were many visible references in the collection, the diversity within the pieces was very interesting. What was the starting point behind the concept for SINFONÍA JUVENIL?

Antonio Zaragoza: For this season, I decided to do a collection about what inspired me the past 10 years, in a way, the inspiration behind the pieces wasn’t deeply profound, instead it was about pieces that celebrated this references. I think all of this surfaces during October last year, when The Zapopan Art Museum in Mexico invited me and my wife, each of us with our own brands, to join their design programme, they do regular exhibitions as a type of retrospective. I wanted to create a conceptual retrospective through installations of everything that generated a need to create within myself. Every time I begin the process of creating a project or a collection I start with a concept, that concept can translate itself into a t-shirt or an art piece, but it all begins with a concept and its purity. For me, this exhibition was all about keeping the concept as pure as it could be, and incorporating it into the seven different installations I did for the museum. The first thing people saw when they came in was a rack, in this rack, a part from hanging three pieces, I hanged a car door and a graffitted pillow. I was playing with the idea of doing something with the museum, playing with the idea of what a garment being sold in a store represents. This experience really helped me expand the way in which I conceptualised, this exhibition led me to the concept of my next collection. The name of a collection always came to me in the middle or the end of it, but for this collection it was different, I knew I wanted to name it SINFONÍA JUVENIL. I still didn’t know why I wanted to name it this way but I knew I wanted it to be something that englobed everything I like, it really became a retrospective about everything.
Zaragoza’s exhibitionat Zapopan Art Museum
Elephant by Gus Van Sant was one of my inspirations behind it, when I was thirteen and saw it for the first time, my mind exploded. It was the first art film alongside A Clockwork Orange that I had ever seen. The first scene in Elephant were this student walks around school with Clara de Luna by Beethoven playing in the background, wearing this orange lifeguard sweatshirt, really opened my mind to the thousands of possibilities out there beyond the Status quo or what’s commercial. It really did lead me to understand more about the value of art, the value of creating something poetic. I wanted the first look of the collection to be a tribute to that, since this movie for me represented a shift in direction.
Opening look for SINFONÍA JUVENIL Winter 2023
A Clockwork Orange is also a strong reference for me, it was one of this movies that generated a lot of strength in how I understood the meaning of things. It helped me understand how people can create things with a lot more volume and strength behind them. Music also had a big impact in this collection, grunge and punk, which in their moment really inspired me. I was even emo for a time in my life, My Chemical Romance can also be noticed in some details of the collection, in the makeup.
There is this undertone of an autobiographical depiction within the collection. David Lynch, is another reference. I basically wanted this collection to be a tribute to everything that inspires me or has inspired me in the past. I believe that it’s a turning point, I worked for many years, in a way, for this collection and now I’m just thinking about what my next one is going to be like. Because for a long time I had this plan, so now I feel like the next collection is going to be a whole new chapter for other things, now I want to explore new places. This last collection was built in this very chaotic way, there was this explosion of references and inspirations which I constructed and deconstructed to create the collection. I don’t like following one path, I like the chaos of it all. I’m never inspired in just one specific thing, I don’t follow a linear path, there can be a very specific musical reference and then a completely different one about my local soccer club Chivas.
Jersey inspired by Mexican soccer club Las Chivas
There are all this references that clash with one another, this makes it fun in a way, and when styling the pieces I have freedom because of how they all clash. I think the name makes sense because there is no concrete explanation of what it really is, when you listen to a symphony by Beethoven or any of the greats, there aren’t any background paragraphs that tell you what its about, it really is just about all the feelings that tormented him which generated this musical piece that is incredibly transcendental. This concept has a connection to SINFONÍA JUVENIL, the idea of creating a collection that combines all of the things which torment and inspire me.

What are your plans for the future?

Antonio Zaragoza: I think nothing is really clear about my collections until I actually finish them, my creative process is always really chaotic, I’m very sensitive. This weekend I saw The Color of Pomegranates, directed by Sergei Parajanov. It’s this avant-garde film made in the late 60’s, it’s incredibly beautiful and has a really poetic concept. What I mean with this is that it’s very hard for me to form a concrete idea about my next collections, again, I’m very sensitive which is kind of a good and bad thing at the same time. I’m always generating ideas, but then I see this film or another and I get really inspired, and then I want to do something else, or I listen to a song and get inspired by it as well and then there’s this clash of different things. I only know that in a certain way, with this last collection I closed a chapter. I think this collection celebrates the last 10 years of my personal retrospective. I do know I want to do something more theatrical, I’ve been seeing a lot of Roy Andersson films, he creates them in really small spaces with fast changing sets. The artistic direction is incredibly interesting. It’s something I would like to explore, I haven’t got a clue about the collections’ new concept but I do know I want to do something about the individuals and not think about it as a collection as a whole. I’m probably going to change my mind tomorrow.

Listen to the whole conversation in Spanish here.

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