Photograph by Adam Wiseman
Like many budding designers, Diego Zúñiga received his fashion calling through the mail. “My sister would always get American Vogue, so I started reading it with her when I was 9,” the Tijuana native remembers. “I began sketching, and by 15, I had created my first collection of sweaters, T-shirts, dresses, and bags.” For his parents, a farmer and a stay-at-home mom from Baja California, fashion wasn’t a top choice for their son, but faced with his nascent talent, they relented. “They had a completely different career perspective for me,” he says with a smile. “But now my dad wears my clothes when he goes out!”
Zúñiga initially enrolled in a graphic design course in Tijuana, but things accelerated in 2008, when the Museum of Contemporary Art of San Diego invited him to present a selection of his work. The exposure provided the 18-year-old Zúñiga entry into Mexico City’s insular fashion community. After launching his label, Diego Zúñiga Menswear, and debuting his first runway collection, “Kardia,” at Mexico’s International Designers showcase, he found himself lauded on popular fashion blogs such as Selectism and The Fashionisto, and featured in the pages of Elle Man, Idol, and Nylon Guys Mexico.
At 26, Zúñiga is the bellwether for a new generation of Mexican fashion designers eager to make their mark on the global style map. “What sets Mexican designers apart is our sensibility to folk culture,” Zúñiga says, “but at the same time, we’re trying to be contemporary and compete with the best labels around the world. Few of us manage to transcend.”
As one of the only Mexican designers focusing solely on menswear, Zúñiga is in a prime position to carve a niche for himself and capture the attention of the style-savvy international set. His latest pieces include dazzling color-block shirts inspired by the boy bands of the ’90s, ultra-fine leather jackets, and multi-textured brogues. Recently he launched a spin-off label, VS, a capsule collection of shirts.
“When I come up with a collection, I always create a character who evolves inside a theme,” he explains. “Sometimes it’s very high-fashion couture, sometimes it’s more commercial. But it’s always about proposing something new for the contemporary man.”
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