I.- Who is Leyre Mahillo?
Irene and I discovered a couple of images of ‘The Dark Passenger’ collection some months ago and we were so thrilled that we decided immediatly we needed to learn more about it. This led us to Leyre Mahillo, the designer behind this outstanding fashion project. The combination of Toni de la Mata sculptures with her attires produces a fascinating result and, the way we see it, Leyre Mahillo has entered the fashion realm through the main gate with a collection full of strenght and power.
We are not going to expand on this any further, we prefer to give the floor to Leyre so that she can introduce you to her creative world.
II.- A micro-interview with Leyre Mahillo
Q.- Who or what inspired you to become a designer? Was it always something you always knew you would do?
Leyre Mahillo (LM).- I actually never imagined I would ever be a fashion designer.
When I finished secondary school at 18 I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was frustratingly lost while my classmates seemed to have everything clear. After a lot of thought I decided to study journalism with the idea of working in television, possibly on a comedy programme. After a month I realized it was not for me and I switched to mathematics. Why? I’m not even sure myself. I supposed because I was good at maths at school. However it was a very bad idea and finally I gave up; I left the university and began to work in order to clarify my ideas.
During the time I was working, purely by chance, I discovered the existence of fashion design studies and although this had never been part of my life plan, I registered at the school of design in Mallorca.
I knew I had found my true vocation when I entered the fashion world. In June 2013, after four years of hard work and the craziness that my final project “The Dark Passenger” entailed, I graduated with an excellent grade and I received the greatest satisfaction of my life.
Q.- Tell us about your collection ‘The Dark Passenger’, what influenced you? How did you manage to combine different artistic disciplines?
LM.- ‘The Dark Passenger’ is an autumn-winter collection of womenswear centred on the world of theatrical costume. The whole collection is inspired by my personal definition of the art of the film director Tim Burton, which is closely linked to German XXth century Expressionism and at the same time it is inspired by the idea I have created by relating both of these to the “Esperpento”, a style of writing invented by Valle-Inclán (Spanish author from the Generation of 1898).
Firstly, Expressionism looks for the expression of the feelings and emotions of the author rather than the representation of objective reality, in order to illustrate emotions without regard for external reality, focusing on the observer’s reactions. With regards to my collection, my way of expressing feelings and emotions is through the garments, by way of the symbology of the materials, the use of dark colours (black, grey, purple, green…), the silhouette distortion, and so on.
On the other hand, ‘Esperpento’ consists in the deformation and the degradation of the impression we have of reality in order to show its real face. It is a way of seeing a world where the author is looking down while the characters fade into the background becoming marionettes or effigies. In order to achieve this effect Valle-Inclán uses a series of techniques from which I highlight the “animalization” of the characters.
At the same time, the main characters in Tim Burton’s work are different from the rest and stand out because they have an interior reality which conflicts with the rest of humanity. This characteristic, added to the literature of German XXth century Expressionism and ‘Esperpento’ is what has motivated me to create a collection inspired by evil women of fairy tales.
My wicked women are apparently beautiful and stylised, but inside they hide a darkness which is a monster trapped in a human body, in other words, their alter ego. There are two personalities which have developed inside the same body; one is a woman who wants to reign; and the other is a hunter with no limits, wild and bloodthirsty.
For the choice of materials I was inspired by the idea of the “animalization”. In the collection there is a combination of more than 18 fabrics in addition to natural feathers, leathers, goat fur and horns and even alligator skin. These materials are linked to the dark side of the character, to their alter ego.
Furthermore I created a series of handmade articles, using latex, silicone and a mixture of materials thanks to experimentation. Moreover the collection incorporates two metal sculptures created by Toni de la Mata which belong to the human side of the character as because they are real flesh and blood women, they need weapons to attack or defend themselves.
One of the most interesting ideas in this collection is the combination of fashion and sculpture. This gained excellent results and I would like to create new designs by continuing to combine these two worlds.
Q.- What are the concepts that most interest you?
LM.- During the creation of this project I became fascinated with the idea of using fashion and sculpture together. Although it is more usual to combine fashion and jewellery, I have elaborated bigger pieces which represent sculptures rather than jewels, with the help of the incomparable sculptor Toni de la Mata who I deeply admire and love.
In addition to the sculptures created from small pieces of iron which were moulded and welded together, other key pieces in the collection were made from diverse materials. The idea of creating a unique item both interested and excited me and I find this a really fascinating concept.
The collection is comprised of 20 designs. I physically crafted 6 and I would like to highlight 4 unique and indispensable elements. Two costumes combine metal sculptures with fashion design; in another outfit I worked with alligator skin to create a spectacular jacket; another piece was made using latex, silicone and also a mixture of different materials produced by experimentation, which imitates the bark and the roots of a tree.
The whole project (including designs, the making of the outfits and the special elements, the book, the technical sheets, the photographic sessions and so on) took 6 months. There was no time for trial and error so I had no alternative but to create all the final pieces from scratch insisting on perfection.
The animal and natural world is reflected in all my outfits – however I would like to state that I am totally against animal abuse. I personally supervised that all animal skins or animal elements incorporated in my work came from animals used for food consumption and that none of them were killed for the sake of fashion. For instance, in the case of the goat horns, I spent a month visiting Mallorcan farms looking for a goat which had died of natural causes.
The only exception is the alligator skin which was a gift from a friend who had kept it in a bag in his garage for more than 9 years. Besides, when he gave it to me neither of us knew if it was real or imitation. I placed it in the hands of experts who confirmed it was authentic alligator skin, so on this occasion I decided to use it as it seemed wasteful to simply throw it away. If I was making similar outfits in the future, I would definitely use material such as latex, silicone or experiment with new techniques to create replicas in the same way as I have done in this collection.
Q.- There is no doubt that accessories play an important role in the fashion field. How does the symbiosis between attire and jewelry enhance your designs?
LM.- In this collection sculptures and unique items play a very important role as they help to understand the story and the concept of the project. Moreover they serve as a link between the human and the evil and dark part of the character.
The metal sculptures correspond to the human facet of the personality, the part which is limited because it is human. My evil women need to protect themselves from attacks or, on the contrary, they want to do evil; therefore they need a strong and powerful attire. Both the 6 costumes and the sculptures were made to measure, to reflect power and to demonstrate their dominance in the world.
On the other hand, the rest of the designs contain special pieces which emulate nature or make reference to the animal world. These items correspond to the “animalized” side of the character; a wild being without any limits. The darkness they possess is reflected due to the use of leathers, feathers, goat fur and horns and, above all, it is evident in the 2 outfits where the key pieces are incorporated: the shoulderplate which simulates the bark and roots of a tree, and the spectacular alligator skin, which adapts perfectly to the human back transforming it into a being from another world.
Q.- Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
LM.- As I am a creative person I believe there are many future possibilities.
In my wildest dreams I like to imagine myself working for a big cinema or theatre company creating incredible designs in order to characterize the actors. I also like the idea of working as a designer in a more commercial area centering on the colourful and naif designs that I usually wear myself.
At the moment I am considering studying a master’s degree in fashion design abroad in order to broaden my horizons and gain new perspectives.
For those who are interested, a sample of my designs can be seen on my Facebook page “Leyre Mahillo Design”.