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Vaquera on How Gross Can Be Good

If you happened to be walking through the Delancey-Essex subway during FW15, you may have been a part of what Patric DiCaprio, creator of clothing line Vaquera, calls his ‘happy accidents.’ You would have seen how the collection flips the idea of gendered clothing (and garments in general) on its head. Repulsed by the haute and all about the hands on creation, Patric’s approach uses the traditional and the nontraditional to create his wacky looks.

Wear a skirt as a top, or throw yourself into one of his ‘body-slings.’ These pieces are meant for the brave who have a little Sheryl Crow or Canadian rapper Honey Cocaine, coursing through their veins. Psyched to learn more about this boundary breaking designer, Milk Made’s Karenna Insanally had a chat with Alabama-native Patric about why he is the ultimate Vaquera, and his perennial mantra, “when in doubt, freak ‘em out.”

Vaquera means cowgirl, what’s the significance of the name?

Well there are a couple things. There’s Tom RobbinsEven Cowgirls Get The Blues, which inspired my first collection and the name. Also, at the time I was working in a kitchen as an expeditor alongside all my Mexican line cooks who were my best friends, I love them and miss them. But, they would call me ‘La Vaquera,’ because I was always bossing them around. “I’d have to say things like, “Two steaks medium rare right now!” And they’d respond, Oh la vaquera. So it was like that, but I’ve always felt a connection to Latin American culture. Especially in the city, it reminds me of home. You don’t meet many Southerners but I feel there’s this same warmth, that wanting to poke fun that exists in Latin America and the South. However, in Latin America it’s much more fun and less mean spirited.

Now that you live in NYC, do you have a particular image of the urban cowgirl that you reflect upon?

I don’t think she exists anymore, but in my mind the urban cowgirl is on the edge of style, trying to do the most repulsive thing they can possibly do. I’m super inspired by Andre Walker who has said in multiple interviews that he’s trying do the most repulsive thing because that’s next. To me that means, you’ve got to be gross because tomorrow’s going to be even grosser. I’m focused on doing something that’s going to freak people out a little bit. When in doubt, freak ‘em out. John Waters also said something like, “look at the people who are a few years older than you who are super established and do whatever you can to gross them out, do what’s going to make them cringe.”

When someone touches a piece of Vaquera on a rack, how do you hope it makes them feel?

I hope they just want to put it on. Actually, it’s hard to say because I think my clothes look really terrible on a rack most of the time. I’ve had meetings with buyers where they’d hold it up and say, “so is this a top?” And I’ll say, “ No, that’s a pair of pants.” So I want them to be a little confused, or curious and inspired. I want someone to put it on and try to wear it different ways. A lot of pieces can be worn as pants, or as a top , or whatever. I want to make clothes that aren’t just another blazer, or another cut of pant. I want to make something that hasn’t been done before, which is difficult.

There’s definitely a trend in making clothing that’s universal in sex, and in functionality.

That’s the future. I’m repulsed by brands that are super into being sold. I’m ready to take that power away from stores. Fashion Weeks are there to tell us what we should be wearing for this season, and I think that’s a detriment. We shouldn’t be focusing on the difference between womenswear and menswear. There should be clothes that men and women can both wear, and this isn’t revolutionary, it’s very common now, but it’s sad that people don’t get that. I’ve been asked, “So is this menswear?” or, “So will you be showing during menswear week?” That’s gross, but not gross in a good way.

Since you like to make clothing that can be worn in different ways, is there a new garment that you’ve coined?

I have a bunch of tops that I don’t know what to call. There are a lot that are wraps and I refer to them as body-slings, or body-braces. If you look at my look-book you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

You’ve gained a lot of recognition for debuting your recent line in the Delancey-Essex train station. What prompted you to choose this location?

I was broke and I needed a free venue, somewhere where everybody can come. I also wanted a real audience -I wanted some of it to be accidental. I didn’t want just all the same people there, and the subway just came to me.

What’s your dream presentation location?

Ugh. That’s so hard, obviously Milk Studios is number one, but it’s difficult because I feel like I would lose a little bit if I showed on a stark runway. I’ve been obsessed with Japan since I was ten years old, so to do it on the streets of Japan is my fantasy. I sort of want to leave New York, a store in Japan is selling my clothes right now, so I hope my brand pops off over there. Opening an atelier in Tokyo would be the dream. Au revoir New York!

It seems like a lot of young designers are trying to tap in overseas.

Totally. Americans are funny about fashion. They’re pretty ignorant. It sounds bad, but they aren’t ready. You see what’s being sold at all these stores in New York and it’s not very inspiring. You sort of see the same things again in different patterns, which is this vicious cycle that leads people to not be creative as far as design. Some people think for example, ‘well, this isn’t going to sell,” and instead of making this kooky garment, they design a fabric and plug it into a bomber jacket that’s being sold at six stores so people can have it in their digital print, and in camo and so on. That’s negative, that’s the end of fashion. My friends and I are trying to do something hat subverts that, that’s our goal, to bring it back to the craft and design. You can’t be a designer if you don’t know how to sew. You know what I mean? Being a designer is not being an art director.

It sounds like you have a more traditional approach when it comes to design.

Well, I buy the fabric first, and I do a lot of referencing. I’m at the library every week, just scanning, scanning, scanning, and I think that’s why my clothes are the way they are. I know how to sew, so I’ll have an idea in my head and will be ready to sew. But once I start, sometimes I realize it’s not going to work and I’ll end up cutting it and have it become something totally different. Half the things I make are happy accidents.

If Vaquera had a theme song, what would it be?

Oh my god, right now? I guess it would have to be something by Honey Cocaine, she’s this really cute Cambodian-Canadian rapper, you should check her out on Soundcloud. Actually though, for the last collection it’s definitely “Everyday is a Winding Road” by Sheryl Crow. That’s my jam. It’s what I was listening to in the studio and my friend is making a video to that song right now. I feel like that’s the vibe, a little bit corny, a little bit disgusting, but fun. It reminds me of my family in Alabama, and being confident.

Who are your muses?

I have a bunch, but definitely my friends. I hear my friends voices in my head all the time, and I make pieces based on them. I’ll making something that’s definitely very Tyler, or know that my friend David would be so obsessed with this pair of pants and so on. It’s not a celebrity brand which is difficult too, I see a lot of people creating these brands that are definitely catered to that, you’ll look at something and see that it’s definitely made for rap videos, done. Or this is for that classy girl to wear on the red carpet, and I think my clothes don’t’ really fit any of those scenes. I’m waiting for my celebrity to come around. Someone cool enough to wear, maybe Hari Nef she’s a good friend from a long time ago and I feel like she can pull it off. She’s a definite muse, and total inspiration -someone who’s really fighting for the cause.

Photography by Gewet Tekle and Ben Taylor

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