Shown in Mexico City, Kiko Kostadinov’s Autumn/Winter 2022 menswear collection drew on the designer’s teenage obsession with online gaming
“I played a lot of video games when I first arrived in London,” says Bulgarian-born menswear designer Kiko Kostadinov. “I didn’t really have any friends and I wasn’t very confident with my language. My safe zone was just being at home, starting at midnight and playing games all night with people from all over the world.”
Kostadinov is speaking over Zoom from Mexico City about his Autumn/Winter 2022 menswear collection, which he staged at the Museo Diego Rivera – a monolithic structure dreamed up by the legendary Mexican painter in black volcanic stone. He’s burnt out from 4am fittings the previous day, but nonetheless ardent about the infectious energy of Mexico and the “incredible, amazing” local boys who walked in his show.
Drawn to the idea of making a subculture collection, Kostadinov struggled to see himself fit into any particular group; he loves music, but didn’t quite qualify as a music nerd, he used to play plenty of football, but didn’t want to do a sporting collection. Then he remembered the solace he found in RPGs (role-playing video games), and landed on the idea of a “city elf”; someone who “maybe works at a bank in the day, but at night plays a female character in the game.” This gaming element was referenced through the brightly-coloured clothes and the dark runway backdrop, which mimicked the beige and brown in-game backgrounds.
Mexico was not initially in the plan – but after Omicron ravaged its way through Europe, Kostadinov decided that showing in Paris would be “financially unreliable”. He first travelled to Mexico in summer last year, passing through for the mandatory two-week period before arriving in America with five members of his team. He instantly fell in love. “The people here are so patient, friendly and nice,” he says. “They love life. I wanted to come back again, I really needed that energy.”
However idyllic the setting, showing in Mexico was bound to throw up some hurdles for Kiko and his team; namely, the question of models. “I don’t really have a Kiko boy in my head,” he says. “If someone looks cool and looks amazing in the clothes, I don’t really have any preference. But fit is something that I’m very precise about.” Forced to relinquish his control freakery around models and precise fit – even if a boy is “fucking cool”, Kiko believes they can still make the design of a jacket look “unflattering” – he went on a two-month street casting mission with Mexico City’s Güerxs Agency. The 15 or so boys they chose for the show – a mix of street skaters, schoolkids and footballers – proved a novel departure from Kostadinov’s usual roster of professional models, and they looked brilliant in the clothes.
Slouchy, bunched-up silhouettes were mixed in with sharp, asymmetric pieces that Kostadinov has become so acclaimed for, while a series of crossbody pouches are sure to sell out as soon as they go on sale (the brand’s delicate crochet, beaded bags frequently sell on Grailed for upwards of $1,000). A series of particularly special sorbet-coloured, knitted hoodies also appeared, their colours mimicking an otherworldly sunset.
Kostadinov is very careful to emphasise that he did not want to fetishise Mexican culture, nor did he want it to seem like what he calls a “pretentious resort collection” staged by the likes of Louis Vuitton. “I didn’t want to come across as capitalising on how cool and exotic Mexico is,” he says. “It was just about being here and absorbing the energy, the casting, the museum’s architecture.”