Art & Culture / Fashion

The Spanish designer creating for an unashamedly queer community

Chema Diaz talks fashion raves and queer clothing.

Chema Diaz is the London based, Spanish hailing, Designer, Stylist, DJ and Creative Director of CHEMADIAZ.COM. While Chema’s DJ sets incorporate happy hardcore, techno and of course Britney – his fashion label manages to do a similar thing. His collection titled “2007” took inspiration from an iconic time within pop culture; “the Rise & Fall of the 2007 Holy Trinity: Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan”. While his new collection “BANDIDO!” aims to re-appropriate the symbols of Spanish culture.

Can you tell us a bit about your new collection “BANDIDO!”, what are its inspirations and where did the name come from?

This is my first big collection and the first time I put on a show, so I wanted to go back to my roots and the culture of my country, Spain. It was my intention to re-appropriate traditional imagery historically linked to far-right movements and give them a new life through a queer perspective and my own experience as a Spanish immigrant in London. Some of my icons presented here are Cristina La Veneno, a famous visible trans woman in Spanish 90s, or pioneer queer performance artist, José Pérez Ocaña who pushed gender and sexuality through as a way to protest against the dictatorship of Franco during Spanish Transition.

“BANDIDO” is Spanish for ‘bandit’, but in this case, it is a bandit who it not lawless but lives by his own laws. My grandma used to shout BANDIDO! from the top of the stairs when I was coming back home after a night out when I was a teenager. My BANDIDO is someone who is not afraid of being who they want to be, wearing what they want to wear and loving whoever they love. It is also the title of a song by Spanish house-flamenco duo Azucar Moreno, who entered Eurovision in 1990 with their hit Bandido.

“BANDIDO!” debuted at London Men’s Fashion Week, with not only a fashion show but a fashion rave, for the people who weren’t fortunate enough to make it to the fashion rave – could you tell our readers on what they missed out on?

It was an immersive experience, I wanted to put the audience in context and bring them all the way to Spain. The first room of the space was set as a Spanish bar, where the guests could enjoy Spanish tapas my mom cooked herself before the show, and my favourite videos and Spanish songs were played while they waited for the show. The models would walk around the bar leading their way to a rave that was happening on the other side of the silver corridor where my favourite DJs and artists that I met during these years in London were playing through the night.

A fashion rave seems like the perfect place for the two worlds of music and fashion come together, as music clearly has an importance in your collections. How do these to spheres of culture interact and affect the things you create?

I’ve always been really close to music, intertwining my career as a DJ with my fashion jobs. Everything I do has both a fashion and music side to it. I love putting on looks when I go out DJing, I loved working with music artists as their stylist or creative director to create a world in a 3-minute video. I love finding inspiration in music videos, pop culture, and how my friends dress for the dancefloor, the place where you can really be yourself in the darkness.

What I really enjoyed about the fashion rave is that you could really tell that many people had collaborated with you on different aspects of the event and the collection. The way that you orchestrated this fabulously eclectic project shows the importance of community and collaboration.

This was a really big project for me and I am so thankful of all my friends and people who came to help, support and came to make my dream come true. I am so proud of all my creative friends and I wanted to share this moment in a way or another with all of them. Everyone in the team is a good friend of mine or we have got close after the show. I believe these real human connections made it the success it was. I made sure everyone was comfortable and encouraged them to be themselves and express the way they wanted. Many models and staff travelled even from other countries to be there that night, I will never forget that and am truly thankful.

Spanish artists Albino Hector and Donaire contributed with some of the prints, it was very important for me to show the work of other Spanish artists since it was my first time showing in London. The music was a special curation of traditional and current Spanish songs made by Count Baldor. The dancefloor was kept vibing thanks to my DJ friends and artists GFOTY, Danny L Harle, Alexis Knox, Samantha Togni, Ray Noir, Madeleine Wood and XDRM666, I’m so honoured they all wanted to take part in it.

During these socio-politically turbulent times, what is it like to create and live in London for you? And has this changed over time?

I moved to London 7 years ago, and I love it here since I have found many creatives who I have worked and collaborated with during these years. Creating and living in London is, to start with, very expensive; flat prices have risen like crazy in these last years and it makes it very difficult if not impossible for a creative to focus on their project without a few side jobs alongside. In spite of all the political drama, London is still a very multicultural city, which I love here, and it is inspiring to share and learn from each other.

What was the transition and progression from “2007” to “BANDIDO” like?

BANDIDO was the most important project I’ve accomplished so far, so it was definitely a big step up from my 2007 collection. I presented a 28-look show, and all the garments were designed and made by me – with the help of my loving friends and family – specifically for this show. I was able to organize and put together a collection, a show and an after-party, and just knowing that makes me very happy I could accomplish it.

Your collections speak to a young, unashamedly queer audience, what would your message to the queer kids of the world who haven’t yet found their tribe be?

Don’t be ashamed of being a “weirdo”, embrace your differences and uniqueness cause that’s what makes you who you are. I wouldn’t even encourage them to find a “tribe”, I would love them to be whoever they want to be without needing a group of people with similar interests to support you. You do you and don’t need anyone to validate your identity.

I’ve been lucky enough to see a few of your DJ sets, which are incredibly eclectic. How would you explain your style of the sets you play? And what are some of your favourite tracks at the moment?

As in fashion, I love to mix all my references and things I like. I call my DJ style “cyber Latin sexy rave” since I love mixing music with Spanish and Latin influences with my favourite gabber and makina tracks. Expect reggaeton rhythms, with high pitched vocals over hardcore techno synths… very sped up and fast and dirty and sexy.

My favourite track at the moment can’t be any other than COOL, my collaboration with GFOTY that was just released on her new EP “If you think I’m a bitch you should meet GFOTY” It is a dream come true to record music and this track with GFOTY snaps!

What are some of your favourite clubs, and events in London?

My favourite nights are the ones organised by TREMORS TV a post-Internet night combining the freshest electronic music with video art, all this in a real inclusive queer space. I also love PLANET FUN nights, where I’ll be playing this May with some of my favourite DJs like Spinee and Indecorum.

And what about your favourite clubs and events in Spain?

I’m a bit out of the Spanish scene at the moment although if I’d go visit or play in Spain I’d love to do it at El Puñal Dorado organised in Madrid by queer artists Alejandría Cinque and Cachorro Lozano, or any night put by curator Jordi Chicletol in Barcelona.

What are you currently working on and what’s next for Chema Diaz?

I’m working on a very big project with a very famous international pop act which I can’t say much about just yet, my next collection and new music!

Follow Chema on Instagram here, shop his collection at www.chemadiaz.com, and listen to the Bandido! playlist below.

30 April 2019