Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. Although her life was filled with physical and emotional pain, her unyielding passion helped transform her suffering into art, filling both herself and her life with beauty. With her fiery, determined spirit, she exuded a confidence and respect for her own self; an image of individual beauty that so many women have turned to in complete admiration. It’s her unique fashion sense that helped exude this bold personality, and which continues to inspire fashion designers around the world today.
Frida Kahlo’s paintings are filled with the pain and traumatic emotions she experienced throughout her lifetime. At just 18, she was left plagued with enduring physical disabilities after a horrific bus accident, adding to them emotional scars through her stormy relationship with revolutionary painter Deigo Rivera. Yet never succumbing to the darkness that threatened to overwhelm her, Kahlo exerted a larger than life attitude, projecting her individualism into both her art and her physical appearance.
Throughout her life, Kahlo was part of a group of artists and intellectuals who were both fiercely proud of their Mexican heritage as well as their dedication to Communism. Rebelliousness was in her nature, and she exerted in every way imaginable. While the other women in Mexico City wore the latest designs from Europe, Kahlo shunned their prim, tailored suits and dresses, developing instead a completely unique and daring style of her own.
Combining exotic fabrics from China, brightly coloured folk textiles from her native Mexico, and finishing it all off with a splash of European lace and silk, she fashioned her appearance into a bold and vibrantly unique vision. Her electric patterns just didn’t match in any traditional sense, her iconic unkempt unibrow was noticeably different from the fashionable thin and preened shapes around her, and her floral hair accessories were a truly unique flourish.
Since the beautiful and mysterious contents of her wardrobe were revealed to the public in 2004, people all over the world have turned to them in fascination. Museums have exhibited her fashion creations, as though they themselves are works of art, and numerous fashion designers have certainly viewed them as such, creating a range of stunning, Kahlo-inspired collections and designs.
In 1939, the great Elsa Schiaparelli created a dress in her honour, called “La robe Madame Rivera” (shortly after her marriage to Diego Rivera). Since then, Kahlo’s style has been present on all the major runways across the planet. One striking example was Jean Paul Gaultier’s ‘Homage a Frida Kahlo’ collection in 1998, which emerged with a truly arresting ad campaign. In it, a modern Frida Kahlo glares out at us fiercely with her hands on her hips, a fashionable woman of power and steady determination.
In 2009, Tao Kurhihara for Comme de Garçon’s Fall collection combined folk-inspired capes with elaborate head pieces, while exaggerated Kahlo- style unibrows swept across foreheads in bright colours. Spanish designer Maya Hansen also infused a more traditional Kahlo touch to her 2013 Spring collection with intricate braided hairdos, simple black unibrows and an exotic vibe found in the ruffles and bright sunshine colours of her designs.
COMME DE GARCON 2009 AW
MAYA HANSEN 2013 SS
Other designers have toyed with the Kahlo-vision in interesting ways, creating a fusion with other cultures and traditional looks. For her Spring 2013 collection, New York-based designer Misha Nonoo added in delicate floral head pieces and lush colours claiming, “I specifically drew inspiration from Frida’s use of colour and bold personal style interlaced with Havana’s beautiful faded grandeur.” At the same time, Indian designer Deepak Perwani introduced his “Frida Goes To Kharadar” collection, a stunning collaboration of Latin American and Indian colours, patterns and aesthetics.
MISHA NONOO 2013 SS
DEEPAK PERWANI 2013 SS
Perwani’s images show just how photogenic Kahlo’s style is, something that photographers and designers had certainly already noticed. In 2012 Vogue Mexico used photographer Nickolas Muray’s iconic 1939 portrait of Kahlo for its cover, while later that same year, Karl Lagerfeld photographed Claudia Schiffer as Frida Kahlo for German Vogue in a dark and dramatic collection of images.
VOGUE MEXICO 2012
VOGUE GERMANY 2012, KARL LEGERFELD & CLAUDIA SCHIFFER
Numerous editorials have been created for magazines around the world, drawing greedily from Kahlo’s rich, creative memory. What unfolds between the pages is simply magical, whispering of exotic climes and fashionable yet fierce femininity…
US HARPER’S BAZAAR 2001
MARIE CLAIRE ITALIA 2011
VOGUE MEXICO 2011
HARPER’S BAZAAR UKRAINE 2013