A Conversation with WWLTD's Carla Valdivia

La Ciudad de México is commonly known as a populated, busy city. It's not just bustling; it's bursting at the seams with art, innovation, and fearlessness. Carla Valdivia is part of a group of creators working out of México that are expanding the world's idea of what the city actually is. She talked to us about her projects, her story, and the role México City has played in all of it. 

You were born in México but you’ve also lived elsewhere; out of which cities have you worked/ lived?

I was born in Mexico City. I’ve worked and lived in New York and Mexico City. I went to university in London.

Which place have you liked best? Or, to not play favorites; what have you liked best from each place?

Every city I’ve lived or worked in, has represented a different time in my life, so it’s hard to weigh them out against each other. New York has the best summers. My oldest friends are there, so I consider it my home. London has amazing brutalist architecture and the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen. I struggled on into adulthood with my London friends, it’s a super special bond. Mexico City has the best food and the most complex society. The city is evolving at such a fast rate, it’s incredibly exciting but also a little trying. There’s a lot of tension because it’s a huge metropolis still trying to find it’s feet, a lack of working systems gives way to freedom, but also to conflict.

What things did you consider to make the decision to go back to DF?

Moving back to Mexico wasn’t a very hard decision. My best friend and I moved to Mexico from London together. London was becoming constrictive, it was a hard time to be at that stage in our lives during the economic crisis. We were looking to build small businesses or start something new, it was totally the wrong place to be at that time.

For me, it’s a very confusing topic where I feel kinda foreign in my birthplace but also super protective of it. I absolutely loathe when people visit and they say “Mexico is so cheap! I’m gonna move here!”. Of course things are cheaper, but for me it’s important to be here in order to highlight the qualities of our history and also push forward and develop a Mexican youth culture that is proud to draw from it’s own history.

Can you tell us a little bit about your professional journey? What did you study? How did you end up working at Museo Jumex?

I studied Design at Central St. Martins in London. When I was 18, I interned for a creative director who I admire so much, Stella Bugbee. It was my job to source and photocopy images for ad campaign mood boards at AR Media New York. Stella hooked me up with an internship at Opening Ceremony where I met another super cool person, Su Barber. In London, I was the graphic designer at Dazed & Confused and a junior designer at Modern Activity. It was at Modern Activity where I learned the most! It was a really tough but super great experience. In London I went freelance for a bit and started to specialize in editorial design. When I moved to Mexico City, I worked at a design studio called Sociedad Anónima where I exercised my editorial eye the most. I went freelance again and started to work more and more with contemporary art and fashion. Through clients and friends, I was put in touch with Museo Jumex.

Where was WWLTD born from and what keeps you growing it?

Worldwide Limited came from a need for clothes that I wanted, but couldn't find. It was as simple as that. The first samples were made in London. They were SO different to what’s on sale now! When I arrived to Mexico, Worldwide Limited was very much in its early days. When I began to experience the complexity of the Mexican fashion world, the purpose of my brand became clear. The desire to develop a Mexican youth culture and build a bridge to the rest of the world is what drives Worldwide Limited. I want people to see Mexico as a place where new things are emerging, not as a place to pluck cheap resources from.

What is WWLTD? A clothing brand? An online boutique? An artistic concept? All of that and more?

Essentially, Worldwide Limited is a brand. As it’s concept evolved, it became a brand that people chose to interpret in different ways. This is super interesting to me and I like the flexibility it has. In 2014 Worldwide Limited had an exhibition at Lodos in Mexico City, Future Archives. In 2015, Worldwide Limited was asked to style a fashion story for Revista ANIMAL, based on the Real Mexican Street Style photos. I also really like interviewing people I meet on the internet, so it kinda becomes an archive of the things I’m interested in.

 

What other projects are you working on besides WWLTD?

Apart from Worldwide Limited, I have my own design practice. Some of my clients include Material Art FairTerremoto Magazine and Guayaba Press.

Have you noted any differences in the way your work is received in Mexico in contrast to other countries that you have audience in?

My graphic design work was the most challenging. Very few people were into my design work when I arrived in Mexico in 2013. It was incredibly hard to find work because my stuff was considered too “crazy”. My first client here was Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura. Regina Pozo was the director in 2013, I was introduced to her by a great fashion designer and one of my dearest friends, Roberto Sanchez. She saw my work and was super excited to work with me, it was such a relief to find someone with a common vision who wanted to hire me. It has taken me nearly 3 years of perseverance to get semi-established here.

In what other countries do you have an audience in? What kind of clientele do you have?

Worldwide Limited gets orders from all over, but our most consistent client base comes from Japan and Australia. Even though we don’t have many followers, I owe it to Instagram that we have such a world wide client base.

What do you think of the way the United States consumes latinidad? Better yet, what do you think of how México interacts with what’s American?

This is a really tough question, especially in the current political climate. I try not to talk about things that I’m not 100% informed on, so I can only talk about my observations from a position of privilege. An observation that I can make for sure, is that being Mexican is something that is SO exoticised in New York. There is a certain side of Mexico that’s easy to consume and easy to enjoy. It feels like Americans love to talk about Mexican food, they love to bring it back to America and bastardize it. That’s not to say that it’s not good, I mean who doesn’t like mountains of processed cheese on top of some ground meat? As time passes, and there’s a better understanding of Mexican culture, real curiosity gives way to better and more informed cultural exchanges. The exoticising of Mexico is evolving from a clumsy iteration to a better refined expression of appreciation.

The Mexican perspective is one that I don’t feel 100% OK talking about, because Mexicans don’t consider me Mexican and I don’t consider myself anything in particular. In a general sense, I think there’s super complex feels towards the U.S. There’s admiration but there’s also jealousy, which kind of creates this grey soup of love and hate. Unfortunately, I think it’s an attitude left over from being colonized, the feeling that something foreign is superior. I’d like to do as much as possible to rid future generations of that feeling, we should be proud to be Mexican, to be mixed and globally focused from a Mexican perspective.

Real Mexican Street Style; how did it start? Do you ask for permission to photograph? If not, have you ever been caught taking a picture?

Real Mexican Street Style started as some photos to capture super crazy bootlegs and amazing colour combinations around the city. I thought it was important to archive this way of dressing, as opposed to the more European or American version of Mexican street style that I was seeing super frequently on Mexican blogs. I think there’s a really strong Mexican style that is born from comfort, necessity and our super weird weather. I’m too shy to ask for permission, I take all photos from behind. Reflecting on it now, the back without a face is a great coincidence. I’m building a record of a Mexican identity without a face. Hm? Haha

Photos from Real Mexican Street Style

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Ana Ortiz Varela