The recent Mercedes Benz Fashion Week may have taken place at the luxurious Real Intercontinental in the Escazú, but the streets of Chepe were the star of the runway. Graphic designer Oliver Skinner, creator of the clothing brand Plivertees, showcased a collection inspired by the pop culture of San José.
The collection, CHEPEPOP – “Chepe” is the affectionate nickname given to the city, being a common apodo for “José” – merged music, art, audiovisual production, writing, dance and design.
Skinner, 33, who created Plivertees ten years ago, said his participation in Fashion Week was a process four years in the making.
“I spent one week searching the photographic database that I’ve developed throughout the years in order to create a 70-slide presentation that I used to convince people and apply for the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week,” he told The Tico Times. “When the participants were chosen I was asked if I had the tools to pull this off. Once I said yes to that, I went to search for the materials needed to create the collection.”
While living in Barrio Otoya, San José, where his store used to be located, Skinner discovered a profound love for his city and began strolling around the capital, searching for its hidden beauty. He documented this search for beauty in the video that presents the collection, and said that process demonstrated how lovers of Chepe need to take the good with the bad.
“The Parque España fountain is a magical place of huge visual impact. When we went to film the tracking shots there was human feces inside the fountain. It was also full of trash. We had to clean it all in order to be able to enhance the fountain’s brilliant beauty,” he recallled. “That happens all over the city. We’ve got emblematic buildings such as the Steinvorth building, which is next to a place with an unpleasing aesthetic. [Walking through San José] is learning to notice there’s no constancy, but it’s what we’ve got. Aesthetically, it’s not the prettiest city, but it’s got its own thing.”
San José’s aesthetics were not the only key elements that inspired CHEPEPOP: its people were also a major focus.
“Everyday people, everyday heroes is an old Toyota slogan. I love it because it’s for everyone,” he said. “For me it’s very important to demonstrate that amazing side of San José, the everyday people.”
The T-shirts in the collection drew inspiration from the Costa Rican carreta, or oxcarts; patterned floor tiles; the typography of street artist Mr. Masking; and Barrio Luján’s colorful façades. Skinner collaborated with artists such as Jeffrey Muñoz, Chisco Rowe, Dino Real, José Soto, Place dance academy, and writer Diego Delfino, who helped him structure the script of the video.
“It’s unbelievable to be able to do this. I began as a college student speaking about Plivertees and wanting to show the world who I was and all of the cool things I can do… I want to work with Costa Rica as a creative country for the world,” he said.
At Fashion Week, which took place May 27-April 1, Skinner turned this vision into a reality expressed through mesh, satin, lycra, sequins fabric, sports fabric, and rayon. The collection also involved the designer’s beloved dogs, Hutch and Radar.
How did the show turn out?
“It was a huge success,” he told The Tico Times after the event. “The video showed off San José as an inclusive place where magic shines… Everyone agreed ours was the presentation that turned up the volume and the temperature of the night.”