esigner Elias Gurrola takes inspiration for his designs from various sources. These include his line-drawn portraits of men and the wide open agricultural fields outside of Miami, where he grew up as a farmer’s son.
He studied art at Central St. Martin’s in London and at Parsons New School for Design in New York, and created a line of custom garments for Henri Bendel in 2013. He competed in Izzue X Tsinghua’s First Annual Fashion Design Award in Beijing and his team won Louis Vuitton’s Technology Award for their dance costumes in a performance during New York Fashion Week.
He showed off his Parsons thesis collection at Pacific Fashion Week in Vladivostok, Russia, which earned him wide media coverage within the country. In 2017, he created costumes for Francesca Harper’s piece “System,” which was performed nationwide with the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Since then he has designed for several brands, including Anna Sui, Jones New York, and Calvin Klein, and has developed a line of underwear and intimate apparel for men.
Nature continues to show up in small ways throughout his work. “I’ve always been inspired by different aspects of nature. The delicate curves of a blossom before harvest, the warm palette of the setting sun, even the beautiful symmetry of bone structure. These have all shaped the way that I think about form, and detail. I used these elements in more obvious ways when I created ready to wear, but that sensibility has never left me, and it’ll show up in the way I cut the back of a bodysuit, so that it just curves and hugs along the wing of someone’s back. One of the first styles I released was my mustard velour brief, and that color always reminds me of the sunflowers my mom would plant at the corner of every crop as good luck for the season ahead.”
Gurrola has also continued line drawing, and last year he put together a series entitled Blueprint Memory exploring how we construct a memory of another person. “The series explores intimacy and perception through portraits. Every piece has aspects of incompletion, [as we tend to] keep out parts of someone we decide not to remember and then highlight other parts of their personality. This is all in order to build a blueprint of the person you want them to be, whether it’s true or not.”
Gurrola has pioneered the concept of fashion performances, which blur the line between fashion and the performing arts. In these performances, models dance on stage while wearing a succession of different outfits. Both the dancing and the outfits combine to tell a story.
Gurrola says the fashion industry still treats men’s and women’s clothes differently, but it’s beginning to shift.
He looks to royal European courts, where kings were dressed just as fabulously as queens, with crowns, capes, fur trims, and gold. More recently, social media gave people a platform to show how they want to dress, which facilitated a more open aesthetic for both men and women with less of a rigid gender binary in fashion.
Any piece of clothing can offer the possibility of creativity, including underwear. Some body-positive events and costumed gatherings encourage skimpy yet fashionable attire. Gurrola says that in the communities he frequents, including queer people at The Woods campground, underwear is definitely a form of expression! Even if no one but the wearer sees the underwear, having stylish undergarments can give wearers a sense of being put together and well-dressed from head to toe. Dolce and Gabbana agree, as Gurrola points out, and always dress their models in D&G underwear.
Gurrola’s favorite piece is a striped bodysuit he actually no longer sells, because the fabric was only made once. He loves it because it helped bridge his brand’s transition into intimate apparel and because he loves stripes.
In the near future, Gurrola says to get ready for more ‘spice’ in men’s fashion! “Walking around this summer, I saw shorts getting shorter and shirts getting tighter, for gay and straight men. I see a movement towards cheekier cuts and more interesting fabrications, maybe with more cut outs and more prints. And also a cross between underwear and ready-to-wear, just as the bustier was an undergarment turned fashion statement for women.”
Gurrola insists that he’s still learning and growing as a designer. “I know there’s still a long path ahead. Much more to discover, explore, uncover, and I can’t wait!”