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Dissecting Destacarse

Written By Rene Camarillo


Rene Camarillo is an East Los Angeles born and raised creative who produces textiles and handcrafted apparel with themes of immigrant realities, neglected labor, and critique on the social engagement of fast fashion industry practices.

Editors’ Note

I am an East Los Angeles born and raised creative who produces textiles and handcrafted apparel with themes of immigrant realities, neglected labor, and critique on the social engagement of fast fashion industry practices. Through my work, I aim to investigate “privilege pluralism”, a concept in which I emphasize intersectionality and the blatant distance between consumer and producer for American society. With intention to highlight the disruption of capitalism and the mass commodification of immigrant labor, I continue to examine the tapestry of East Los Angeles diaspora and produce storytelling artworks which are inspired by my own personal upbringing and realities of underprivileged lives. My conceptual framework is confidently entangled with violence, trauma, and what I curiously describe as “rituals, unseen”. Through runway collections and wearable art that investigate the prescribed narrative of the Latinx existence, I have begun to focus on my developing design label, destacarse, where I hand weave cloth, hand pattern, and construct abstract garments with both integrity and curiosity.

Rene Camarillo Artist Profile

Making cloth is such a beautiful and humble practice. I am obsessed, especially because so much time and labor are involved in weaving. Within a rapidly changing world which prioritizes tech, my discipline and motivation to produce meaningful thought provoking work remains the same. I am invested in processes that are not digital, or adapted from technology, but human driven. Slow and simple traditional methods which continue to be reliable, with the use of hands instead of computers. In a capitalist world where commerce overtakes creativity for the sake of profit, my only investment is to hand produce work with commentary on what I deem neglected and important. I don’t really care about selling the clothes from my runway shows, or producing seasonal garments; my runway shows are there to tell stories, and my work is there to whisper my obsessive ideas, opinions (and sometimes secrets) to the mass public. 

A Bloodline And Their Rituals.

Growing up in East Los Angeles, we get our nutrients from the corners. East Los Angeles is where my unnamed neighbors sit next to me on the public buses and crowded mercados. It’s where artisan hand painted eyebrows became a fad and rosaries dangle from our throats. Where frightening gunshots get mistaken for fluorescent firecrackers, and add warmth to our atmosphere. Where we spill our teeth over our subhuman occupations during the heat of the summer.

The concrete is meticulously tattooed with graffiti, so pure, however its expression is often misunderstood. Our blood; it gets misplaced with a type of sticky tar. Our skin sizzles in the summer as we congregate under the sun in fields or in manufacturing factories scattered across this country. Our sweat drips and pools around our ankles, as our labor becomes someone else’s commodity. The community I was raised in, it places me under its tongue, and I’m absorbed into its gums. It’s dangerous. 

I come to realize how my Chicano identity and Latino background has become the originating genes to my body of art work and craft. The working class struggling family and community I was born into aided my drive for innovation, and a lust for “honest art” which to me, is realistic, relatable commentary on underprivileged lives. I come from a culture of people you never see featured in popular magazines or media. Our lifestyle is evident and purely valid, however I continue to find narratives of our existence to be misconstrued. I want to showcase truth and honesty. This is the significance and integrity I wish to provide through destacarse. My apparel work and runway collections have always been really personal and intimate. 

Experience From Losing Teeth

One of my first professional runway showcases featured my Fall Winter 2015 collection titled “The Boy Who Dreamt Of Losing Teeth”. This collection was inspired by my discharge from a psychiatric mental hospital. The collection focused around recovery and phototaxis organisms. The color pallet for the clothing juxtaposed dark colors such as navy blue and black, but with neon orange and faded blues. Some garments also had dead moths sewn into the linings or behind clear plastic. The models graced the stages with bloody noses and bruises (makeup, of course) and I hand constructed metal face masks that also had moths and butterflies clustered onto them. I was twenty two years old. 

Another significant collection was my Spring Summer 2017 collection titled, “Sinnerman”. This collection was really a menswear collection but had very feminine details such as hand pleated tulle ruffles and lace. Some of the male models walked down the runway in knit dresses. This collection was inspired by gender and binary oppositions regarding human sexuality My models also had their arms dyed in Japanese ink to physically represent the “illness” of being queer onto the body. This period of my life allowed the DNA for this collection to unfold willingly. 


The next collection which I feel pushed me to extend beyond personal realities and enter into political commentary was my Spring Summer 2018 collection, “Travieso”. This collection was born in the era where children were being contained at borders in cages and unmentioned presidents were specifically targeting brown immigrants. “Travieso” was a collection that drew inspiration from both the Bracero Program in the 1940’s but also the Zoot Suit Riots. I think American society heavily (and secretly) relies on immigrants for staple industries such as the garment manufacturing industry and agricultural industry. Around this time, I had gotten fired from my job for whistleblowing cruel mistreatment towards the undocumented immigrants in the company. “Travieso ” showcased garments that had hand sketched, tattoo inspired cultural imagery screen printed onto select pieces. 

The layout of this show forced the audience members to be separated by a chain link fence that ran along the runway. Audience members were seated on both sides of the fence, looking at the clothes on the models and the audience on the opposing side of the fence, as a border. This emphasis of separation was crucial to my strategy presenting a blatant division of people that I wanted to provide commentary on. It was obvious and it was cold. Lastly, the model who opened the show was wearing a hand draped chunk of metal chain link fence. This wearable piece was inspired by the reality that immigrants in America always carry the weight of the border on their shoulders.  Intersectionality is a very fascinating format, and with my work, I want to introduce narratives that allow my audience to resonate and understand immigrants, and the underprivileged. I hand construct every garment in my collections, and am hoping to showcase a new collection after I graduate from RISD. This collection will be  titled, “Dolores”, which means Pains in Spanish. My fingers are crossed. 

Left Image: From “Travieso.” Right Image from New Collection, “Dolores.”

Weaving Possibilities

I am currently developing woven textile work and learning how to weave while earning an MFA in Textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I got accepted into RISD with no prior weaving knowledge, and so here is where I am completing my full circle of garment development. I feel like I have enough knowledge and experience on how to produce a garment; the final link that was missing from my skill set was the ability to produce the textile for the garments. Now I am learning how to weave both by hand and machine to produce the woven structures for my garment. I learned how to use an eight shaft floor loom, and soon I will learn how to weave using a Dobby loom and industrial Jacquard loom. Making cloth is such a beautiful and humble practice. I am obsessed, especially because so much time and labor are involved in weaving. 

  My label, destacarse., was formed originally to showcase abstract garments. Since then I have been transitioning my brand to highlight Chicano culture and what I deem as “East Los Angeles realism”. Now, I am in the early stages of investigating how my brand can really produce nearly 100% hand made and housemade goods and artwork without outsourcing. I know after I graduate, I will expand my work and products on a somewhat larger scale. Slow fashion is the way to go, and I am even considering how to find a way to produce all the textiles for my garments as well. 

  I value handmade work. Where there is technology, there is ease and a lack of trial. The trial for error is supremely human. Technology and its abilities are a major crutch on civilization. We no longer solve math problems in our head or on paper, we use the calculator app on our iphones. We have no need to write grant proposals for non profit organizations, we now use AI. Chronic convenience suffocates human motivation. All these shortcuts diminish our ability to think creatively and independently. However, as we, a society continue to use technology to solve all our problems for us, at the same time this is happening, we are beginning to undervalue the ability of craft and handmade. There is a tremendous amount of trade and skill that goes into constructing a garment, so why are seamstresses getting paid subhuman wages? Why are there declining artisans worldwide who specialize in shoes, apparel, handbags etc. Why are there no longer special members in each family who sew clothes for the family and mend on a domestic level? I think one answer lies in the creation of the assembly line, pushed by the industrial revolution. The disassemblage of craftsmanship was caused by the expansive mass producing assembly line; where employees are forced to remove themselves from a “start to finish” process, and only perform a one step task repeated in a production line. Hand making, the skill to be able to build and make something on your own, is a weapon against capitalism and in some ways can be the most political step away from government, because you no longer require monopolizing companies to sell you goods and services. In my opinion, we have to relearn these archaic ways of life. 

 I still find myself unsatisfied by all these absurd systems. At the moment, I find myself caught in the jaw of an art school. My past and future are flashing before my eyes like a fire alarm signaled during a therapy session. I come from a community where art is labeled as “Folk Art”, instead of “Fine Art”. Beyond all this I have realized that my integrity and dedication to my craft has gotten me to where I am today. Since high school, I am doing exactly what I set out to do to my surprise. I still have so much more to learn and experience. I still want to study textiles and denim manufacturing in Okayama Japan, too. Dedicating my life and labor to design and craft has been challenging, but I have a feeling that things will eventually work out. I feel like I am in my own little golden age. 

Rene Camarillo Weaving
Rene Camarillo Weaving

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