In Chile, protest clothes take to the streets

Signs are not the only way of communicating your protest message. Indeed, how about letting your outfit do the protesting?

In Santiago de Chile, Urban Race Custom and Bandalic provide people with meaningful bandanas, T-shirts, and denim jackets as potentially powerful demonstrating tools.

Cristobal Hidalgo, “designer by essence” as he describes himself, has been painting pieces of clothing for some time. He now makes a living from them with his brand, Urban Race Custom. The designer works in a pop/urban streetwear style punctuated by bohemian influences, made directly by and for people. In his illustrations, he frequently depicts animals or flowers. But in the same way that designer Bandalic moved away from black bandanas with skulls, Cristobal Hidalgo is now giving space in his creative process to current events.

Graphic designer, Estefanía Segovia, and fashion designer, Loreto Espina, have always wanted to put their creativity to work, which they are now achieving thanks to their Bandalic venture. And in today’s Chile, it seems their work plays a role of utmost importance.  “The bandana itself stands for struggle and resistance,” explains Estefanía. So it makes sense to Cristobal Hidalgo that his brand ought to take into consideration what is going on now in his country: “I see adaptation as a necessity, given that clothes are a means of expression. In some ways, they are kind of historical records.”

And to those who argue that they benefit from the current political situation by the increased sales, the designers remind us that they also suffered a decrease in sales at the beginning of the protests — in addition to having to reschedule their fabrication processes and sales activities due to transportation issues. They also emphasize the fact that their designs must meet people’s aspirations: “In all Chilean artistic fields, we can’t just go crazy doing stuff that has nothing to do with current events,” stresses Cristobal Hidalgo.

For beyond the material of the clothing itself, the message means a lot. Details are an “expression of the spirit,” says journalist Mario Cuche for Bandalic.  Estefanía Segovia and Loreto Espina thought about incorporating the concepts of #noestamosenguerra and #cacerolazo into their designs, as they wish “to bring to realization the struggle and the hope, the color beyond the adversity, all the novelty that is sparkling from this new Chile.” 

Indeed, #noestamosenguerra came as a response to Piñera’s words: “We are at war with a powerful, relentless enemy that respects nothing or anyone.” And #cacerolazo refers to a way of protesting that is specific to South America, which involves creating noise with pots and spoons. 

Bandalic came up with the idea of a raised fist, carrying a spoon rather than a weapon — but a spoon in reference to the cacerolazo. Along the same lines, one of the new Urban Custom Race’s designs dealing with the Chilean social crisis is that of #Chiledespertó, a widely used slogan in demonstrations. This design also gives space to the cacerolazo. Actually, it features a pot and a spoon, representing an unbalanced fight between unarmed people and an armed army. This drawing is “more violent, aggressive” than other ones, adds Cristobal Hidalgo. It must be said that the designer also decided to draw the promise of a better future, turning a pot into a flower vase, or paying tribute to the #negritomatapacos, a dog who used to “escort” students in their protest marches, leading the procession, and expressing hostility to police forces (the pacos).

In the case of both Bandalic and Urban Custom Race, these ventures define themselves as “committed brands,” asking that the government show dignity to its people and empathy with the protesters. “We have the luxury to earn money from the expression of our heart,” acknowledges Estefanía Segovia. “So if we want to contribute to societal changes, we have the duty to,” concludes Cristobal Hidalgo.

He notes that, from now on, he will paint about politics more than ever before.

If you are eager to know more about them, or if you would like to buy their products, Urban Customer Race has no physical store but sells online. The designer also often goes to the feria of the Drugstore gallery in Santiago, where he paints live. As for Bandalic, the brand also sells online and has a store in Santiago, next to the metro Los Leones, at Av. Providencia 2124, Local 03B. Both brands are active on social networks (Instagram, Facebook and others).