The concept of boredom or regular lifestyle routines are a mystery to someone like Gerardo Ruiz-Musi. Since childhood the young Mexican fashion designer has been good at existing within his own eccentric fantasies – which include hosting Arabian nights on golf courses, converting his flat into a temporary set of the Golden Girls, or perhaps randomly re-enacting one of Joan Crawford’s famed psychotic attacks on whatever nameless street. Not only is his inexhaustible and exceptional imagination expressed within Gerardo’s demeanour, but also in the designs of his distinctive bags born in the proclaimed capital of fashion: Paris.
Three and a half years ago, Gerardo decided to leave behind his sanctuary of Mexico City and carry on his creative journey in France. After completing his diploma at Studio Berçot in Paris, this man-child bypassed the conventional developmental stepping stone stages to work directly on the first collection of his brand Ruiz-Musi. Provoked by architectural design, the mysticism of Mexican folklore, and Fellini’s romanticised immortality, Gerardo’s leather bags represent emotional abstractions while offering color combinations that could narrate a story of their own.
As the sun leisurely rose over the ambitious face of Paris we found ourselves in Gerardo’s kaleidoscopic home where perfectly painted blue walls, exotic masks, an obsessive collection of musky perfumes and an intriguing writing desk filled with its owner’s favorite things exist in harmony. In the midst of all of this stands Gerardo who passionately converses about his Mexican upbringing, his new life in Paris and why it is necessary to sometimes gracefully escape the daily bullshit.
This story is featured in our second book, Freunde von Freunden: Friends, order within Germany here, or find the book internationally at selected retailers.
Gerardo, you are originally from Mexico City. How could one imagine your childhood?
My childhood could be best pictured as placid and carefree, almost perhaps a state of conscious sedation. I feel grateful having been able to grow up in a country like Mexico. Even though it faces many problems in regards to violence and corruption, there rests a lot of rare beauty and positivity. Factors such as growing up amongst sun, colors, and flavors is very formative for your character.
You simply have a different regard for how life should be. It is very different being raised in a country scarce of color or flavor. You have this constant drive to experiment, and the more layers something carries, the better.
What other factors were important for you growing up in Mexico?
Well, I guess I would say family. Family plays an immense role in Mexico. It provides great shelter. For instance, on weekends a family will always have lunch together. It doesn’t matter who you are or what age. Weekends mean time spent with your family. I think it’s very nice to have such tradition, especially as the notion of family tends to progressively lose its original meaning within this contemporary society of ours.
It’s obvious that Mexico as a country has inspired you. Do you have any specific people were of inspiration to you?
My father is one of my biggest idols. Perhaps even the biggest. I have always admired his work ethic, intelligence and sincerity. He was the one who gave me a vision for life. He always made sure to provide for my family. I hope I can do that one day as well. I am also very inspired by the people around me. All my friends are authentic people, which I think is something hard to find these days. They all have their own peculiar way of perceiving the world, which enriches me on a daily basis.
Additionally, I have always been surrounded by Mexican artists all my life. I grew up being fascinated by Rufino Tamayo. I love his way of using color and shapes which express form and abstraction at the same time. Tamayo is not so much about portraying a mood but pure aesthetics. I am a very visual person and love to analyze beauty for its perfection. But then there are also individuals like Frida Kahlo who, since childhood, have provoked a certain melancholic emotion. Sometimes I like feeling melancholic. I find it enjoyable.
Anything else that moves you in everyday life?
A day is full of surprises. There are so many different moments and you never know how or where you will end it. This ideology, if you could even call it that, influences for much of my creative process. Music also plays a very important role in my daily life. I know many people say this but music just really inspires me. When I design and simultaneously listen to music, it almost feels like I am creating a musical piece. I guess designing is just like composing a song. You start with something raw, then you start experimenting with more subtle or aggressive elements until you believe you have found perfect harmony.
Earlier you briefly talked about being very visual. What does visuality mean to you?
It is the first approach to everything. I remember seeing my first Fellini movie, La Dolce Vita, and thought that finally someone had depicted my idea of beauty. This particular movie means everything: it involves play, customs and music. Its characters were living this decadent life in a very comical way. They were always celebrating, something I try to do as well. After obsessively exploring Italian cinema, I moved on to French Nouvelle Vague. Especially Goddard’s universe. In the future, I definitely want to direct films. I guess I have already started with that.
What do you mean by having already started to direct films?
For instance, during dinner parties I always create diverse scenes. I think about how I want people to dress up, talk and behave. Then I just tell my friends and they basically turn into a stage right in front of me. We suddenly become this meta-fictional theater, where no one breaks character until the night has turned into morning.
Could you give us an example of one scene?
Last year I threw a surprise farewell party for a friend who was leaving to Madrid. The party’s theme was inspired by the Golden Girls. I went to a kilo shop and bought the most ridiculous flower-printed dresses. I bought curly short-haired wigs, pale roses, and very girly cupcakes. My apartment looked like I had overdosed on oestrogen nostalgia. I also hired a manicurist and a pedicurist. Upon arrival everybody was forced to choose a dress and wig. If you weren’t in the mood, “Sorry honey, no entry.” Aside from looking like old ladies, we naturally needed to act like them as well. So while getting our nails fixed we spent hours talking about our fake husband Charles, his everlasting golf expeditions, and what “a true drag Rosie had been after her divorce.”
Before entering fashion design, you studied architecture. How come?
It took me a while to figure out what I really wanted to do. I was very confused after finishing high school. In that specific period, at least in Mexico, you have this immense pressure to immediately move on to university and stick to that path for the rest of your life. Essentially I chose architecture as I have always been attracted to the body language of spaces and its endless symmetries. Perhaps I would have moved right into fashion design but Mexico is a very masculine driven country. Consequently a man is expected to study something ‘appropriate’ like business or politics in order to later support a family. Even though my family was very liberal and supportive I felt still trapped by certain societal stigmas. It takes a lot of courageous and a ‘fuck you’ attitude to break away from these conventions.
Is this why you decided on a new life in Paris? To escape that particular milieu?
I think you are unable to escape your roots. Even if you move away to a new continent, this ‘milieu’ will continue existing within you. But yes, it’s certainly true that moving away provides you with a new freedom and fresh air to breathe. However, all of this never motivated me to move here. I had wanted to live in Paris for a long time. First off, at least in terms of fashion, schools incorporate idea of mentorship here much more. The fashion industry is much more developed in Paris than in Mexico. Of course, there are great opportunities in fashion in Mexico. But I always envisioned working for myself. It simply depends on what you want.
How did you adapt to your new life in Paris?
In the beginning it was weird. It always feels strange to move to a new country where you cannot recognise familiar faces. But it’s a nice feeling of melancholy and you are able to reinvent yourself. You have a whole new life to explore. Of course, certain moments of miserable solitude enter and exit. Sometimes you just want to sit with someone and share a plate of french fries or a cigarette. But fortunately, and I really don’t know why, that particular first year so many friends from all over the world passed by for a visit. It was during those moments where I began to appreciate loneliness again. It’s bizarre, and certainly frustrating how you always need something to be more or less.
I loved getting lost in the streets of Paris. Often I would grab a map and mark my route to particular places, like the former home of Gustav Moreau which now serves as his own Musée national. Then on the way back, I would just decide to lose myself on purpose. This way I would always find new secret spots hidden away from tourism mania.
Can you give an example of a secret spot?
No, I can’t. When I enter such place I would only be physically and mentally present during that particular time. As soon as I leave it the place’s name is also left behind. I guess I am the worst person for giving recommendations because I always forget names. My memories consist of conversations, faces, music, mood and smells from particular moments.
Then, can you give us examples of places you know the names of that you love?
I love walking through Jardin des Tuileries because it captures such beautiful energy and changes each season. During winter, for instance, I like to walk with my eyes closed through the park in order to push my boundaries of fear. During the summer and spring I like to go and just sit. I can watch people for hours. This particular garden has so much light as there are no buildings around. People seem more relaxed and read books without feeling rushed. This is what fascinated me so much about Paris. People here just don’t seem to be rushed by life. I remember thinking that the life of a Parisienne was a cafe. Nowhere else will you find people sitting at cafes on a Monday afternoon. Everywhere else people would be sitting in their office.
Let’s talk a bit about your fashion design. What types of people do you see using your bags?
I never really think about that. I know it might sound very stupid because I am a designer and I am supposed to always envision a certain type of person. But I think about each piece as a singular look, without a face or a body attached to it. I think a beautiful piece of clothing or an accessory has its own personality. If I would think of someone specifically wearing it part of the overall personality of the piece would fade away. The pieces should speak by themselves. It’s very common for people to buy things because they see a celebrity wearing something or someone tells them to wear it. I think it’s very sad that we get influenced too easily nowadays. Where is your own criteria and your opinion in all this? The same could be applied to the arts. If I buy art, I buy it because I want to admire it. For instance, I would love to buy a sculpture by the German artist Georg Baselitz. I really appreciate the work behind his pieces and think they are very beautiful.
Speaking of beautiful, what’s the most precious object within your apartment?
I guess I would say the mask in my living room. A few years ago I got obsessed about African masks after seeing a New York apartment in an interior magazine which I obviously can’t remember now (laughs)! It was this very clean, simple space with masks on the floor. It looked so peaceful and like a different universe. I wanted to create something similar, so I went to many antique shops specialising in traditional African pieces. But no luck. Then one day I walked through Marché Aux Puces and discovered this Baroque shop, very Louis XI. After looking around I suddenly saw this mask laying on the ground, motionless and forgotten. I fell in love immediately. The owner had no idea about its worth, so I got it very cheaply.
As the mask acts somewhat like my guardian or my warrior, I wanted to make a temple for it at home. For a long time my living room only contained this mask lying on the ground. I painted the wall blue as it was the perfect match for the mask. However, after several complaints from friends about not having anywhere to sit I had to buy a couch and turn it into a conventional living room.
You just launched your second collection. Can you talk a bit about its similarities and differences from the first one?
In general I want my pieces to create individual stories for each person. I hate when brands try to sell ideas with their products. Both collections are very complex and functional, but the second collection is definitely ‘easier’ than the first. The second collection is perhaps less formal and expresses youth. For instance, there is the ‘Sleep-Over’ which is a colossal backpack. It’s there to just throw things inside, whatever is necessary for sleeping over at a friends place. It is kind of like a laundry bag. But I guess each person who owns the bags with use and experience them in their own way.
Thank you so much for spending time with us this afternoon, Gerardo. Find out more information about his bags on his official website here.
Photography: Claire Plush
Interview & Text: Lara Konrad