Primer Rebelde De America

Primer Rebelde De America is a new company owned by Ecuadorian and Colombian designer Victor Vegas Perez. This Indigenous streetwear brand, run by Vegas and Production Manager/Headseamstress, Liana Waller, is only one year old but has appeared in iconic magazines such as Vogue, so it is clear that they are on the rise to becoming a household name. We interviewed Victor Vegas Perez about his influences and the importance of normalizing Indigenous representation in mainstream fashion.

What is your name/name of the brand?

My name is Victor Vegas Perez and my brand name is Primer Rebelde De America.

When did you start your company…what inspired you to do so?

I started my company in the summer of 2019.  During that time there was a lot of hatred and ignorance towards my people that the media and my surroundings weren’t fully understanding the magnitude of. I felt particularly inclined to take action after the 2019 El Paso terrorist shooting where brown people of the Americas were targeted. When I heard the news I knew that I couldn’t be idle anymore in waiting for someone to give me the moment to speak.  It was that moment I took action and started to work out the beginnings of Primer Rebelde De America, a brand that would tell the stories of the Americas and all the first peoples of the world.  It was a form of healing for me and I knew that if I offered up my vulnerability to others that there would be people out there that would find comfort and connection in my creations. Those who were unaware of the stories were offered an opportunity to research the themes and ideas shared through each piece. 

How did you get into the fashion industry?

 I initially got into the fashion industry through modeling, which I started in my sophomore year of high school. However I hadn’t started developing my voice in fashion until I started working at Awake NY. I began there during my first year of college. At first I didn’t have a set position in the company but with time and the guidance of my mentor and boss Angelo Baque, as well as the rest of the team, I was able to come into my role as the casting director for Awake NY. 

How would you describe your style?

My style is personal. Truthful. 

What are some inspirations that you draw from when you design your clothing?

When creating the clothing for my brand I look into the history of my peoples. I bring the stories of the Americas to the forefront of my creation when conceiving new pieces. Something I draw heavily from is that the ancestors I look up to were all rebels. But they weren’t crass or without a cause. Their fights had meaning and they were educated. It wasn’t anti-establishment because it was cool or the “in thing” to do, but because their lives depended on it and the future of their children were affected by their actions. There was no other way to live and die. 

What is your cultural background?

I am Ecuadorian and Colombian. My mother’s parents are from Cayambe and Otavallo. My father’s parents are both from Cali. 

How is your heritage reflected in your designs?

 My heritage is a part of who I am. So I never intentionally look at a piece and say “this needs to look more Indigenous” or “how do I make this look more Ecuadorian?” I don’t pigeonhole myself into being tokenized because when it comes to my heritage and conceptualizing new collections, it comes with the territory of being truthful. When I’m inspired by my experiences or the stories of my elders, tell me they come to me in the design process because I’m focusing on the aspect of truthful storytelling through the art of fashion. 

In your own words, what is important to Indigenous representation in fashion?

Indigenous representation is important in fashion because it allows us as a people to say we can do whatever and be whatever we want. We don’t have to limit our own identities to what non-Indigenous peoples see us as. We are creating a space where we can make our voices heard by our own accord. I also think that it allows for us to progress past the need to have us be singled out and separate from mainstream fashion, whether it be streetwear, ready-to-wear, couture and everything in between. One day we won’t have to say “Top 10 Indigenous Brands to Watch Out For” or  “Up and Coming in Indigenous Fashion.” It will just be fashion. 

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