I became fixated on the design—it was uncanny and adorable all at once—and I bought it from the shop a few days later. When I brought my beloved new water bottle into the Vogue offices the following week, I realized I had an unlikely fellow fan in Sánchez’s playful work—Bad Bunny stopped by for an interview and he gave me a sneak peak of a Spotify photoshoot that he had just wrapped up in Mexico City, wherein he exclusively wore local designers. As he showed me the photos on his iPhone, one outfit in particular stood out to me: it depicted the Puerto Rican artist in a the very same print that was on my water bottle, but Bad Bunny wore it in three different incarnations: the baby clown appeared on his T-shirt, the jean jacket that he wore over it, and even on his white jeans, too. Though Bad Bunny and I don’t have too much stylistic overlap, the fact that we both shared this obsession with Sánchez’s print only further fueled my interest in knowing more about the person behind the strangely captivating baby clown.
Sánchez was born in Cuernavaca Morelos, a city close to Mexico City that’s known as “ la ciudad de la eterna primavera,” or the “city of eternal spring.” He’s lived in Acapulco and Guadalajara, where his dad lives on a ranch. “I remember when I was a child going there every single vacation and spending all day feeding the cows, looking at the mountains, and talking with my cousins,”Sánchez says over email from Mexico City, where he moved 14 years ago. He knew since he was a child that he would get involved in fashion. “I remember looking at my yaya’s (grandmother’s) closet. She used to have amazing ’70s brocade dresses mixed with traditional Mexican crafts and embroidery, Sánchez says. “It was magical to look and discover this kind of stuff, and it blew my mind to think, ‘Where is she going to wear this?’”
He’s been designing clothes under his namesake brand for the past 8 years, but it was 6 years ago that he found the little illustration that inspired his own baby clown print during a difficult period in his life. “I was very sad—I had no paid job and I was heartbroken. I was walking downtown looking for fabrics, and I found this clown make-up package in a tiny store,” Sánchez says. “It was very special because it came with this little card with a baby clown face crying and text saying, ‘When God closes a door he always leaves a window open.’ For me, it was a sign, and I remembered that I wasn’t alone.”
Photo: Courtesy of Roberto Sánchez / @robertosanchezz
Sánchez first used the print in one of his collections five years ago, and when he was tapped to create something for Bad Bunny for his recent shoot, he thought the baby clown perfectly fit with the artist’s flashy sense of style. He’s still incorporating the baby clown face onto his garments, one of which he teased recently on Instagram: an upcycled, sequin-tailed gown that’s patched together with different versions of the baby clown face. “I still have clown patches so in this quiet time that we’re living in, I start as I always do to work with my resources,” Sánchez says of upcycling with the textiles that are around him. “Most of my designs are made with deadstock fabrics. I love to give the fabric a new life,” he says, adding that he subscribes to a wabi-sabi approach with his designs overall. “I make my designs for someone who wants to experiment and play with fantasy,” he says. Within his beautifully imperfect pieces, he works with difficult silhouettes—the all-over ruching pattern that he uses with long sleeve dresses in plum purple and lime green is just one example.
Sánchez’s pieces are stocked in Hi-Bye, where he’s one of three in-house designers. A bit over two years ago, Sánchez, along with his designer friends Carla Valdivia Nakatani (who makes fun and practical streetwear under the name Worldwide Limited) and Emilia Cuauhtle (who designs slinky pieces as Wurst) decided to open up a storefront, which has gone on to serve as an incubator for young local designers—Sánchez, Nakatani, and Cuauhtle are now all stocked at Opening Ceremony. Sánchez is the store’s visual merchandising director, and he works on everything from the space’s layout to curating collaborations for the window display (in addition to selling his designs there). “For me, it’s not just a store,” Sánchez says. “It’s an experience where you can be whoever you want to be—where you can dress and feel the fantasy of the fashion community.” Hi-Bye is currently working on their online store to make shipping worldwide easier, but Sánchez and his cohort’s fashionable pocket of the world is already reaching faraway places—how else could an obscure baby clown print find its way to both me and Bad Bunny?