Fashion designer Aidan Euan makes everything shimmer. The 25-year-old Mexican designer’s signature crystal embellishments are a favorite of Colombian singer Kali Uchis, as well as Kim Kardashian West, and for good reason — he custom-makes every piece by hand, supergluing thousands of glittering Swarovski crystals onto dresses, chokers, tights, bikinis, and more.
Born in the Mexican city of Mérida, Yucatán, his childhood was spent in the nearby port town of Telchac, a beachy paradise where ancient Mayan temples stand tall. It was a setting that was not only beautiful, but one that would leave a lasting impression on his future in fashion design — his online store AKNA is named after the Mayan goddess of motherhood and birthing.
Euan now resides in Los Angeles. Having dropped out of high school, he began working a diverse string of jobs which eventually led to a corporate gig as a visual merchandiser — a path, he told The FADER over the phone from Los Angeles, that was short-lived: "I didn't want to use my talent towards them, I wanted to use my talent towards myself." With a lack of employment lighting a motivational fire under his ass, he refused to let any obstacle stand in his way and eventually started his own business.
It’s RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 9 that Euan has to thank for helping grow his brand. His work is being favorably reviewed in challenges and on the runway, where his creations are modeled by Los Angeles drag queen and fan favorite, Valentina. It takes a big team to pull off her looks — a team made up of a community of friends. As Valentina explained to The FADER in a phone call, Euan is “one of the main ones” in her crew. “We live this little story where I'm his little daughter and he's my daddy, 'cause I don't have a drag mom, or anything like that," she said. Sharing a laundry list of cultural references that include ‘40s Mexican cinema star María Félix and ‘70s era Cher, the two collaborate artistically to revive a sense of glamour in the world.
In a wide-ranging interview with The FADER, Aidan Euan discussed his work, obsession with Swarovski crystals, and his intense desire to represent the Latinx community.
What are your thoughts on drag culture and the role you are now playing in it?
It's a new venture, but I've always been around that community. Growing up in Mexico, I remember my mom having a couple of really close friends who were gay and trans and drag queens. You know, sexuality and image was never really a topic of conversation. I never really grew up having judgement over anyone. I have a gay brother so I feel like the LGBT+ family is just family to me. Even if I'm not always understood, I can never be ashamed of who my friends and family are. It's just normal to me. I think it's crazy, you know? You end up going back to where you kind of grow up. It's like a cycle.
You’ve worked with Colombian singer Kali Uchis and megastar Kim Kardashian West. Were those the result of strategic planning or sheer luck?
With Kali, I reached out to her. Growing up Latinos in the U.S., there are just so many references we have together that we just clicked and kept working with each other. With Kim, it was automatic sheer luck — I stoned [her] piece for almost 16 hours [with] over 6,000 Swarovski crystals — they're super tiny! You put a dot of superglue on each. I'm just grateful. Sometimes I've sat at home and I'm like, Oh shit, this is happening. All you can do is be grateful and take that opportunity and just run with it, you know? Sometimes growing up you don't think things like this can happen to you, or that people are actually gonna take notice of your work. When they do, it's just cool.
“You can’t wait for someone to be the voice or the face of this. You have to be that. Be the voice and be the face of the things you want to see.”
What would you say has had the greatest effect on your sensibility and eye?
Growing up with a single mother. I was always hands-on with my mom's looks. Subconsciously I was always learning about fashion and styling, garment-making, cutting techniques, and patterns, so I grew up developing an interest for fashion. When I grew up I couldn't go to fashion school because I couldn't afford it. I didn't have the money to move to another city, so I had to get creative with things. I have a lot of ideas and techniques engraved in my head from my mom.
My brother also influenced me creatively growing up. He's a painter and an established tattoo artist. I’d watch him draw and try to copy him or pick his brain to get to his level. He really made me challenge myself and pushed me to be fearless. When we were younger and had no toys to play with, he would tell me stories to entertain me and we would make up games and build little cities out of rocks; those life circumstances have always led me to be creative and imaginative and hands on.
Swarovskis have become your signature, haven’t they? What do you love so much about them?
I get this question all the time! My mom was — I wouldn't say a pageant queen, but sort of. To this day, she's known to be like, the most beautiful queen of her town because every year there's a carnival there. She had this crown that was gifted to her by the president of the town, and it was made out of Swarovski crystals. I remember she had it in our vitrina — a glass closet that you have in your living room.
Us kids would steal it and I just remember being infatuated with that thing because it shined like crazy. I honestly thought it was the most prized possession we had. Seeing her in her showgirl outfits and feathers and sequins — they've just always been on my mind, you know? They're kind of what I grew up around.
Are there any other mediums you like to use or are hoping to experiment with?
Recently, I like mixing a lot of casual with something really glam. I love that and anything that flatters a woman's body. I love looking at beautiful and shiny skin. If I can show that off somehow in my design, I think I go for that.
I also like a lot of beading — fringe beading. I'm really exploring that right now. I'm really into feathers and things, but then, I also have to think, If I'm making something to sell, it's different than what I'm making for someone. With selling, you have to think about what someone's gonna actually buy and how long it's gonna take me to make it because I don't have a team, you know? I make everything as it's ordered and when it gets overwhelming, I'm like fuck. I have to simplify it, but at the same time I can't do that because I have to show my skill and present that and deliver.
What do you want your clothes to communicate?
I think it would just be confidence. I like to say it's the spirit of a confident Latina. It's a strong Mexican woman that I visualize, but that's not the only person I would love to see wearing them. I visualize a strong woman that doesn't care.
You know you've nailed something when they put it on and you see that look in their face. You're just like, fuck. They feel good, that makes me feel good, my work has paid off. It's about making your client feel amazing.
Anything you put out, make sure it's loud. Make sure it’s loud in a way where you demand to be seen, whether it’s your image, or your work.
Can fashion be a form of political resistance?
Absolutely. It's a form of resistance for me because I feel I could technically put obstacles over myself, you know? Be like, Oh, I can't do this because I'm Mexican and I've been through this and I'm scared this is gonna happen. If you live in fear, what's the point of having all this creativity, you know? I talk about that with my brother all the time. You can't wait for someone to be the voice or the face of this. You have to be that. Be the voice and face of things that you want to see.
Any advice for fellow members of the Latinx community who may want to pursue a path in fashion?
I feel like I'm still learning and I'm sure I'm gonna keep making mistakes. Don't make money an issue and don't make your life circumstances the issue. You have to rise to that and work with what you've got. Make things. Even if it's cheap material, make it look like it's worth $300, $400-500. Make it happen! Don't let that sort of thing get in the way. Don't lose yourself while trying to please a client. The biggest thing I wish someone would have told me was to not give up.
Anything you put out, make sure it's loud. Make sure it's loud in a way where you demand to be seen, whether it's your image, or your work. I can make a regular gown that a gown designer's making, but that's not what's going to make people look at me. It's gonna be something that's shiny and at the same time ties into what I grew up with, you know? I have a huge connection to it, so always make a statement when you show something.
Your collection online is completely sold out. What can we expect from AKNA in the future ?
More crystals. A lot of shine. Anything that's blinding and Latina. Yeah. Even if it takes me a while, it has to be stronger. That's what you can expect.