Throughout the years, popular culture has often served as inspiration for people around the world. From fans to artists across fields, it has marked generations and continues to influence their vision of the world. Only a few selected ones, however, can brag about designing clothes that are shaping pop culture. Mexican fashion designer and self-described melomaniac, Jonathan Morales, belongs to that group.
Sported by the legendary Gwen Stefani, and the Thai superstar Lisa Manoban, Jonathan’s disruptive brand, NO NAME, is making the rounds among international celebrity circles. EnVi caught up with the Mexican creative in an interview originally conducted in Spanish, to talk about his journey in the fashion industry, why pop culture inspires him, and his plans for the future.
First Steps in Fashion and Belanova
I first came across the name Jonathan Morales in 2013. It was a cold winter when I indulged in the fascination of picking sides in a reality show for the first time in my life. Probably looking too much into the tidbits of personality shown on screen, I quickly concluded that Jonathan was irreverent and unafraid to be himself. In no time, he became my favorite contestant in the third installment of Project Runway Latin America. The designer, however, had been making waves in fashion long before joining the show. “I started in the world of fashion more than 13 years ago. I studied fashion design in Guadalajara, Jalisco, at Centro Diseño de Modas. One of my most recognized projects, or rather, the first artist I worked with and designed a wardrobe for was Denisse from Belanova,” he explains as he introduces himself.
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For those unfamiliar with the name, Belanova is a Latin Grammy award-winning band. For nearly two decades (roughly from 2000 to 2018), the group found important success in Hispanic countries. Fronted by songstress Denisse Guerrero, Belanova’s electro-pop tracks and unique style conquered the hearts of people in Latin America and Spain. Jonathan played a pivotal role in the furor the band caused during their prime. “I was who came up with Denisse’s image—so disruptive at that time and in pop music—her concepts, videos and her day-to-day outfits. That was my initiation in fashion, and working with artists.”
The Individual Over The Label
While it served him as a first introduction to the public, Jonathan admits that working with Belanova consumed a good part of his life. After years of collaborating with the music group, with doubts about his future and coming off a depressive streak, the designer made changes toward something major. “I wanted to disconnect myself from that, for a while. I started studying filmmaking, I moved to Mexico City and in the process, I said, ‘I need to create a business.’ That’s how NO NAME was born.” NO NAME is the brand Jonathan founded in 2015. The Mexican creative picked the name convinced that “individuals matter more than labels.” He further explains, “I believe that people make the brand. Each person, with their own style, makes clothes look amazing on them.”
It is no surprise then, that Jonathan has poured his own personal experiences and preferences to build a creative universe that gravitates toward pop culture. “My DNA, my creative essence comes a lot from Mexican pop, kitsch, and Japanese reminiscence. Japanese culture is one of my favorites: anime, contemporary Japanese artists, and Japanese street style. All of these elements blend to make my DNA, NO NAME’s DNA.”
Conquering The Hearts Of Pop Icons
The absolute conviction of who he is and what his brand stands for has turned Jonathan into a celebrity favorite. What started with the chameleonic Lady Gaga, reached a peak when BLACKPINK’s rapper, Lisa, showcased NO NAME’s designs to the world. Not once or twice, but thrice. In between, Jonathan’s fashion icon, Gwen Stefani, also wore his brand.
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The designer considers each of those moments as a milestone in his career. “Truth to be told, I have different memorable moments. The first international, giant, celebrity I dressed was Lady Gaga and that was a sea change. At that moment I thought, “Wow, I can go wherever I want.” It was a very special moment because I started to believe in myself. I had always been very hard on myself, but after Lady Gaga, I believed in myself a bit more. Gwen Stefani was my idol from youth, she was my role model when it came to style. It was so memorable to dress her. At what point does a child from Guadalajara go from listening to her music, idolizing her, watching her videos to dressing her? I didn’t even dare to dream about it because of how much I admired her and suddenly, boom! She was wearing my clothes. That moment was crucial in my career and my life. And well, the first time I saw Lisa [wearing NO NAME] in that Guinness Record-breaking video, it was the most special.”
The Successful BLINK
At this point, if anything is crystal clear about Jonathan Morales is his fascination for music and pop culture. A lover of anime, kitsch and icons like No Doubt and Madonna, he doesn’t shy away from revealing his current “obsession” with BLACKPINK. “When it comes to artists, I’ve always had a muse. Right before dressing BLACKPINK, a few months earlier, I was obsessed with BLACKPINK. They are spectacular, it seems to me that they are everything that my work represents. I am very obsessed with them. I love them. Aesthetically, the girls and their music inspire me a whole lot. Interestingly, I have already dressed Lisa three times and it has been a dream come true. Right now I have BLACKPINK very high in my top inspirations. The new collections that I am working on, I visualize [BLACKPINK] wearing them.”
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If Jonathan’s fan status was not already evident from the way his voice changed when he first mentioned the quartet, it is when he starts listing the records Lisa broke with her solo debut. It is part of what made dressing her such an important achievement. “It became a trend worldwide,” he says about the Thai singer’s music video for “LALISA,” where the superstar wore an ensemble by NO NAME. “It broke records in many ways. 700 million views (at the moment of the interview) from people who have seen my designs. It’s very special because that look is very significant, it defines my work, the mix of cultures, the mix, and match of global inspirations, and that blend of pop culture, music, and my experiences. The DNA of my brand is embodied in that jacket and that skirt.”
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Likewise, NO NAME was also part of Lisa’s wardrobe on the music video for the star-studded “SG.” Jonathan regards this experience as symbolic. “We are part of this era that must be very significant to Lisa too. It’s her first solo, her first international collaboration [with Ozuna, Megan Thee Stallion, and DJ Snake]. She broke unexpected records: Record Guinness, new plaques for her YouTube channel because she surpassed even Taylor Swift’s views. Imagine her power. I am very happy about being part of this era.”
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Of PR Efforts And Succeeding Internationally
To put it in some sort of way, Jonathan is what people on the internet would call “a successful fan.” But how did he earn these massive bragging rights? In addition to his hard work, there are the joint efforts between the designer and the PR expert, Azahel Marmolejo, who is partly to credit for NO NAME’s international positioning. “At the beginning of the year, I met with my PR to visualize the brand in 2021. I told him that my dream was to dress BLACKPINK and I wanted to do it this year. We landed a contact, sent my work and they accepted it. Sometimes brands believe everything is on the PR, so if a star does not wear a look, it’s the PR’s fault. The PR, obviously, is a fundamental part, it’s who sells the brand, who coordinates the shipments, but the other half depends on the artist and if they like the brand. Azahel and I have worked on that well. He believes in my work, he has believed in it for a long time.”
The positive outcome of this partnership is palpable. NO NAME has been displayed internationally by some of the most popular international stars. KAROL G, J Balvin and Ava Max, just to name a few, are part of the brand’s loyal clientele. “It is nice to have this team-up because we have dressed big celebrities. I think I am the Mexican designer who has dressed the most international celebrities, right now,” says Jonathan proudly.
The Future And Embracing Growth
With a business that’s rising beyond borders, the designer has big plans for the future, albeit he admits he’s not fond of rushing into things. In the short run, however, Jonathan expects to bid farewell to 2021 with a great collection. “It is inspired by the artists I dress. Anyone can buy it, but it‘s a collection that I am thinking of sending to artists first,” he anticipates.
The exponential growth of his brand has also propelled Jonathan to expand his atelier. Needless to say, thriving professionally comes with a new set of responsibilities that he is ready to embrace fearlessly. “I am expanding my atelier for the first time. It makes me slightly nervous because there are more salaries to pay and more responsibilities, but I think it’s the right moment. I keep growing, I have a lot of ambition, a lot of personal dreams that I am achieving through NO NAME. I want to keep improving, keep growing. This is a small business where I have learned to do a bit of everything.”
Before wrapping up our interview I ask Jonathan for a piece of advice for all those who wish to work in the fashion industry. Extremely grounded and hardworking as he is, the designer replies without hesitation, “The main thing to do is focusing on our work, focusing on improving every day. It is essential to design from within, not trying to be someone else, not trying to be the brand next door. It is important to focus on our job, pour all our love, all our efforts into it.” He adds, “Always be one step ahead. Find the way, the formula to always be one step ahead. Ask yourself what’s next? Do your best, leave your patterns, your comfort zone. That’s the key to do great things in life.”
Aware that in the face of failure, many tend to feel discouraged, Jonathan goes on, “We all make mistakes, we all screw up, we must remove the stigma and fear of it. We are always going to make mistakes, but there’s room to improve. There are many opportunities and as long as you do things with love and with your heart, you can always get over the obstacles. So cheer up!”
The Designer: Jonathan Morales
The City: Originally from Jalisco, Guadalajara, currently based in Mexico City.
The Style Icons: Gwen Stefani, Bjork, Madonna. “They were always very involved in fashion, in shows, in whatever was coming out. I started designing influenced by that spirit.”
The Favorite Designers/Brands: DELPOZO, Margiela. “Creatively they are complete opposites to me, but they inspire me to belong to the fashion industry.”
The Dream Collaboration: BLACKPINK, FKA Twigs, Madonna. “I would love to collaborate with plastic and graphic artists too.”
The Current Muses: BLACKPINK
The Fashion Takeaway: “My brand is proudly Mexican, but I don’t believe Mexican fashion should be about cliches. I design from a global perspective.”
The Motto: “Act local, think global.”
The Advice: “To be creative, you have to read, you have to investigate, you have to move!”
Do you enjoy reading about the people behind your favorite fashion brands? Check out our interview with Jessica Wu, the PR Force behind Peter Do.
Thumbnail courtesy of NO NAME.