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Illustrations By Thea Milinairé

A Happy Movement Don’t You Know That I’m Loco

April 26, 2017, 12:00 am

As a famous chocolatier once posited, if you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. This is also the mindset of designer Jeremy Salazar, aka the mind behind Happy Loco.

The young creator embraces everything that’s made him the positive thinker he is today, even his upbringing in a rougher part of Albuquerque. Expression wasn’t big in the South Valley. “Where I came from, it wasn’t a thing to be an artist or creative or to express yourself. It was more of this straight way of living. It wasn’t real,” he says. “It always took other people to show me something was possible.”

By painting messages of hope, peace and self-love on his designs, Salazar hopes to make others feel a sense of self-acceptance. “Maybe I could inspire a kid here who’s in whatever situation to want to do something too,” Salazar says. “I feel like it’s a little bit harder to do things here because it doesn’t seem like it’s possible—it’s easier when you know someone is from the same part of town as you or the same city, and you see them do something cool.”

Even Salazar’s look has a celebratory, exuberant feel. He ornaments his long dreadlocks with hints of gold in the form of beads or tiny spoons. He often incorporates leopard print into his ensembles and wears small peach-rimmed glasses. He has a naturally stylish, soft-spoken vibe, so you’re always leaning in because you want to hear what he’s saying. There’s something inherently peaceful about him, and maybe a little hint of Cheech and Chong.

Salazar says his look and design skills come from his skateboarding lifestyle. “I started noticing skateboarders had their own sense of self-expression,” he says. “They had their own individuality.”

As any skater knows, the sport isn’t easy on clothing. “My clothes started ripping really fast, and I couldn’t afford clothes, so I just decided I would learn how to sew my pants back together,” Salazar tells SFR. “I didn’t think they were really fashionable or anything. I was just trying to fix my clothes.”

Salazar’s friends and fellow skaters noticed the mending, and a pair of white pants with leopard print patches spawned his first commission for a friend in 2016. “I was super excited that somebody liked something that I did,” he says. “I had made some other pants. … My friend who’s into fashion saw me skateboarding in them in a video, and she wanted me to make shorts like the same design,” he says. And thus, Happy Loco was born.

Few designers have so successfully created hand-painted designs or reconstructed new garments from outdated ones. Many end up looking like 1980s disasters. But Happy Loco pieces embrace a future-punk aesthetic that feels as natural as Salazar does. Most feature simple symbols like eyes and flowers, or empowering messages like “be weird” and “happy loco por vida.” Some items make political statements, like the infamous red “Make America Great Again” hats—Salazar drew a bold line through the last two words and replaced them with (you guessed it) “happy loco”; or the fuzzy leopard jacket featuring an anti-pipeline patch he brought back from his trip to Standing Rock.

Before he was a designer, Salazar dabbled in public art, making social statements. Like the time he took a ton of chalk to the Central New Mexico Community College campus and drew a cross, heart, peace sign and skateboard figure (symbols he now frequently incorporates into his designs) next to the words “What makes you happy?”

According to Salazar, “Once I was writing it on the floor, people started telling me [what made them happy] and interacting with [the work], and I was really surprised.”

Such interest pushed Salazar to further pursue happiness as a topic in his work. “Eventually I started photographing people and asking them what makes them happy,” he says, adding that he wants wearers to “feel happy, confident, beautiful, to stand out; I really just want people to feel confident in expressing themselves and expressing their deepest darkest demons or their greatest feelings.”

The brand wouldn’t exist without what Salazar calls his “yin and yang,” which is the balance between the positive being he’s become and “where I came from, that whole loco kind of gang-culture stuff.”

You can experience Salazar and his happy-vibe in person this Saturday at Galaxy’s CD release party, as he live-paints an outfit and displays his post-punk-creative process.

To see more of Salazar’s work, check his website www.happyxloco.com or, if you want a Happy Loco piece of your own, his Etsy shop (etsy.com/shop/HappyLoco). There are options for all genders, awesome unisex overalls and the majority of his designs are one-of-a-kind.

He says the Happy Loco aesthetic is “something from the future, maybe.” We say, most definitely.



Sounds Like Primal Feat. Perkulat0r, Soohan and Galaxy
8 pm Saturday April 29. $20-$50.
Meow Wolf,
1352 Rufina Circle,
395-6369


 

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