AKNA, the rising fashion brand known for resurrecting the early 2000s glam tabloid– an aesthetic marked by low-rise jeans, dazzling accessories and clutter – has only one rule: you make it, you wear it. It may seem like an impossible slip for garments often made of chain mail and beaded glass, bandaged with fringe and feathers and thousands of Swarovski crystals. But for Mexican designer Aidan Euan, the vision for any piece begins and ends with his wife-muse-business partner, Jenn Euan.
“I would never do anything she wouldn’t wear,” the 30-year-old designer says. “The purpose of the brand is for people who look like me, people who have had similar experiences, to see themselves reflected in them.”
An immigrant from Mérida, Yucatán, the fashion designer didn’t graduate from grade 12 — much less design school — but he became the definitive creator of the Y2K revival of handcrafted stage looks for Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrusand St. Vincent and equip larger-than-life characters with The Kardashians for RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“We’re Y2K but not the Y2K everyone thinks,” he says, quick to distinguish between 2000s style in America and Mexico, his main source of reference. Mexican pop culture in the late 90s and early 2000s was grittier and more ostentatious, epitomized by the era naughty telenovelasmusic videos and a strong sense of drama – a fantasy upon a fantasy.
“There are also many more nortenawhich translates to western wear, seen in southern Texas and northern Mexico,” Aidan adds.
To set the record straight, in a career move that combines fashion and music, the duo transform into pop stars whom they dress with the release of their new music video, “Algo En Tí”, a thrilling portrait of rhythms and seductive melodies that colored the soundtracks of their youth. True to their DNA, the merch includes an actual (!) CD-ROM and t-shirts for the stans, dubbed the “Jenn-erators.”
“The video tells how jenn and me work, and how she really brings the brand to life – there is no AKNA without her,” says Aidan. “But there’s also the story of my mother’s influence.”
When the designer was a boy, he suspected his mother of being a featured, or Mexican showgirl. No one told him, but he put two and two together after watching cabareteras on TV and see the same sequined tiaras and dresses her mother displayed in a display case in the living room. He gleaned a sense of calculated femininity and alluring pomp from watching his mother get ready, helping her brush her curls or match her eyeshadow shoes to the handbag. Turns out she wasn’t a featured-but the local beauty queen of their small port town of Telchac, and a single mother who worked odd jobs as a seamstress and baker to support her two sons.
Aidan traces the origins of this obsession with glamor in the video “Algo En Tí” – bringing together memories of his mother’s hand-sewn carnival costumes, Mexican films of the golden age and cumbia melodies of the his grandfather’s guitar. Along with Jenn, the two traveled to Texas to shoot the music video with director Londonn Corpás and Camp Lucky Productions, who were AKNA fans and worked on a voluntary basis. “It was a big scare to fly as an immigrant for the first time since moving to Southern California in the mid-2000s, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity,” he says.
Behind the scenes of the shooting of AKNA’s “Algo en Tí” music video.
For Jenn, paying homage to Aidan’s mother and the women in her family, as well as 2000’s Mexican pop stars like Paulina Rubio and stars 70s and 80s, guided her on a kind of autopilot on set. “The merging of influences has really helped me connect with my body and when it comes to telling part of our story,” she says.
If “Akna” is the Mayan goddess of fertility, then AKNA is the divine female incarnation. Each silhouette and signature informs her Latinx and LGBTQ+ identity, destined to carve out a place in the fashion industry for people like them. That’s why Aidan kept Jenn, a Mexican-American, as the face of the company while she also manages the commercial side.
“There have been times when we shoot a campaign until 2am and Jenn has to work the next day and she’s super tired, but I’m like, there’s no one else to tell our story, no one else who understands where we come from and what we create,” he says.
Aidan’s guiding principle of WWJW (What would Jenn Wear?) paid off in 2016 when he asked Colombian singer Kali Uchis to build a bespoke all crystal find her. Kali Uchis then introduced him to fellow Angeleno Alexa Demie. The actress, who plays Maddy Perez on HBO Euphoriamade headlines wearing her Swarovski encrusted G-string design on the red carpet and then enlisted him for his character’s official winter outfit in the first season finale. He worked with the show’s costume designer Heidi Bivens on the two piece transparent sparkly– an homage to Rose McGowan’s black beaded “naked dress” from the 1998 VMAs – with a matching birdcage veil and ostrich-feather shrug.
Aidan returned for season two to help design nine looks Euphoria– this time, with the pre-shoot scripts to turn Maddy’s narrative into wardrobe. He imagined it in head-to-toe visions of Y2K glory, each with its own Easter egg of the era’s trends: hand-painted designer leather bags– a nod to Takashi Murakami’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton – with butterflies and scorpions inspired by Durango; a matching lavender set who played second fiddle to a pair of rhinestone tattoos with titty paw prints, to the Eve; 2000s era baby tank tops, going out tops and leather stitched leg cuffs.
And of course, that dress—a bodycon cut out NYE participation with matching Lycra fingerless gloves that set the tone for the mayhem and ribaldry to follow later in the season. Over 19 million viewers tuned in and the dress sold out immediately (as with most of her items on The online store.)
“We named this dress ‘The Damien’, after Alexis Arquette’s gothic character in Bride of ChuckyAidan says of her take on the little black dress, styled with lace-up heels, 3-inch acrylics, silver hoops and a zigzag headband.
Because with Maddy, like with Jenn, like with Aidan’s mom, the sum of the fit is always greater than its parts. Look for AKNA DNA in the details: every French tip, eyeliner wing and Swarovski crystal is based on the fashion brand, which at its core is a love story, rooted in Mexico and handcrafted in Los Angeles.