Conversations: Faviola Anaya Esquivel | Varyer

Conversations: Faviola Anaya Esquivel

In your mind’s eye, conjure up the image of your first heartbreak.

How would you depict it?

Is it beautiful?


Faviola Anaya Esquivel, a Chicago-born Mexican American fashion designer, finds beauty in her most formative-yet-challenging life experiences. Her first two fashion collections for her brand Favilinda, made while they were a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, were based around the concepts of heartbreak and loss of innocence. “The collections are adult themes translated through a childlike lens,” she says.

Esquivel modeling a look from their first collection.

These darker inspirations may not be apparent by looking at Esquivel’s work: dreamy and nostalgic, her designs seem to be plucked from a fanciful, utopian world. But her intentional detailing reveals just how intimate and personal these collections are to her own struggles.

Esquivel’s interest in fashion design was spurred at the age of seven, after watching Project Runway online with her brother. “The first episode I ever watched was where they brought in dogs, and the designers not only had to make a dress for the model, but they had to make one for the dog—a matching outfit,” they explain. “And that really inspired me.” She then attempted to make an outfit for her own childhood dog, a white Maltese named Toby. From there, she moved from stapling to gluing to sewing fabrics together, after her mother showed her how to sew.

Their brand’s name, Favilinda, was also passed on from her mother in the form of a childhood nickname: Favi, from Faviola, and linda, the Spanish word for pretty. The name reinforces the brand's themes of subjective experience and nostalgia, while also having the benefit of subtly alluding to Esquivel’s name.

A portrait of a model wearing a green carpet around their neck and a white, flowing dress with red accents.

A look from Esquivel's first fashion collection, entitled Love Me.

The Love Me collection was their first, and Esquivel didn’t shy away from the emotional vulnerability that is now a signature feature of her work. Borrowing visual motifs from her stuffed animals and the ever-comforting couch from her childhood home, the collection was her way of processing heartbreak. The skirt of one dress functions as a comforter, another coat doubles as a couch cover.

In her couch coat look, a mossy green neckpiece juts out from the bust of the white-and-red gown—almost resembling a medieval gorget, a garment intended for the protection of the neck and chest. The visual reference is fitting for a young artist struggling with heartbreak. Upon closer inspection, the gown is embellished with the familiar "ty" tags from Beanie Babies, hand-written messages, and lipstick-kiss marks.

“[The collection] was inspired by my childhood toys and what my childhood play area looked like,” Esquivel says. “One of the things that was very integral to my childhood experience was this forest green carpet. I've always loved rugs and carpets—it's probably because of my sense of tactility as a kid.”

It's only appropriate that Esquivel made much of this first collection out of materials they were able to find around their home. She repurposed bedsheets, linens, and pillowcases, elevating the looks even further with the models' evocative styling: tear-blurred mascara contrasts with doll-like dots of pink blush.

and where everybody lives happily, ever, after and where everybody lives happily, ever, after

For her senior thesis, Esquivel continued to look inward for inspiration. For the fantasy Collection, she channeled her feelings of disillusionment into a lush visual fantasy full of ethereal shimmer, soft color, and soft forms. From her own writing about the collection, she articulates her inspiration from Disney films and other forms of idealistic fiction:

where the under dog always wins,
where kids never grow up,
where a pegasus flies in the sky;

and where everybody lives

After graduating, Esquivel was anxious about death.

They had, at twenty-two years old, reached the age where they were able to process their feelings as close family members passed away. To work through these changes, Esquivel took out her sketchbook and began to draw. Spirals, numbers, tears, and hourglasses filled the pages. These were the beginnings of their newest fashion collection, which is inspired by her own thoughts around aging, death, and the passage of time. She felt drawn back to the animated film Alice in Wonderland—relating not only to Alice, but also to the White Rabbit's concerns over time's relentless forward march: I'm late, I'm late!

As they page through the initial sketches for the new collection, Esquivel looks wistful. “I don't have the same visceral kind of reaction as I did when I drew these,” they say. “Maybe that's because this process allowed me to release some of that pent up . . . not frustration, but sorrow.”

Now, Esquivel is actively working on her third collection, inspired by those initial sketches. Using materials like clear vinyl and wire, these new looks create literal hourglass silhouettes to channel the original concept of time slipping away. The same visual motifs from Esquivel's sketchbooks serve as embellishments to the looks: studded beads of tears, numbers cascading at the bottom of a golden skirt.

As an independent designer, Esquivel usually works alone: designing, illustrating, cutting, sewing, and fitting all on their own. As a result, the process is much more time consuming than it is for the usual seasonal churn of the mainstream fashion world. They hope to complete the collection next year, but there are a lot of practical factors that get in the way. When asked about how it feels to process such intense feelings over an extended period of time, she explains that the ultimate catharsis is worth the significant time and effort.

“That whole idea that's been in your head, you're releasing it. And you're making this pretty thing for other people to interpret. It's very therapeutic.”

They're running a Gofundme campaign to fund the purchase of high-quality materials, renting a future studio space to photograph the collection, and covering other necessary costs. She's also currently taking commissions for work including dresses, jackets, corsets, bags, and jewelry. Some of their accessories are ready-to-ship and available on Depop.

While working on the construction of these new garments, Esquivel is also taking up a relatively new venture: teaching. She teaches sewing to students from sixth to twelfth grade at Marwen, a Chicago-based arts organization that Esquivel herself attended, as well as younger learners at Sew Crafty. “One time I got a letter from a little girl about how she had so much fun making plushies,” they recall. “It's really rewarding.”