Designer Ed Mendoza Is Pioneering Fashion’s Next Wave

The recent Central Saint Martins graduate is challenging the industry to enthusiastically embrace plus-sized men and non-binary people.

Interview by Alex Hawgood
Photographs by Amber Pinkerton
Originally Published: 

Ed Mendoza wears an Ed Mendoza jacket and pants; his own sneakers.
Ed Mendoza wears an Ed Mendoza jacket and pants; his own sneakers.

For W’s annual The Originals portfolio, we asked creatives—pioneers in the fields of art, design, fashion, comedy, activism, and more—to share their insights on staying true to themselves. See this year’s full class of creatives here.

You were recently honored with a L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award, a prize given to the most original fashion collections created by graduating members of the Central Saint Martins master’s program class. As a young designer, how does it feel to have your work recognized by the industry?

It’s really emotional. I had worked so hard for months and months and hadn’t slept properly. When I saw my mum as I was walking down the runway, I couldn’t hold it in. I was sobbing. My collection is trying to portray many different things: plus-size guys; the colonization of Peru and the Caribbean, where my parents are from; the subversion of certain shapes. To receive support for stuff like that is really touching and makes me feel like people are trying to change what fashion means.

The collection was textile-heavy and used color in a surrealist, almost cartoonish way. At the same time, your clothes have a serious mission statement: Fashion should also be for men and nonbinary people of all sizes.

The community of plus-size people is big. We are connected with one another and really want to see ourselves be the norm, which means having clothes designed for us in stores and shown in magazines. As a designer, trying to change the status quo of fashion around the sizing of garments is a scary thing. But the audiences of the future exist now.

Ed Mendoza wears an Ed Mendoza jacket and pants; his own sneakers.

People tend to think of clothing sizes and body positivity as women’s issues, but men also wrestle with body image.

Being a plus-size guy myself, I’ve always felt that when I go to a shop, I’m not going to find anything that’s my size. Or if I do find something, it’s not exactly what I want. The fashion gaze of what a man should look like is toned, washboard abs. And maybe, just maybe, there is a “dad bod” as well. The womenswear market is flourishing more with plus sizes.

Do you feel like things are starting to change?

More people get it now. The buyers I have spoken with are really happy and excited to be working with someone who’s plus-size.

Alongside plus-size male models, you often feature nonbinary folks in your presentations. Tell me about your approach to casting.

I found one of my models while riding the Tube. One guy I had gone on a date with, but we stopped talking. I go through Instagram looking for plus-size guys as well. We’re starting to see more plus-size people within agencies. Oh, and I also look at dating apps.

Ed Mendoza wears an Ed Mendoza jacket and shorts; his own sneakers.

Swiping right on Tinder seems like a thoroughly original casting method.

Absolutely. I message guys on apps and tell them, “Hey, I’m a designer and I’m doing this collection.” And then I give them my Instagram to show them my work. It’s quite a good way to see multiple photos of someone, actually.

Speaking of models, you modeled in your graduation show. You walk the walk—literally.

I’ve always felt that if you’re a designer, it’s weird if you don’t wear your own stuff. I want to represent myself within my work. My mum’s from Grenada and Saint Lucia, and my dad’s from Peru. A lot of the imagery and colors in the clothes come from street posters and music flyers and stuff like that from Peru. I am also inspired by psychedelic things, such as cartoons and manga. I’ve always been obsessed with color. I’m just a very colorful person.

Grooming by Nadia Altinbas for Bumble and Bumble and 111skin; photography assistant: Scott Gallagher.

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