AKNA, the rising fashion brand known for resuscitating early 2000s tabloid glam—an aesthetic marked by low-rise jeans, bedazzled accessories, and messiness—has but one rule: you make it, you wear it. This may seem like an impossible brief for clothing often made of chainmail and beaded glass, bandaged in 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’d never make something she wouldn’t wear,” the 30-year-old designer says. “The point of the brand is for people who look like me, people who have similar lived experiences, to see themselves reflected back at them.”
An immigrant from Mérida, Yucatán, the couturier didn’t graduate 12th grade—let alone design school—yet he’s emerged as the definitive designer of the Y2K revival, handcrafting stage looks for Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus, and St. Vincent and outfitting larger-than-life personas from Kardashians to RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“We are Y2K but not the Y2K everybody thinks,” he says, quick to distinguish between noughties style in America versus Mexico, his main source of reference. Mexican pop culture in the late ’90s, early 2000s was grittier and more ostentatious, epitomized by the era’s chintzy telenovelas, music videos, and heightened sense of drama—a fantasy on top of a fantasy.
“There’s also a lot more norteña, which translates to Western wear, seen in southern Texas and northern Mexico,” Aidan adds.
To set the record straight, in a career move that marries fashion and music, the duo is turning into the pop stars they dress with the release of their new music video, “Algo En Tí,” a pulsating portrait of the seductive rhythms and melodies that colored the soundtracks of their youth. True to their DNA, merch includes a real-life CD-ROM (!) and T-shirts for the stans, dubbed the “Jenn-erators.”
“The video tells the story of how Jenn and I work, and how she really brings the brand to life—there is no AKNA without her,” Aidan says. “But there’s also the story of my mom’s influence.”
When the designer was a boy, he suspected his mom was a vedette, or Mexican showgirl. No one told him so, but he put two-and-two together after watching cabareteras on TV and seeing the same tiaras and sequin dresses as the ones his mom displayed in a glass case in the living room. He gleaned a sense of calculated femininity and alluring pageantry from watching his mother get ready, helping her brush out her curls or match her shoes to eyeshadow to purse. Turns out, she was not a vedette—but the local beauty queen of their small port town in Telchac, and a single mother who worked odd jobs like seamstress and baker to support her two sons.
Aidan traces the origins of this obsession with glamour in the “Algo En Tí” video—stitching together memories of his mother’s hand-sewn Carnival costumes, Golden Age Mexican films, and cumbia melodies from his grandfather’s guitar. Together with Jenn, the two traveled to Texas to shoot the music video with director Londonn Corpás and Camp Lucky productions, who were fans of AKNA and worked pro bono. “It was a huge fear, flying as an immigrant for the first time since moving to Southern California in the mid-aughts, but I couldn’t let this opportunity pass by,” he says.
Behind the scenes at AKNA’s “Algo en Tí” music video shoot.
For Jenn, paying homage to Aidan’s mother and the women in her family, as well as Y2K Mexican pop stars like Paulina Rubio and vedettes from the ’70s and ’80s, guided her into a sort of autopilot on set. “The merge of influences really helped me connect to my body and the moment to tell a part of our story,” she says.
If “Akna” is the Mayan goddess of fertility, then AKNA is the divine feminine incarnate. Every silhouette and signature informs its Latinx and the LGBTQ+ identity, meant to carve out space in the fashion industry for people like them. It’s why Aidan has kept Jenn, a Mexican-American, as the face of the company while she also handles the business side.
“There have been times when we’re shooting a campaign until 2 a.m. and Jenn needs 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’re coming from and what we’re creating,” he says.
Aidan’s guiding principle of WWJW (What Would Jenn Wear?) paid off in 2016 when he DM’d Colombian singer Kali Uchis to construct a custom crystal-everything look for her. Kali Uchis then introduced him to fellow Angeleno Alexa Demie. The actress, who plays Maddy Perez on HBO’s Euphoria, made headlines wearing his Swarovski-encrusted G-string design on the red carpet, and later enlisted him for her character’s winter formal getup during the first season finale. He worked with the show’s costume designer Heidi Bivens on the scintillating see-through two-piece—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 contribute designs for nine looks on Euphoria—this time, with the scripts ahead of shooting to transmute Maddy’s narrative into wardrobe. He imagined her in head-to-toe visions of Y2K glory, each with its own Easter egg from the era’s trends: hand-painted designer leather bags—a nod to Takashi Murakami’s early aughts collaboration with Louis Vuitton—with Durango-inspired butterflies and scorpions; a matching lavender set that played second fiddle to a pair of titty paw-print rhinestone tattoos, à la Eve; noughties-era baby tanks, going out tops, and leather-stitched bell bottoms.
And, of course, that dress—a cutout bodycon NYE turnout with matching fingerless Lycra gloves that set the tone for the chaos and ribaldry to follow later in the season. More than 19 million viewers tuned in, and the dress sold out immediately (as with most of his items on the online store.)
“We named that dress ‘The Damien,’ after Alexis Arquette’s Goth character in Bride of Chucky,” Aidan says of his take on the little black dress, styled with lace up heels, 3-inch acrylics, silver hoops, and a zig-zag headband.
Because with Maddy—as with Jenn, as with Aidan’s mother—the sum of the fit is always greater than its parts. Look for AKNA’s DNA in the details: each French tip, eyeliner wing, and Swarovski crystal builds upon the fashion label, which, at its core, is a love story, rooted in Mexico and handmade in Los Angeles.