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“I spent the first two years of my life in a refugee camp": Swedish stylist Billy Lobos on discovering the power of authenticity

By Sagal Mohammed
Billy Lobos by iga drobis

Photo: Iga Drobisz

The rising star and Fashion Awards nominee has an honest chat to Vogue Scandinavia about the sad realities of elitism and the toxic belief in Eurocentric beauty standards as superior

Swedish-Chilean stylist and creative director Billy Lobos is among the British Fashion Council’s 2021 ‘Ne Wave: Creatives’ line-up for the annual Fashion Awards in London — a career highlight set to elevate his professional status on a global scale. With a decade in the business already under his belt, Lobos is no stranger to the ever-evolving nature of fashion and the cultural landscape. One thing he prides himself in, however, is authenticity — something he has learnt to embrace now more than ever.

“My style describes who I am,” Lobos tells Vogue Scandinavia. “I’m very influenced by my family. My mother is very glam, my dad is a rocker — he always took me to punk concerts growing up — and my sisters love HipHop and R&B, so I’ve taken inspiration from all of them.” Growing up, his biggest muse of all was his uncle, who had a reputation as a powerful gangster in Sweden. “My uncle died eight years ago but he had the best style in the world,” he recalls. “There was no one like him. He would always show up in the craziest outfits, big coats, big jewellery, he had long hair and tattoos all over his body. He is still my biggest inspiration till this day.”

Billy Lobos by iga drobisz

Photo: Iga Drobisz

Lobos was born in a refugee centre in Sweden, where his parents came to seek asylum after leaving conflict in Chile. Growing up, he faced endless othering and discrimination as a Latino in Scandinavia. “I spent the first two years of my life in a refugee camp but it didn’t feel like that to me. My parents called it ‘El Campo’ whenever they’d talk about our time there and I’ve only ever thought of it as this beautiful place, this family house I was born in together with a lot of other Chileans, who to this day are my best friends and consider them as my own family. It was only a few years ago I discovered what El Campo actually was,” he remembers. Having immigrant parents that didn’t speak the language or understand the culture in Sweden made the experience of integrating difficult but Lobos credits this for shaping the individual he is today.

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