Mexico City designer Carla Fernandez brings indigenous crafts to Paris – WWD

Years before Dior artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri collaborated with Mexican artisans on her 2024 cruise collection, Mexico City fashion designer Carla Fernandez highlighted her homeland’s couture-like techniques with her ethical label.

Working with 200 artisans in 16 Mexican states, she designs modern clothing using traditional craftsmanship under her stylish brand.

The gold leather fretwork on the curved sleeves of the cowboy-chic black “Charro” capelet is from Chimalhucan. Carved leather jaguar mask handbags are made in Guerrero’s Nahua culture similar to the „Dance of the Teguans” masks. Colorful fringed cotton tunics have been woven on backstrap looms in Michoacan since pre-Hispanic times. All of these would be at home in Contessa, Mexico City’s „It” neighborhood, or New York’s SoHo.

“Everything is produced in communities and sent to Mexico City, sometimes it goes from one state to another with cross-pollination; So the fabric can be made in the state of Mexico and dyed in Michoacan, or the pompons come from Chiapas, and then we finish the product here. Or sometimes the product is already finished,” she says of her sculptural jumpsuits, Mayan and Aztec symbols, Mexican milagros and other details that she uses to wrap and dress in contemporary ways.

Leather fretwork from Chimalhuacán is incorporated into the work of Carla Fernández, seen here at the Museo Franz Meyer in Mexico City.

This fall, the designer will be the subject of an exhibition titled „Carla Fernandez: The Future is Handmade” at La Galerie du 19M, Chanel’s métiers d’art center in northeast Paris. Open from Tuesday to December 17, it will feature Mexican textile, embroidery, wood and leather artisans alongside French specialist suppliers of embroidery work – some dating back to the mid-19th century; feathers; plissé fabrics; pearls; Boots, and gloves clothing and ready-made houses.

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„Carla Fernandez’s approach to contemporary fashion echoes the territory from which it comes, has universal appeal at the intersection of textiles, craft and visual arts, and resonates particularly with the core interests of 19M and its gallery,” Camille Houtin, director of la Galerie du 19M, says of organizing the exhibition. .

„Home blends craftsmanship with research and practice. It presents a critical and assertive perspective on the ethics and aesthetics of the forms that adorn us. Truly, [she] „Wrote an entire statement on fashion as an act of resistance against uniformity and mass production,” Hudin says, adding that the statement was used as the backdrop for the exhibition.

„For me, fashion and textiles are the first language we communicate,” says Fernandez, whose work has been shown internationally at the Fondation Cartier in Paris, the Denver Art Museum, the Isabel Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and several locations in Mexico. , including the Museo Humex.

Fernandez’s collection, which retails from $29 to $1,309, is available at his three Mexico boutiques and his online store. Her brand is B Corp-certified, achieving the designation of first fashion business in Latin America and mission driven.

Carla Fernandez

„The main objective of this brand is to get artisans to work more in their villages. Because many of them have to change their cultural and manual skills and go to the cities in search of better paying jobs. Then they have to leave the children behind, the 14-year-old takes care of the six- and four-year-olds,” he said. „The goal is to restore dignity to the craft,” he says of the domino effect on society. „If you’re a craftsman, people recognize you in your community, and they respect you because of the money and skills and taking care of traditions that started thousands of years ago.”

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As part of the exhibition, Fernandez collaborated with some French artisans living in 19M. The first part of the exhibition features five pairs of shoes designed with custom shoemaker Massaro, building on its partnership with the Tequan Jaguar family of Najera bags.

Charros hats are reimagined by hatmaker Maison Michel, with spectacularly exaggerated proportions, and glasses are designed by goldsmith Couysens.

„These cultural exchanges allow each party to listen to the other, but also to experience another world in order to understand the uniqueness of one’s own gestures and trades. It is a true conversation of hands,” says Fernandez.

Sipping beer in the stunning Mexico City home she shares with her artist/architect/activist husband Pedro Reyes.

„Mexico has incredible crafts, so it is endless and alive. We have 68 living languages, and after China and India, we are the most culturally aware tribe in the world,” he says. „Mexican crafts are always seen for their beauty. Now I see a trend, Dior is creating it, and it’s a trend that’s growing with collaboration. But 30 years ago in Mexico there was a mix of new contemporary design and artisans, and there were very few people doing designs with artisans, because Mexico has a lot of cultural appropriation.

Carla Fernandez

Born in Saltillo, Coahuila, Fernández started making dance costumes at age 18 and moved into fashion from there. He started his brand in 2002. Acting is an important part of his work, which is often shown in theatrical events and short films.

The pandemic was hard on the designer, who had to close several stores.

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„Our clothing is very playful. … We struggled but it was good because we didn’t have to lay off any employees. We burned through all our savings in those three and a half years we were in business,” he says. „But little by little it’s starting to come back.”

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