Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer
Inspired by traditional Mexican designs, Artist-in-Residence Carla Fernández creates clothing and accessories that are a contemporary take on handcrafted methods and ethical production.
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Growing up with a historian father and a fashion-conscious mother, Fernández appreciated Mexico for its heritage, especially its rich history of textile and fashion design. Rather than creating something outside of her culture, she used traditional shapes and techniques as a jumping off point for new garments. With experience in art history, design, and Mexican apparel, Fernández learned to look at indigenous clothing through an anthropological lens.
Carla Fernández is a pragmatic visionary. She combines an artist’s appreciation of shape, form, and materials with an entrepreneur’s excitement about the market. Fernández built a successful enterprise, Taller Flora A.C., which combines fashion and the handmade crafts of the dozens of regions of Mexico.
Fernández worked for over 10 years researching and cataloguing hundreds of clothing designs, including ancient Mayan and Aztec designs and other pre-Hispanic traditions, some at risk of being lost. She initially founded her company as a traveling workshop laboratory that partners with communities throughout Mexico to preserve these designs.
Many of the local partners that Fernández collaborates with are women-run cooperatives that produce handmade textiles and embroidery. By supporting their creativity, handwork, and ideas, she seeks to prevent the extinction of the Mexican textile tradition, while meeting the demands of the marketplace.
Following her residency, Fernández began to develop her 2014 exhibition, Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer—A Passion for Radical Design with Pieranna Cavalchini, curator, Ramiro Chavez, photographer and filmmaker, and Pedro Reyes, artist. It was a multi-faceted installation consisting of clothing, textiles, masks, photographs, video, workshops, performance, and source materials, demonstrating her highly collaborative design process.
As a way to broaden audience’s understanding and response to fashion, dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener were commissioned to create and perform a series of works incorporating Fernández fashions, masks, and sometimes objects from the gallery.
Fernández returned to present her Spring/Summer 2015 collection in Calderwood Hall and in the Museum’s Courtyard. Many of the looks included fabrics inspired by the Mexican tiles from Peubla that Isabella arranged and installed in the Spanish Cloister.
Weekly workshops included tassel making, embroidery, fashion design, and two intensive backstrap loom workshops with master weavers from Chiapas, Mexico.