Carla Fernández spent her residency in July 2013 immersing herself in Isabella Stewart Gardner’s collection of textiles. She could be found taking photographs in the galleries and talking with Textile Conservator Tess Fredette, or in the Poorvu Family Conservation Center looking at laces, embroideries, and clothing that are not on view to the public. She examined Gardner’s travel scrapbooks from Asia and Italy, as well as guest books and dealer receipts. She also looked at views of the Gardner’s Beacon Street house, Green Hill house in Brookline and the Museum taken by Thomas Marr and his son between 1900 and 1929. In October, she returned as a presenter for the panel The Art of Fashion/The Fashion of Art, part of the 2013 Conference on International Opportunities in the Arts.
During this time, she also worked at the Museum in preparation for her 2014 exhibition, Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer — A Passion for Radical Design and Community. The show explored the traditions and techniques of indigenous Mexican artisans and how they could be applied to modern fashion and styles. It was a multi-faceted exhibition consisting of garments, textiles, drawings, photographs, performance, video, workshops, and source materials demonstrating her multi-layered design process. During the exhibition she organized several workshops and master classes. Dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener were commissioned to create a series of works for the gallery that used clothing and other elements Fernandez provided to them. An app—Fashion@ISGM, available on iTunes and Android—was created to document the exhibition. Fernandez presented her Spring/Summer 2015 collection during 2014 Boston Fashion Week in Calderwood Hall and the Museum’s Courtyard. It included fabrics inspired by the Mexican tiles that Isabella Stewart Gardner installed in the Spanish Cloister.
Carla Fernández (b. 1973 Mexico) has developed a successful enterprise combining fashion and the handmade crafts of Mexico. She has worked for over 10 years researching and cataloguing hundreds of garment designs, including ancient Mayan and Aztec designs and other pre-Hispanic traditions, some at risk of being lost. As a result, she founded Taller Flora A.C., a traveling workshop laboratory that partners with communities throughout Mexico—especially women-run cooperatives that produce handmade textiles and clothing—to preserve these designs. She manufactures two lines of clothing to ensure a steady workflow: couture to accommodate the slower techniques, and prêt-à-porter for mass-produced items. This innovative system has allowed Fernández and her workshop to provide work for as many as 1,000 artisans while keeping pace with the speed of fashion. 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.
In 2010, Carla Fernandez was listed by Quién magazine as one of the 50 people who are bringing Mexico forward, and was recognized as “Young Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year” by the British Council. In 2013, Ms. Fernandez was one of 11 recipients of the Prince Claus Award, based in Amsterdam, which recognizes artists whose cultural actions have a positive impact on the development of their societies. She has had solo exhibitions at Museo Jumex in Mexico City; Heath Ceramics in San Francisco; Sifa the O.P.E.N. Festival in Singapore; and collective exhibitions at The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York; Palacio de Iturbide; and Museo Amparo in Mexico City, among others.