magical hands

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Just saw this exhibition about mexican clothing designer Carla Fernández.

Few thoughts:
-  the most amazing part was to watch videos of craftswomen and craftsmen all over Mexico, most of them from various indigenous groups, each specializing in a technique of embroidery / dying / weaving / etc. The things people manage to make by hand, with the simplest tools (for example the backstrap loom made of light wooden sticks), are wonderful. I saw felt being chiselled in a way so fine (and so environmentally benign) that it would put any lasercutter to shame.

this thread is marked with a simple wooden roller dipped in color

- Carla Fernandez is a good story teller with an interesting path - even though her process is not in itself that revolutionary (- similar to the luxury goods industry in France for example, Hermes bag model, takes time & costs lots; also similar to Frida Kahlo's approach to clothing), I especially appreciated her going back to time-old mexican rectangular patterns and showcasing her co-designers / makers so prominently.

- unresolved questions:
1. when you produce 'fashion', does that imply a loss of meaning - i.e. the work of these craftsmen becomes decorative / subservient to market aesthetics, whereas traditionally it was infused with meaning? e.g. an asymetric tank top adorned with traditional pompoms

2. despite a discourse valuating crafts and ethics, is subscribing to the codes of current fashion (the exhibit showed mostly skinny, predominantly white models wearing the clothes), while preserving the good old social pyramid (white designer, indigenous labor, hip urban stores & international clientele) really that radical? In this interview Carla Fernandez manages to talk in consecutive sentences about 'a broad responsibility to our planet' and then that her collections are being sold all over the globe ('Mexico, USA, London, and Japan'. hellooo, carbon footprint?).
 photos from

3. what prevents us from wearing the clothes OF the indians directly? without the need to 'adapt' their patterns to something that would be called the 'fashionable' or 'contemporary' world. Historic or traditional clothing can be free and fresh and amazingly contemporary on its own. and sometimes much more functional.

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