An Inside Look with Carla Fernández: Telling the Untold Stories of Mexico

An Inside Look with Carla Fernández: Telling the Untold Stories of Mexico

Carla Fernández (middle) shows new designs to the women artisans

As a fashion designer based in Mexico City whose work has been featured in major fashion magazines like W and Harper’s Bazaar, Carla Fernández has dedicated her career to celebrating and preserving Mexico’s traditions and handcrafts. With her design team, she formed Taller Flora, a mobile fashion laboratory that travels around Mexico to work with indigenous women artisans.

For the last year, Taller Flora has been working in the highlands region of Chiapas in collaboration with Aid to Artisans Mexico. Taller Flora has carried out three workshops with groups of Maya artisans in the municipalities of Chenalhó, Santa Marta, San Juan Cancuc and Aldama to create fashion lines for the Carla Fernandez brand as well as home products and board games to be commercialized by Taller Flora.

Recently, Fernández launched a fundraising campaign, “Taller Flora in Chiapas,” on Ciel/Transformadora that will allow her team to work closely with over 150 artisans on strengthening the creation and production of market ready lines for Carla Fernandez and Taller Flora during one year. The campaign has reached over 50% of its goal, and donations will be accepted until December 18, 2013.

ATA Mexico sat down with Carla Fernández to discuss Taller Flora’s work in the municipalities of Chiapas, and how the fundraising campaign will impact artisans’ lives.

How does ATA assist Taller Flora with its work in Chiapas?

With a direct connection to artisans and a focus on field work, Aid to Artisans helps us with product development follow up and order fulfillment. We work closely with the groups to identify how to build the artisans’ organizational and leadership skills as well as fine tune processes in order to prepare these handmade businesses to work successfully with national and international clients in the future.

Describe Taller Flora’s approach to working with weavers and embroiderers around Mexico.

After studying the DNA of indigenous clothing for many years, we developed a way to utilize methods that are familiar to the artisans to create new designs. We work in remote, impoverished communities that sometimes do not speak Spanish, and we know that in order to teach we first have to learn, especially during workshops. Taller Flora’s approach has been successful in producing results, because the artisans quickly learn how to make clothing using methods that have been in place since pre-Hispanic times.

How will Taller Flora make an impact in the lives of the artisans from the “Taller Flora in Chiapas” fundraising campaign donations?

The goal of this project is to work more closely with over 150 artisans in four communities during a year. We will focus on organizing groups effectively, fine tuning production logistics, perfecting quality control and exploring design elements. By streamlining production and product development processes with the groups, we will be able to work long term with them despite the fact that we are based in far-away Mexico City. Through their work with Taller Flora, the artisans will have a steady income, based on fair wages, which will help them support their families, maintain their traditions and strengthen their ability to grow their client base.

What do you see in the future for the artisans in Mexico?

The future is handmade! Taller Flora’s hybrid private/non-profit model builds capacities while offering economic opportunities. This socially responsible venture fosters collaboration between artisans, designers and entrepreneurs in order to open new markets for handmade businesses. The artisans we work with invest time and energy into making their businesses more effective in exchange for steady work, as well as fair wages and working conditions. Taller Flora will continue to showcase the “behind the scenes” stories of artisanal textile production as well as the efforts artisans make to overcome poverty so that clients understand the value of handmade.