Wednesday, 24 December 2014


Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer: A Passion for Radical Design and Community at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston

headware by artist Pedro Reyes

a series of publications including Carla Fernandez: The Barefoot Designer: A Handbook

a timeline of Carla's life and work

activation of the clothing in dance performance by Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener

an indigenous textile weaving workshop in the garden

Carla Fernandez, at her exhibition at the Isabella Gardner Museum

Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer:
A Passion for Radical Design and Community
April 17 to September 1st, 2014

Carla Fernández: The Barefoot Designer: A Passion for Radical Design and Community explored the traditions and techniques of indigenous Mexican artisans and how they can be applied to modern fashion and styles.

Carla Fernández has gained international recognition for her extraordinary approach to documenting and preserving the rich textile heritage of Mexico's indigenous communities by transforming it into beautiful contemporary clothing, and proving tradition is anything but static.

This first-ever fashion exhibition at the Gardner Museum explored the development of a new language in visual design that Fernández has built over two decades. She used a method called "the Square Root" based on the Mexican tradition of making clothing from squares and rectangles. This process emphasizes forms of fabric and delicate, thoughtful construction based on whole fabric, as opposed to cutting in curves and molding to the body.

The Barefoot Designer was multi-faceted exhibition consisting of garments, textiles, drawings, photographs, performance, video, workshops and source materials demonstrating Fernández's multi-layered design process. A key component of that process is her design workshop Taller Flora, a mobile laboratory that collaborates with Mexico's indigenous communities, a sustainable business model based on close collaboration with and recognition of local knowledge and talent. During her career, Fernández has worked with many indigenous communities throughout Mexico. The exhibition highlighted the styles and techniques of five states: Chiapas, Yucatan, Campeche, the State of Mexico and Mexico City.

Mobility and collaboration could be seen and felt throughout the exhibition: in its installation, multiple films and monthly dance performances, as well as workshops for the public. The garments and mannequins were positioned on life-sized, mobile displays. Fernández also activated the garments through a live and filmed dance performance by dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, bringing to life the notion of "clothing as canvas." The exhibition included short process videos of weavers, embroiderers, and carpenters by photographer and filmmaker Ramiro Chaves, as well as fashion films produced by Chaves in New York City, Boston and Mexico City. A series of fashion photos by photographer Graciela Iturbide will be on view. A large workshop table added a hands-on visitor experience to the exhibition, with a variety of workshops scheduled. Fernández ran a two-day clothing workshop as well as workshops with the Gardner's School and Community Partnership Programs.

"I want people to understand that you can find happiness many different ways, and one way is by creating goods by hand and making things unique to the artist," Fernández said. "Discovering the process helps people to understand how these different worlds work, because you fall in love with the artisan, and then you fall in love with the piece. You can create a whole economy based on the artists, and how their work is made."

Carla Fernández (b. 1973 Mexico) has developed a successful enterprise wherein the fashion industry and the handmade crafts of Mexico become compatible. The driving force of her strategy consists of reinterpreting the complex system of Mexican indigenous clothing through direct cooperation with artisans. She has conducted over 10 years of research in which she cataloged hundreds of garment designs, including ancient Mayan and Aztec designs and other pre-Hispanic traditions, some at risk of being lost. As a result of this comprehensive research, she founded Taller Flora A.C., a traveling workshop laboratory that partners with communities throughout Mexico—especially women cooperatives that produce handmade textiles and clothing—to preserve these designs. Carla Fernández's label have a fresh and innovative style relying on this untapped inventory of techniques, translating them into two lines of clothing to ensure a steady enterprise: couture to accommodate the slower techniques, and a prêt-a-porter line of mass-produced items using these designs and motifs.

This innovative system has allowed Fernández and her workshop to integrate as many as 1,000 artisans while keeping pace with the speed of fashion. By supporting their immense creativity, handwork and ideas, she seeks to prevent the extinction of the Mexican textile tradition, while meeting the demands of the market. The artist believes that only radical contemporary design will prevent the extinction of craftsmanship. In 2010, Carla Fernandez was listed by Quién magazine as one of the 50 people who bring Mexico forward, and has been recognized as “Young Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year” by the British Council. In 2013, Ms. Fernandez is one of 11 worldwide 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.

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