What does “slow” fashion look like? A revolutionary Mexican haute couture designer shows how it’s done in Carla Fernandez Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto, on display at the Denver Art Museum through October 16.
As a young woman, Carla met and got to appreciate Mexico’s indigenous communities as she traveled with her father, a renowned anthropologist. She loved collecting hand-made indigenous garments reflecting the distinct local styles she saw.
As a student of art history and fashion design, the complex indigenous textile techniques in these out-of-the way communities seemed to stand in contrast to the ever-changing, always-disposable cycle of Western fashion.
Why not use these indigenous “haute couture” techniques for a high-fashion collection? Why not create a mix-and-match aesthetic using traditional, geometric shapes? Why not credit the artists?
As presented in her first-ever museum retrospective, the results are dramatic, detailed, intriguing, and one-of-a-kind – a completely different kind of fashion system that incorporates indigenous work, pays and credits community makers, and gives artisans the time to create pieces that collectors cherish.
Carla travels to mountain and desert communities to collaborate with textile artists.
With her fame growing, communities now invite her to drive over, see what they’re doing and brainstorm about potential collaborations. It’s an approach that involves time, dialogue, and mutual respect between the artisans and Carla-as-fashion-facilitator.
In her mobile studio (Taller Flora), they create hand-woven, dyed, and painted works of wearable art that Carla brings to the runway, but always with an eye toward collectors who value innovative, indigenous craft traditions.
The exhibition features runway looks, accessories, and videos of performance art that showcase different facets of her fashion manifesto – that artisan-made is the true “luxury” in a “fast fashion,” throw-away world.
Fiesta masks, leather caballero fretwork, whimsical basket-purses, and fuzzy handmade pom-poms provide home-grown Mexican flair to the cinched, draped, easy ensembles.
Take a look through our Flickr album, and enjoy this video of the installation at Denver Art Museum:
Every section of the exhibition demonstrates her commitment to stimulating innovation and creativity among indigenous makers.
As of 2022, Carla’s collaborated with more than 164 artisans in 39 communities in 15 Mexican states, with more to come. The show presents a map and identifies all of her collaborators.
To see and hear more about Carla’s collaborative process, watch the Denver Art Museum’s 2019 seminar on culture, cultural appropriation, and fashion in this YouTube video.
And join in on Carla’s beautiful, expressive fashion revolution by checking out her current and past collections on her website.