Behind the Label | Carla Fernandez
In Mexico City, Carla Fernández has become the go to designer for those interested in ethically produced fashion that is both directional and sustainable. Her brand, Taller Flora, has become known for collaborating with indigenous communities to create artful clothing using traditional Mexican textiles. Carla works with cooperatives in villages throughout Mexico, organizing workshops that allow artisans to use and expand their skills, and continues to stake her claim in the eco-fashion market, all without compromising style.
1.Tell us a little about the concept behind Taller Flora.
Taller Flora, is a mobile workshop/fashion-laboratory that travels around Mexico visiting indigenous communities, specially women co-ops creators of handmade textiles.
When I started working with groups of indigenous artisans, I realized it would be impossible to teach them Western dressmaking techniques. The first obstacle was language: in a co-op of eight women, it was possible that none or only one of them spoke Spanish, and hence an interpreter was needed. Centimeters and inches were another cultural convention that was sometimes awkward: instead, they used fingers, palms and forearms as measures. At that point I understood that it was natural to use the codes that indigenous people already master; I had to spend an intensive period of time observing their systems to become familiar with them. If I wanted to teach, I first had to learn. This is how a parallel process arose, an organic pedagogy whose basis is above all visual–a hybrid between mimicry and Pop up clothing based on the square patterning. We would show in one community how 40 other ethnic groups around Mexico, use the patterning system of squares and rectangles. As they make their own garments with this same basis, they would observe the possibilities of system and there for make new designs using their own methods in only three or four sessions.
The method has the following advantages:
Artisans are artists. They can introduce changes and invent new styles base don what they know what to do the best, Squares.
If artisans are using a method that is familiar to them, they can create their own prototypes for new garments.
Creative people make original designs. Those who introduce new designs are likely to also improve their businesses.
It also avoids turning co-ops into sweatshops that manufacture other people’s designs.
2. Taller Flora has made a mark in Mexico City and has received worldwide recognition. When did you launch, and did you have any expectations of it becoming well known?
It launched 10 years ago and even though I knew it was a great project that needed to be done and supported I’m really happy that we’ve been able to catch so many people’s eyes and get them interested in this amazing project.
3. You also have a collection under your name, Carla Fernandez. What separates Carla Fernandez from Taller Flora?
It was very important for Carla Fernández as a brand to be separated from Taller Flora. As a brand we promote Mexican fashion design that stands out for its new way of approaching Mexican craftsmanship and prehispanic patternmaking. The brand co-works with Taller Flora to create special designs (Taller Flora designs) but its not based in it. What I wanted to do was a fashion label that could obtain world recognition for its innovative perspective of our Mexican roots and separated from it a non profit project were artisans could be prepared to rescue this craftsmanship and make it a full time job that benefits the communities. Working with all these different ideas and traditions has allowed me to promote not only my work but the community’s work as well.
In Flora’s philosophy, tradition is not static and fashion is not ephemeral. With a growing base of artisans, Taller Flora is also innovating as a business model through its own fair trade network and a set of environmental policies to foster responsible practices in fashion.
4. You are known for working with indigenous communities in Mexico and for producing eco-friendly clothing. How important is that to you, and do you feel that Mexico City is aware and supportive of ethically produced fashion?
I´m sure 'only radical contemporary design will prevent the extinction of craftsmanship’ and this is why I think supporting this idea can lead into a more conscious fashion environment in México. Every second Mexico is becoming more aware of the environmental gaps in our country and there are so many concerned citizens that I think we can actually achieve something greater. For me supporting my country, my traditions and my people is the most important, that’s why I do eco-friendly clothing and support all made in México products.