Contemporary fashion and ancient tradition merged to create a new vision for the fashion world in Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto at the Denver Art Museum. This exhibition is the first to fully examine the work of Mexican luxury fashion designer, Carla Fernández.
The exhibition premiered May 1 and will be on display through Sept. 5 in the Martin Building’s Level 6 Textile Art and Fashion galleries. Access to the exhibition is included in general museum admission.
Designing Tradition For the Future
Fernández’s eponymous brand was established in Mexico City in 2000. Since then, Fernández has been an agent of social change in the luxury fashion industry.
The couture house is dedicated to reviving the historical textile designs of indigenous Mexican communities. Fernández had a vision for ethical fashion to embrace innovation while also sustaining ancient indigenous techniques. Through the fashion house’s traveling studio, the Taller Flora mobile laboratory, the brand’s team travels throughout Mexico to meet communities of artisans.
The fashion house collaborates with these master artisans, who specialize in handmade textiles and indigenous techniques, which have been transmitted from generation to generation through oral history. The techniques learned from artisan communities, such as manual weaving or embroidery, are then integrated into Fernández’s new pieces and collections.
“Every culture has its own way to work with clothing and I think that’s very interesting,” Fernández said. “I love to translate that through our collections.”
Fernández’s love for both fashion and history developed early in her life. Her father used to be a director of anthropological museums throughout Mexico. As a girl, Fernández witnessed the style of indigenous Mexican communities and found her inspiration.
“I was looking at the people that live in the indigenous communities and I said, this is fashion. These women and these men know how to dress and how to express themselves,” Fernández said.
To unify sacred tradition with creative innovation through fashion design, Fernández prioritizes having a good working relationship with her collaborators.
“In order to teach, we have to learn,” she said about the collaborative process. “It’s very important to go and meet your collaborators and understand them.”
Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto
Florence Müller, Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Fashion at the Denver Art Museum, met Fernández for the first time while she was in Mexico City for work. She was immediately impressed by Fernández because of her unique artistic process.
With the exhibition, Müller wanted to communicate to museum visitors that fashion can say more than surface-level aesthetics. “It [fashion] can participate in a way of rethinking the world,” she said.
READ: Florence Müller, Denver Art Museum’s Iconic Curator of Textile Art and Fashion, Departs in May
Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto is segmented into eight sections that follow prominent themes of Fernández’s career, starting with “To Be Original is to Go Back to the Origin.”
The expansive exhibition features objects important to the fashion house’s history, as well as the master artisans it’s in collaboration with. The communities Fernández works with throughout Mexico are displayed on a map for museum visitors. Artisans and their crafts are also highlighted in videos around the exhibition.
The fashion house’s designs are on display throughout the exhibition for visitors to admire. Through rich colors, textures and patterns, each design communicates stories of the past while indicating innovation for the future of fashion.
“The concepts and ideas proposed in Carla’s designs and creations are contemporary and edgy, with warm and thoughtful touches,” Müller said. “She works with ancient patterns which are based on the use of squares and rectangles to create contemporary designs demonstrating—as Fernández says—that tradition is not static.”
Fernández’s husband, Pedro Reyes, designed the galleries for the exhibition using various forms of media and art, including sculptures for the garments to go on. Reyes was a natural fit for the project, as he is a Mexican artist, architect and sculptor. His closeness to Fernández and her artistry also contributed to the authentic style of the exhibition.
“I have to say, the exhibition is like a work of art itself. You are immersed in a visionary world in which the past communicates with the present,” Müller said.
A Pioneer of Ethical Fashion
The exhibition also highlights Fernández’s role as a trailblazer for ethical processes in fashion. Since the conception of her brand, she has stuck to her philosophy that the only way to make fashion is to do the right thing.
“Everyone that is involved in the team or collaboration has to live happily with the income they need to live happily,” Fernández said.
Fernández embraces slowness in her work, which she acknowledges is countercultural to the state of the fast-fashion industry.
“We understand that the artisanal process takes time to learn and time to do,” Fernández said. “And that’s why it’s so beautiful. That’s what you’ll see in the garments.”
The Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto will be on display at the Denver Art Museum through Sept. 5. Tickets are included in general admission and can be purchased at https://tickets.denverartmuseum.org/DateSelection.aspx?item=314.