Taller Flora founded by Carla Fernandez, is a fashion label and a mobile laboratory that travels throughout Mexico visiting indigenous communities creating hand made textiles and garments. With a base of artisans, Taller Flora has an innovative business model with its own fair trade network and set of environmental policies to foster responsible practices in fashion. Having developed pedagogy for artisans to communicate through design, Fernandez’s philosophy is that tradition is not static and fashion is not ephemeral. Believing that “only radical contemporary design will prevent the extinction of craftsmanship”
Born on the northern border of Mexico close to Texas, Fernandez inherited the habit of shopping at malls and Salvation Army stores across the border, from her mother. Her father, the director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, traveled all over Mexico with Fernandez, who would spend hours looking at local indigenous clothing, trying to find traditional items to incorporate into her own wardrobe. Standing out in high school because of how she dressed, she continued to experiment with mixing traditional Mexican clothing and Western.
Studying construction at an Indigenous clothing museum, she realized that almost all traditional, indigenous clothing was made exclusively of squares or rectangles, a form of construction diametrically opposed to her fashion school education. Ancient Mexican patterning has an elaborate system of pleats, folds and seams used to construct a vast array of garments using squares and rectangles only. Contemporary indigenous clothing developed its own system of assembly, a kind of “cloth origami”. Connecting her interest for geometric clothing construction with her studies in fashion design and in art history, Fernandez soon realized her dream of working with indigenous communities, when she was asked to teach dressmaking at a traveling craft-design schools for the Institute of Folk Cultures.
Every two months, Fernandez traveled to different indigenous communities to study the way they make clothes. On each trip, she would make new discoveries about the square geometry of indigenous dressmaking patterns. These patterns were copied and catalogued with the aim of creating a compendium of formal solutions that are valuable additions to our own design language, while developing items for her own collection in collaboration with the artisanal groups. One of Fernandez’s missions is to enhance artisans’ creativity based on methods of their own by using processes that are familiar to them. This pedagogy also helps establish ties with different cooperatives and strengthen networks that function on the basis of fair trade and environmentally friendly materials.
Garments combining craft processes with in-house design, form part of her demi-couture collection, while her prêt-à-porter line features industrial processes and materials with only certain specific handcrafted details. Allowing her to produce enough garments to supply stores, while offering a more extensive line of clothing and ensuring that the cooperatives she collaborates with have constant work.
The winner of the British Council’s International Young Fashion Entrepreneur Award, Carla continues to expand the ways in which she interprets indigenous design.