PORTRAIT XIII

CARLA FERNANDEZ & PEDRO REYES MEXICO CITY

Much of the time, things go fast — often too fast. Sometimes though, as we very well experienced during 2020 and 2021 – and not only for the worst reasons – things also go slow. Might such a duality indeed be the flow and fabric of life? A way and material of least resistance that exists (or more truthfully, ‘survives’… possibly even ‘thrives’?!) somewhere in the perfectly imperfect middle of absolute calm and absolute chaos? A year ago, during a fleeting bright patch in the thick of the pandemic, Salle Privée sent photographer Dariusz Jasak to meet up with the artist-designer and many-other-hatted mom and dad creative duo, Carla Fernández and Pedro Reyes. Although frequently travelling the world (when regulations, pandemics and even wars generally do permit), their home base, or ‘work base’ rather, is their family and community home where they live with their daughter and son in the heart of Mexico City.

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The house is a magnificently self-crafted brutalist abode, of which words do zero justice when attempting to describe. It is raw yet modernist, hard-walled yet deep-breathing, timeless yet time-filled… Essentially, it lives as a designer’s dream come true, and one which you can enjoy a further glimpse of HERE. To quote Pedro: “We call our style Future Caveman. It’s a bit humorous, but it's a mix of brutalism and local craftsmanship. We like mixing concrete and stone.”

Not only does the house exist as home of Carla, Pedro and their children, but it also serves as a place of work and residence for a number of other artisans, collaborators and visitors, of which there are always many. One of the key characteristics of the house is its extensive library. Pedro explains: “Our library is composed of 25 000 volumes, which are organised systematically and because of that, I spend several hours every day sorting out and organising the bookshelves, which is a therapeutic activity for me and a meditation, and perhaps a little bit of exercise since I have to be going up and down the stairs for 3 hours to put every book where it belongs. Two years ago, our library became a lending library through the Instagram page @tlacuilobiblioteca where we post book recommendations and people can ask for the book and collect it at our place, then return it once they are finished using it. Currently, we have 500 users.”

Besides marvelling at their incredible home, and creative space, and library, the main reason – of course – that Salle Privée wanted to connect with the couple was to take a brief dive into their world of art and design. While Salle Privée’s core aesthetic influences stem from the retro-futuristic world of 70’s high-design, the brand considers it vitally important to keep a finger on the pulse of all contemporary tastes, visions and talents. One unfailing method of gaining precious insight to the world of modern and contemporary design is through hosting casual conversations with a selection of artists, entrepreneurs and creative polymaths whom Salle Privée names its Ambassadors.

Carla Fernández is both a person and a fashion house based in Mexico City. Both the woman and the brand are dedicated to preserving and revitalising the textile legacy of the indigenous and mestizo communities of Mexico. Both her own and the brand’s vision in regards to manual methods proves that ethical fashion can be innovative, avant-garde and progressive. An agency of change and innovation, bringing new meaning to luxury fashion, the Carla Fernández team travels the throughout Mexico visiting communities of artisans who specialise in handmade textiles and centuries-old indigenous techniques.

“The approach of the brand to these communities is contributing to sustaining ancient indigenous techniques and the people who collaborate with it.”

Carla Fernández works in creative and productive collaboration with artisans in each project, and techniques such as embroidery or manual weaving are an integral part of the design and production of new pieces and collections. In 2013, Carla was one of 11 globally awarded Amsterdam-based Prince Clause Awards, which recognises artists whose cultural actions have a positive impact on the development of their communities.

There is much to learn about Carla’s work (an excellent start being her website which houses rich and meticulous documentation of her projects) and it is all entirely fascinating, educating and inspiring – reading that comes highly recommend. Central to her projects is the preservation of local traditions and craftsmanship. Of particular interest are her brand philosophy of “Tradition is the future” and a key concept she calls “The Square Root”.

“Square Root a system that I use to make our clothing. It is based on the indigenous Mexican patterning that is based on squares and rectangles, because thats the way the textiles come out of the loom – and because the textiles aren’t cut with scissors, so they tend to be exposed over the body as they come. That’s why the silhouettes of the indigenous Mexican garments are very geometrical, following the square and rectangle line. When the Spanish came and conquered Mexico, there was a mix between the Western patterning that follows curves of the body, while in the Mexican way of clothing, it’s more that you show the textiles and the body is inside these beautiful shapes – so you can sort of see the embroidery as an open book.”

“In the Mexican way of clothing, it’s more that you show the textiles and the body is inside these beautiful shapes.”

“The philosophy that we have is that the future is handmade. We believe that it should continue like this. It’s been thousands and thousands of years through evolution. Take for example the loom… A loom today is still being made the same way as 3 000 years ago, and from that machine, that artefact, you can pretty much have a view of a very complex series of developments in humanity. With the loom, you can count and brocade – which is making drawings with ones and zeros, the same way computers work. If you trace it with industrial revolution, significant moments in humanity’s time can be mapped through the looms. People tend to believe that fashion is very superficial, but it’s not – its very complex and all the mechanisms and utensils needed to weave are very complex, and that’s just a part of the history of humanity. It’s a very big part of humanity.”

“People tend to believe that fashion is very superficial, but it’s not – its very complex and all the mechanisms and utensils needed to weave are very complex, and that’s just a part of the history of humanity. It’s a very big part of humanity.”

Carla has recently been executing a number of interesting experiences in parallel to her fashion work. These experiences involve artists and collaborators of all kinds, and see an array of performances and creative expositions. “Its more than experiences – we work very hard, many many people work very hard in the fashion industry… the artisans, the sales people, administration, buyers, seamstresses, the people making the samples, cutting, graphic design… and when you have a traditional catwalk the models walk very fast and you don’t see the clothing. You don’t see the clothing with more time needed. We understand that making clothing takes a lot of time – a lot of time – and seeing the models passing very fast was not aligned with what we wanted to do, that’s why we started to make collaborations with dancers, performers, and incorporate political statements, because we also understand that fashion is also one of the most important statements of us as a human races, so it can be very political, poetic, very visual… So all those many layers that fashion explores, we wanted to offer them as well, as experiences and as performances, to show, slowly and with other arts involved.”

While rendering vastly different outputs from each other, one similarity that can be notes between both Carla’s and Pedro’s artistic, creative and even research-driven pursuits, is a conversation between the traditional/ancient and the modern/contemporary.

Pedro Reyes is a Mexican artist who primarily uses sculpture, architecture, video, performance and participation. His works aim to increase individual or collective agency in social, environmental, political or educational situations, and he has subsequently garnered international attention for large-scale projects that address current social and political issues. Through a varied practice utilising sculpture, performance, video, and activism, Pedro Reyes explores the power of individual and collective organisation to incite change through communication, creativity, happiness and humour. “Currently, I am about to open two large museum surveys, one at the MARCO Museum in Monterrey and another in Marta Herford in Germany, which are a revision of 25 years of work. I’m always working on new projects but I have had to make a stop in order to organise the work that I have done in the past, which has also been a very interesting experience.””

Salle Privée’s founder Patrick Munsters in fact bought an art piece from Pedro over 10 years ago – naturally, we had two enquire about the particular piece: Disarm, 2013

“Disarm is a series of musical instruments made with weapons. I was interested in turning an agent of that into an agent of life, and how through sculpture you can change the polarity of matter.”

Time spent with Carla and Pedro is an honour and truly full of revelation and richness to ponder – especially while sitting in the mesmerising setting and functioning stage of creative and community that is their home. Briefly, while once again allowing ourselves to continue observe and admire the power and beauty of the space, we ask Pedro what else he loves about where the couple lives:

“I really like the cultural environment. There is always something to see in the many museums across the city. Lately, there has been a number of galleries that have quadrupled. I also like second-hand bookshops, so something I enjoy doing is taking my bike to go around my neighbourhood to all the bookstores to find inspiration for new projects.”

“Slowly and involved…” – taking the moment, we think back to some of Carla’s words, concepts and observations; we think back to the loom, and to humanity’s journeys, doings and even its many overcomings during the past thousands of years; we think of this home, these walls, Pedro’s sculptures, and the in-house library; we think of the concept of community; we think of the world, of ourselves and of now… “Slowly and involved” – it definitely seems like a way.