Denver Art Museum’s New Exhibit Explores the Work of Mexican Fashion Designer Carla Fernandez

Contemporary fashion and ancient tradition have merged to create a new vision of the fashion world in Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto to Denver Art Museum. This exhibition is the first to fully examine the work of Mexican luxury fashion designer, Carla Fernández.

The exhibit premiered on May 1 and will run through September 5 in the Textile and Fashion Art Galleries on Level 6 of the Martin Building. Access to the exhibition is included in the general admission price of the museum.

Photo by Ben Lambert.

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 fashion house is dedicated to reviving the historic textile designs of Mexico’s indigenous communities. Fernández had a vision for ethical fashion to embrace innovation while maintaining ancient indigenous techniques. Through the itinerant workshop of the fashion house, the Taller Flora mobile laboratorythe brand’s team travels across Mexico to meet artisan communities.

Carla Fernández

Photo by Sandra Blow.

The fashion house collaborates with these master artisans, who specialize in handmade textiles and indigenous techniques, which have been passed down from generation to generation through oral history. Techniques learned from artisan communities, such as hand weaving or embroidery, are then incorporated into Fernández’s new pieces and collections.

“Each culture has its own way of working with clothes and I think it’s very interesting,” Fernández said. “I like to translate that through our collections.”

Carla Fernandez, Denver Art Museum

Photo by Shelby Moeller.

Fernández’s love for fashion and history developed early in life. His father was director of anthropological museums throughout Mexico. As a girl, Fernández witnessed the style of Mexican indigenous communities and found her inspiration.

“I was looking at people who live in indigenous communities and I said, this is fashion. These women and men know how to dress and how to express themselves,” Fernández said.

To unify sacred tradition with creative innovation through fashion design, Fernández prioritizes a good working relationship with his collaborators.

“To teach, we have to learn,” she said of the collaborative process. “It’s very important to meet your employees and understand them.

Carla Fernandez, Denver Art Museum

Photo by Shelby Moeller.

Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto

Florence Müller, curator of textile and fashion art for the Avenir Foundation at the Denver Art Museum, first met Fernández while she was in Mexico City for work. She was immediately impressed with Fernández due to his unique artistic process.

With the exhibition, Müller wanted to make museum visitors realize that fashion can say more than aesthetics at surface level. “This [fashion] can participate in a way of rethinking the world,” she said.

READ: Florence Müller, Denver Art Museum’s iconic textile and fashion curator, leaves in May

Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto is segmented into eight sections that follow the main themes of Fernández’s career, beginning with “To be original is to return to the origin”.

Carla Fernandez, Denver Art Museum

Photo by Shelby Moeller.

The extensive exhibition presents objects important to the history of the fashion house, as well as the master craftsmen with whom it collaborates. The communities Fernández works with across Mexico are displayed on a map for museum visitors. The craftsmen and their trades are also highlighted in videos around the exhibition.

The fashion house’s creations are displayed 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 offered in Carla’s designs and creations are contemporary and cutting-edge, with warm, thoughtful touches,” Müller said. “She works with ancient patterns based on the use of squares and rectangles to create contemporary designs demonstrating – as Fernández says – that tradition is not static.”

Photo by Shelby Moeller.

Fernandez’s husband, Pedro Reyes, designed the galleries for the exhibition using various media and art forms, including sculptures for wearables. Reyes was a natural fit for the project, as he is a Mexican artist, architect, and sculptor. His closeness to Fernández and his artistic talent also contributed to the authentic style of the exhibition.

“I must say that the exhibition is like a work of art in 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 pioneer of ethical processes in fashion. Since the conception of her brand, she has remained true to her philosophy that the only way to do fashion is to do the right thing.

“Everyone who is involved in the team or the collaboration must live happily with the income they need to live happily,” Fernández said.

Fernández embraces slowness in her work, which she acknowledges is counter-cultural 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 clothes.

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the Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto will be exhibited at Denver Art Museum until September 5. Tickets are included with general admission and can be purchased at https://tickets.denverartmuseum.org/DateSelection.aspx?item=314.

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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