Mexican Fashion Week?….or more indigenous artisan exploitation?

This past Fall there was a bit of NEWs buzz about Mexican fashion designers during Fashion Week in Mexico. After viewing the slide show and reading the following article I have to make a statement about what I feel about the exploitation of traditional costumes and the artisans who have created them. The women weavers and embroiderers, whose work has been cut up up and pieced into some other garment in the name of fashion – are the real artists, whether they call themselves that or not, and whether they are credited by so-called designers.

In the article called “Indigenous Fashion hits the Runway”  you will see pictures about what’s new and cool in Mexican fashion, and you might possibly identify Tehuantepec embroidery embellishing many clothes while older Isthmus huipil pieces have been patch-worked to create rather ‘minimal’ pieces of clothing. Far from the original ‘covered up’ and modest, but elegant, look of traditional traje these fashion statements are more than a bit vulgar to my textile researchers eye.

What is somewhat disturbing is the rather cavalier and self-absorbed attitude of the designers featured. In the designer statements there is no mention or acknowledgement about where these textiles originated or who the women are who made them. Whoa and how disrespectful is that? Not everyone mentioned in the article was as callous as the designers and there was even a comment toward the end, by one of the artisans,, who said that, ‘they are hardly paid anything for their work anyway’.

So what do you think? – Fashion or more insult to artists/artisans? You decide……. but I have to include the YouTube video by Lila Downs whose mother is from the Mixteca/Oaxaca and who wears  traditional textiles when she performs. Some of these have been cut skin-tight to show her voluptuous figure but in no-way degraded to little patches of antique cloth to cover up breasts. In this video the Zapotec women of the Valle Central of Oaxaca, are also featured with their feminine dresses. rebozo head-wraps and aprons. Hooray!  Somehow this shows much more respect for Mexican indigenous culture, traditional textiles, and the artisans who spend many hours/days creating them. Thanks Lila!


Huipil of Oaxaca -Tehuantepec/Juchitan – Hand/Eye e-zine article

So many ‘things happening’ before I left Mexico mid-May. First a ‘charla’ (chat) on quechquemitls at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca coinciding with their spectacular Quechquemitles Exhibit that month. Then the publications of the Arte de Mexico: Textiles Mazahuas article on the traje de Santa Rosa de Lima and the revival work of the Flores Silvestres. After that onto San Miguel Allende where I gave another talk on my Oaxacan and  Chiapas textile adventures at Patrice Wynn’s Abrazos store. Whew! I almost forgot that Hand/Eye e-zine decided to publish my article on ‘Huipil of Oaxaca’ – the costume Frida Kahlo wore and made famous, the outfit of Tehuantepec/Juchitan. The most extravagant and dazzling traje of Oaxaca and possibly Mexico.

So if you happened to have missed that article I’m putting in a link here with a few more photos to fill out the story:

I’ve always been fascinated and awed by the elaborate Tehuana costumes as I frequently see them on the streets of Oaxaca in Calendas/ processions around the Santa Domingo church. Women in full regalia and sometimes men in traditional costumes parade elegantly down Alacala street often with a band. I think they are social groups originally from the Tehuantepec/Juchitan area but I haven’t really found out the real story. They love to dress up to say the least.

I had the honor of being invited to a wedding earlier this year and the brides family was from Juchitan. It was a huge affair held in the groom’s village of Santa Ana near Tlacolula in the Valle Central of Oaxaca. The wedding parties sat in their assigned sides of the huge airplane hanger-like event room. 700 people had shown up! But the groom’s side was all navy blue, beige and black while the brides side was a riot of color. It was like the documentary film on the Juchitan culture…”Blossoms on Fire”, a perfect description. Afterwards my friend said – “Oh those Juchitana’s are such SHOW-OFFS!” Well it was worth sitting through many wedding games and rituals just to get up-close and personal (BEST in the bathroom) with so many sumptuous textiles.

If you want to know a little more of the history of these elaborate outfits and the many embroidery techniques developed over the the years read the Hand/Eye article. Oaxaca’s Istmus of Tehuantepec was a transportation route for moving exotic goods from the Phiippines to Spain, so there were many outside influences on the women’s clothing in this area. Hand-Eye is a wonderful e-journal of world hand arts that publishes weekly stories on traditional artisan crafts and contemporary artists etc. Don’t miss it! You can subscribe, I think, for free. I’ll be writing more articles in the future

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Collector Textiles on my ESTY Store

Sorry about being so tardy with posts. I’ve been on-the-road for a month and previously training English teachers for a couple of months in Oaxaca. I’m currently in Santa Fe with family but managed to bring about 50 lbs of items collected this past year in Mexico.

I’ve just created an ESTY Store – Living Textile – to see if there is interest from you, my readers, in adding a special item to your collection or in starting a collection with high quality items. I do assure you that these textiles are of the highest quality as I am constantly looking through piles of textiles on my rounds though markets and festivals. ‘No huipile left unturned‘…is my motto and I literally look at hundreds of items monthly. ALSO -‘Not all textiles are created equal.’ Some artisans just take more time weaving or embroidering and their product reflects this.

So trust my very experienced EYE and rest assured you will be getting something very special. Remember I have been collecting since I was 19 years old  and a student in Mexico….a very long time. I also was a textile product designer for 20 years with my own design studio in San Francisco. So, I’m looking at textiles with years of experience with color  and design and Mexican artisania. As my collector friends say – “Sheri gets the good stuff!”

Please check out a few samples here and then head out to the store to see more items – you can ask questions through my e-mail:

The following items pictured here:

1. Black and White Rebozo from Amusgo back-strap loom in the mountains off the coast of Oaxaca (near Guerrero) Cost $90

2. Bluson top – made of Amusgo back-strap loomed rebozo – finished with fine crochet work from Oaxaca artisans. Cost $155

3. Tehuantepec Top – older style form 50’s/60’s  – brown satin with hand embroidered flowers and machine stitched border. Cost $150. It’s a beauty!

4. Tehuantepc Top – older style from 50’/60′- black satin with red/yellow machine stitched embroidery – very intricate and fine. Cost $135.

Looking forward to hearing any comments about the items – or things you might to see in the store for the future.

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Hope you enjoy these beautiful items and want to put them on immediately. Sizes on request – (blouses are large).

Now check what I currently have on ETSY: