Telling the story of contemporary design is a continuous, iterative process of locating the moment’s most compelling aesthetic developments, understanding the inspiring creative minds behind these movements, and communicating the relevance of both product and person to you, the reader.
Fueled by social media and digital platforms, the pace of this process is rapidly accelerating, making global visual culture more interconnected by the day. This growing connectivity has made a consistent shortcoming of the American design world glaringly obvious: diversity. From diversifying our Instagram feeds to reporting on movements like the Black Artists and Designers Guild, developing more inclusive representation is an essential element of telling the story of design.
While the internet has provided a virtual platform for design voices around the world, design fairs (an important gatekeeper for emerging designers to introduce and sell their work) have remained largely dominated by traditional centers like New York City and Paris (at least in attention paid by the American design community). This reality became a formative motivation for Mexico City–based design entrepreneurs Alessandro Cerutti and Gina Barrios when they took on the challenge of launching a next-generation Latin American design fair.
“We knew we couldn’t show the world what was happening in Mexico City with ‘just another design show,’” says Cerutti, who first made his mark with the accessories brand BOCA MMXII (think Italian watchmaking meets Mexican craft). Cerutti and Barrios are longtime leaders of the Mexico City design community, most notably founding LAGO DF, a design boutique located in Mexico City’s upscale Polanco neighborhood in 2015.
After experiencing the growing popular reception of LAGO DF’s focus on emerging Latin American designers (the boutique now carries over 40 brands from designers based in 10 Latin American countries), Cerutti and Barrios decided to create the world’s premier design fair focused solely on Latin American design. In 2016, this endeavor launched as Caravana Americana.
Occurring twice a year, Caravana presents a tight curation of the very best emerging Latin American brands in furniture, decor, fashion, and accessories. Beyond providing a platform for these designers to showcase their unique point of view, Caravana also provides access to conferences and workshops focused on catalyzing business practice development given the region’s lesser-developed entrepreneurial infrastructure.
This year we joined 7,000 other design enthusiasts in Mexico City to check out this season’s edition of Caravana. Among the dozens of designers we met, the common commitment to traditional craft processes, beautiful yet functional design, and sustainable, community-focused manufacturing was truly inspiring. Check out our favorite trends, designers, and products below.
Contemporary Artisan Textiles
Sisters Nailea and Denisse Arnaiz founded textile brand Arudeko soon after graduating the textile design program of Iberoamerican University in 2016. The impetus for launching Arudeko came from a school project in which they gained their first exposure to traditional Mexican artisans working in traditional techniques being rapidly supplanted by industrialized manufacturing.
Arudeko works directly with these traditional artisans, helping pair the soulful qualities of natural dying and pedal-looming with contemporary graphics and restrained, earthy color palettes. The resulting line of rugs, pillows, and throws feels at once fresh and globally appealing while retaining heritage inspiration and process.
Chic Nursery Essentials
As with most great design, Nido was born out of necessity. As new parents, husband-and-wife duo Andrés Barreiro Pacheco and Valeria Tamayo were on the hunt for a beautiful, functional bassinet and crib, and after coming up short in their search, they designed a unique prototype. After consistent requests by friends for cribs of their own, Pacheco and Tamayo decided to develop the project into a fully fledged line and launched Nido (“nest”). From the sweetly woven “Moses” bassinet (available in light wood and leather standing frame and a hanging version) to the ultra-functional Amaya changer to the adaptable Amaya crib-bed (which can expand as your child grows), Nido provides a fully formed, aesthetically minded series of products (all designed and made in Mexico) for children from infants to toddlers.
Ancient Traditions, Contemporary Silhouettes
Txt.ure is a collaborative design project between innovative NY-based furniture brand Luteca and the art historian and design curator Regina Pozo. After Pozo located one of the last known artisan families using a Mayan craft technique called “tule weaving” (a process using dried stalks of the marsh plant), she partnered with Luteca on a fully funded Kickstarter campaign to revive the prehispanic craft through a workshop and apprenticeship program. This nearly extinct piece of design culture is now shared through Luteca’s line of invigoratingly distinctive tule-woven furniture.
The mission of Tributo, founded by Laura and Gabriela Noriega in Jalisco, Mexico, in 2013 reveals that the design collective has a larger mission than simply selling furniture and decor. In their words, the goals of Tributo are to “generate the diversification of objects, improve the quality of production, promote generational continuity, and strengthen self-esteem as carriers of the material and immaterial wealth of Mexico.”
Our favorites from their line are a tri-fold room divider highlighting several patterns of traditional “Chuspata” weaving juxtaposed with a powder-coated steel frame and the inventive “Cuanajo” coat rack, which elevates garment storage with a grouping of black hand-carved dowels suspended via nylon cord.
Handcraft Meets Futuristic Technology
While Mexican furniture design studio Media Madera works with solid wood as its primary material, it is by no means taking a common approach to this classic material. Its “Esfera” (“Sphere”) chair, for instance, takes solid rosewood layered with artisanal techniques and shapes it with automated 3-D cutting for a timeless sculptural form that feels equal parts Star Trek and Brâncuși.
One of the most playfully refined releases presented at Caravana was the “BO” Lamp by up-and-coming Mexican design team Bandido Studio. A table lamp that’s both sculptural and functional, BO pours an ambient LED uplight against a gracefully folded metal sheet reminiscent of a Bird of Paradise leaf.