Today the Mexican creative community is going through a moment of celebration. You can sense it in the air. Part of it is the designation of Mexico City as World Design Capital 2018, making it a must-visit location on the global map, where what is "designed in Mexico" becomes a quality trademark, there for all to see.
By now it is clear that design can be a factor of social and economic change for the new generations, while helping native communities that are the bearers of priceless ancestral know-how.
When young Mexican designers look in the mirror they recognize themselves as part of a splendid past, where color, materials of natural origin and the skills of artisans not only coexist, but also take on new luster. And how has the talent of these young designers been nurtured? The answer is simple: in the classroom.
Classrooms as factors of change
University professors have had the intuition and vision to take young people out into the communities, making them qualified, expert professionals in the field. And they have invited talents from around the world to offer students stimulating figures of reference.
Competitions represent another very interesting approach; it is in this area, as part of a jury, that I have been able to meet new design faces. I remember the Clara Porset Prize organized by CIDI, the AHEC Design Award, Promesas México of Habitat Expo, DIMUEBLE of Afamjal, Premio Quorum, Diseña México and infinite isolated projects at various schools and institutes.
The present communication media have taught designers the art of self-promotion, and together with it they have become entrepreneurs for themselves. So today there are many interesting design micro-companies.
These projects get visibility from the communications media, but also from less well-known platforms like Inédito of Design Week México, Abierto Mexicano de Diseño, Mextrópoli, Besign, Zona MACO Diseño and now Salón Macrotendencias. This leads to a question: who is part of this category of talent, that represents us on a local and global level? Below, you will find the names (and profiles) of some of them, though for obvious reasons of space this is simply a selection of the most outstanding examples.
Joel, unlike many others, has operated as an ally of business, immediately grasping an opportunity. With confidence, without hesitation, he knocks on the doors of companies with his projects. In this way he has been able to work, among others, with Roche Bobois, Compass, TANE, Urrea, Libbey. He acknowledges that he has learned a lot, above all with the latter two, because he has had the chance to become part of multidisciplinary groups.
His approach is clean, featuring sinuous lines in contrast with straight ones; at the latest edition of Zona MACO he presented his first solo collection and sold most of the works during the time span of the fair itself. "I decided to develop my work independently when I understood that no industrial design studios actually exist to really work with industry, developing products in Mexico."
I came across the work of Moisés in the context of the FuoriSalone; he was the first Mexican graduate at all’ECAL, and he was presenting a collection made with Baccarat… starting from the top. He told us that he decided to open his own studio when he realized that “simplicity, refinement and good design are necessary in the objects that surround us."
His work is simple, honest, using an essential language and materials. Today Moisés is the design director of ITESM (one of the most important universities in Mexico); he is part of the Cooperativa Panorámica, he has his own design line called Diario, and he works for brands like Ligne Roset, PCM, Riva 1920, José Cuervo, Palacio de Hierro, Bauhaus Mobel, Voit. "I try to convey wellbeing, satisfaction and coherence through my work."
I run into David more often on the road, at fairs and other events, than in Mexico. This is because his base is in Austria, though he produces most of his works in Mexico. Living outside Mexico let’s him keep the perspective to watch us from the outside, and to better grasp the opportunities.
This has led to his specialization in the design of lighting fixtures with unusual materials like barro negro earthenware and talavera ceramics. Regarding his work with artisans, he is certain that this activity "supports the economy, when it is done in a professional and correct way of course, promoting Mexican culture."
He also says that "every material with which we have worked as been a challenge, and therefore a process of learning. The experimentation with barro negro pottery allowed us to make the most progress."
I met Juskani Alonso when he showed his work in the context of the FuoriSalone. Then I lost track of him, and found him again some years later, in the event Inédito of DWM at Museo Tamayo. He had already established an indivisible bond with wood.
Year after year his work has become more and more extraneous to the traditional design field, though the experts see him as an ally, because he also develops projects with workshops of design and architecture.
In his view, the Mexican creative community is lacking in self-confidence: "To communicate and to work together; to understand how synergies are developed in other countries, in the moment in which people share information and experiences." And he continues: "To put man at the center of our growth will lead to honest results that can solve everyday problems.”
A designer, Ana Paula Alatriste, and a social anthropologist, Rocío Cerón, have formed a company that besides producing fabrics of great expressive impact, represents a source of employment for marginal communities. According to Rocío, this helps them to "recover and cooperate, to share in every phase of the production process, which fills the work with variety and speaks of Mexican design."
The two partners believe it is necessary to continue to work on the guidelines that help both communities and designers to have dignified work, from which to gain mutual advantage, in both economic and cognitive terms; without overlooking the question of intellectual property, among the various problematic issues. "We have always thought that what we want to convey most is happiness. What we do really makes us happy, and we hope to be able to communicate that."
Juan José Némer (designer) has joined forces with Mauricio Álvarez (architect), in the conviction that their roles could be complementary in project work. For them design not only improves the lives of users, but also improves the way they perceive life, because a good project can improve the sensory experience of every human being, making them more receptive.
These Talents à la carte of Maison et Objet in 2016 are trying to create a collaborative tribe, realizing that in Mexico what is lacking is unity among designers. They are aware that only by being united can an socially important change take place. Their work conveys a sincere love for their country, while at the same time redeeming the artisan legacy that exists in many communities in Mexico.
Interpreters of a universal language and the most intriguing age-old techniques, such as that of perforated paper, that act in such a way that what was previously 'transparent' becomes an absolutely peerless protagonist. "Working with artisans and gallerists, we realize that our objective is not so much to make furniture as to create design pieces that can coexist in a contemporary and timeless context."
An entrepreneur with his own design studio (EVA) and a production company (Left), he is a designer who learns every day from his team and his clients, ranging from designers to architects, interior designers to builders.
Previously a partner of Alberto Villareal and Michel Rojkind, he realized that his path was in a different direction. For him, there is no better way to grow than to be there when things are happening, to go to fairs, to take part in competitions, to seek impossible yet perhaps achievable alliances: in short, to always look towards different horizons.
This curiosity has led him to produce a bit of everything, from a ladder to a football, a complex table set to lamps made with 3D molding, all the way to ceramics in unusual formats. Víctor is a man of our time, convinced that specialization will make him evolve and develop an intelligence oriented towards the solving of complex design problems. "To interpret design as a master plan lets you get beyond the aesthetic qualities of objects.”
I had the good fortune to choose the work of Alejandro Grande and Omar Ramos in an edition of the Corredor Cultural Roma-Condesa. In a space of the Condesa DF hotel, they had made an unforgettable setting where the care that went into every piece was impeccable.
If they are recognized as members of the design avant-garde today it is because they are not afraid to experiment with materials. They are part of a generation of young designers who address the problem of reuse and durability of their creations. "Mexican design is beginning to find a place on the international stage as a reality with conceptual and historical depth."
Comité de proyectos
With virtuoso effects of soft lines and objects that link back to a local matrix while remaining universal in their essence, this design group has managed to position itself quite rapidly as a resource for many interior design studios, also in the making of joint projects. Its mentors Andrea Flores and Lucía Soto preach coherent, inclusive, simple and functional design, using above all stone and wood as the preferred materials for invention.
"We do not reject the industrial production of objects, but we also want every object to have a soul. There are so many good artisans in Mexico that it would be stupid not to take this resource into account."
This is a workshop that began by design furniture and then became a design store, which also acts as a supplier for boutique and luxury hotels. The territory of Elsa García and Jesús Irízar covers a range of hues and various textures. They wager on everything that speaks of a natural feel for spaces and respect for materials. They believe that in order for a true breakthrough to happen, so that design can enter the lives of everyone, there has to be space for research in the public sphere, without distinctions based on socio-economic level.
Today MOB is one of the best-known workshops, because it is able to constantly reinvent itself while remaining at the center of attention. "To recovery crafts and many traditional methods, reinterpreting them, helps us to meet new challenges and to bring improvements to techniques and their applications. This mixture of evolution and tradition allows us to continue to write history."
Restless and unstoppable, Christian designs everything, ranging from a rocking chair to a toy for cats; today he is in charge of design for an important Mexican manufacturer of items for the home. Vivanco never stops asking himself about the reasons behind all the things around us. An obsessive perfectionist, this designer born in San Luis Potosí who lives in Mexico City is convinced that design should be democratic, but at the same time it has to tell a story, because only in this way can it create empathy with the user. A teacher and very active in the creative community, he is in favor of shared research and team projects. In recent years he has had the chance to create relationships of collaboration with various artisan communities where he has learned a lot, but he is certain that it is necessary to grant greater dignity to their work. "We need to develop a culture of professionalization together with our producers, promoting fair salaries, training, expertise, and also getting involved in tasks that do not pertain to us, at first glance, but become fundamental in practice."