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Celebrating Latin American Design at Caravana Americana

by Garrett Fleming

Celebrating Latin American Design at Caravana Americana, Design*Sponge

Twice a year, Caravana Americana brings together a highly-curated, shoppable assembly of fashion brands, furniture makers and craftspeople for a two-day expo showcasing Latin America’s “Best in Show.” The collection aims to do more than just move product, though. LAGO, the brand behind the event, created Caravana in hopes of challenging the international perception of Latin American design and to prove the region’s work is ready for the world stage.

I was admittedly skeptical when I arrived this year to news the event had moved into a larger exhibit hall than the one it was held in when I attended in 2017. I quickly realized, however, that the old space’s charms were still greatly intact for this spring’s edition. Canvas panels in a stylish grey divided the new location into individual pop-up shops, and a sprinkling of greenery made guests feel like they were wandering through an outdoor mercado (minus the unforgiving Mexican sun). Paired with delightful push carts carrying water and snacks, the atmosphere proved just as inviting as previous years.

Winning vibe aside, what truly sets Caravana Americana apart from other markets are the businesses featured, their practices and their origin stories. Working tirelessly to promote fair labor and the inclusion of all of Mexico’s states are table stakes for this crew. For some this means letting the individual makers they work with leave their moniker on the pieces they create for them, while others help craftspeople stay marketable by teaching them new skills.

One studio in particular, Tributo, spoke to me about how the company was born from an unfortunate reality: their founder’s experience watching manufacturing towns stumble. The owner hopes that by utilizing previously-defunct factories to create her goods she can both chip away at high unemployment rates and shift the tide for these faltering neighborhoods. It seems positive press and profits are just icing on the cake.

Towards the end of my visit, a casual conversation about a wooden chair crafted by The Artisan Craft Company took a turn that surprised me. When talking about her products, one of the founders mentioned an unexpected challenge that comes with creating quality furniture in Mexico: keeping your operation legal. Under the guard of darkness, poachers (some thought to be involved in organized crime) chop down wood in legally protected areas and then sell it to unsuspecting companies. The trickery, she said, can get in the way of the creative process and, if you’re not careful, put your life’s work at risk of being no more.

Overall, the uncompromising humanity that lives within Caravana Americana’s passionate entrepreneurs is what will undoubtedly stick with me for years to come. Top down, they carry with them such a strong sense of equality and dedication to craftsmanship that it’s only a matter of time before they break the glass ceiling and the world embraces Latin design more fully. I may have been there as a member of the press, but I’m happy I got to be a part of their world if only for a moment.

Scroll down to see my favorite finds from this spring’s show, and enjoy! Garrett

Photography by Garrett Fleming

Celebrating Latin American Design at Caravana Americana, Design*Sponge
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& Jacob purposefully leaves slight imperfections in his vases and candles to further drive home his brand’s dedication to creating all their work by hand. He uses lava rock, 24 karat gold and Guatemalan marble to craft them.

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Taller Nacional designs for both indoor and outdoor living. For their interior products, the team uses a lot of wood. In contrast, they use more resistant materials like glass and metal for their collection of outdoor furniture.

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The Artisan Craft Company dips the tan plates to the left in hot wax to give them the darker hue seen in the right of frame.

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To ensure the seats in their line of sling chairs don’t sag, The Artisan Craft Company binds multiple layers of leather together.

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One of these pink platters from La Chicharra Cerámica came home with me.

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Claudina Flores Studio puts a Latin spin on Art Deco forms and fabrics.

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A passion for cooking inspired Piedra Fuego’s founder to create a line of high-quality utensils. Since the brand’s inception, the practice has grown to include 70 artisans who not only create all types of kitchen tools, but pots and decorative items as well.

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Peca Studio uses sewing and leather techniques typically reserved for making horse saddles to create these pillows. The white embroidery is made up of strands of fibers from the agave plant – the same plant used to make tequila.

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Each year Lenpo brings together thinkers to create a new product that they then sell in a limited run. The goal of 2019’s design is to bring attention to an integral part of all plant life that’s oftentimes overlooked: the roots.

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Arudeko’s latest collection of rugs is based on a poem the two founders wrote called “Fragments.”

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Vaivén Studio is based in Guadalajara. They craft their handmade pieces using many types of Mexican wood, from Parota – a tree in the pea family – to Rosewood.

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Candor works with local artisans to craft their cotton wares. When I asked the brand’s founder Fernanda what item in her collection she was most proud of, she pointed me to the above pillow with fringe and navy embroidery. The design is made using an unusual technique and took a team of craftspeople many rounds to perfect.

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Oaxaca’s Pomelo Studio was a design firm before the brand began selling to the public. Their recent work employs a mixture of materials including copper. Look closely, and you can see the various lusters this skilled team has been able to give the metal.

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Cara de Planta’s inherent goofiness brought a lighthearted whimsy to this season’s show.

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