Meet Alejandra Carillo-Munoz, Mercado Global’s Design Associate. As a Mexican-American designer, her work is inspired by her rich cultural heritage. Alejandra sat down with us and shared her motivation for working in sustainable fashion and the impact Mercado Global has on her life and perspective.
Can you tell me about your background and how that has influenced your work with MG?
Since a young age, fine arts have always been my strongest voice. This led me to receive a BFA in Fashion Design at Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles, CA where I was introduced to sustainable design and its focus on both social and environmental issues. However, it wasn’t until I started working in the industry that I was awakened to the severity of social exploitation in the garment industry, a realization that led me to grad school in an effort to ask more critical questions about my role and influence as a designer. With a thesis integrating design, art, and anthropology to explore social sustainability, I graduated from Purdue University with an MFA in Electronic and Time Based Arts in spring of 2015.
What inspires you to do this kind of work?
The first artisans I met were my parents, both were embroidery (piteado) artisans during my upbringing in Jalisco, México. We left for the U.S. as many families do in exchange for opportunities, but craft, art and culture remain as valuable ties to my Mexican roots. Guatemala reminds me of this every day!
Why did you want to work for Mercado Global?
My desire is to continue learning, and I am. I’m learning about ancient practices from strong, resilient artisan women. I get to collaborate alongside a talented, diverse design team and most of all, I am part of a larger team collectively proving that fashion can serve as an agent of change.
As a Design a Difference program participant, how do you see Bonnie Cashin's legacy as a pioneer in the fashion industry living on in the work you do with MG?
Bonnie Cashin was a significant contributor to the democratization of fashion for women. From her utilitarian designs that reinforced functionality to promoting ease in garment construction for mobility and comfort, she met the needs of real women. We strive to do the same at MG--to design a beautiful piece that also compliments our customers’ dynamic lifestyle.
How has your position influenced the design process?
I am the associate designer, meaning that I’m involved in the design process of our core collection. I assist with the research and conceptualization of the collection as well as develop the necessary design tools, resources and materials for our artisans to use during the sampling process of the textiles and techniques. It’s a special position because I have the opportunity to work closely with our artisans in their homes and communities as well as our in-house production team—such a humbling opportunity!
What is your favorite part of working for Mercado Global?
I love the days I wake up in the early morning to travel to our artisan communities for weaving trials, or the process of testing patterns on the loop as we develop fabric for our collections. The Guatemalan highlands have the most talented and skilled women and seeing this in person is such a privilege.
Can you share a meaningful memory from your time here?
One of the most memorable experiences was the first day I worked with our Master Artisan, Doña Maria. I designed our brocades for that particular season on the computer, a design inspired by Guatemalan technique. Once I arrived to her home I watched her set up the loom, interpret my two-dimensional design and bring it to life upon a textile piece. It really was one of those 'dream come true' moments.
How has your perspective changed from your work with MG?
It’s teaching me that I am exactly where I ought to be in life. In the pursuit of an education, I left a very rural town in México at the age of four. Twenty-three years later, I’ve returned to familiar lands and I wouldn’t change a thing about this perfectly ironic journey.
What are your hopes for the future?
My hope is to continue growing both professionally and personally, and to contribute as much as I am learning from these many experiences at MG.