On The Road

The Fashion Insider’s Guide to an Under-the-Radar Mexican Surf Town

Laura Siegel allowed us to virtually tag along on her most recent trip to Oaxaca.

By: Jodi Taylor

If we’re being honest, Oaxaca, Mexico has never been at the top of our travel bucket list. Until fashion designer Laura Siegel gave us a BTS peek of her trip there, that is. Siegel, a Toronto-bred NY-based designer, works with artisans around the world to create the soft yet textured, flowy, handcrafted pieces that she is known for. A Parsons graduate, Siegel works with artisan families in both Asia and Latin America, and her most recent trip brought her to the textile-rich city of Oaxaca (where she has been dying to go for quite some time now). After taking a scroll through her iPhone photos, we confirmed two things: 1) Siegel’s work is not only impressive, but also admirable, and 2) We need to book ourselves a flight to Oaxaca, stat.

“Given my lifelong love of surf culture and textiles (and mezcal), Oaxaca was inevitable. I’ve been working with families and co-ops through the deserts of India, the mountains of Peru, Laos, Kenya, Indonesia, and Vietnam, but throughout all these journeys and time spent roaming our planet, I’ve been aching to work with the crafts of Oaxaca. Hand-weaving, dyeing, ceramics, painting—the list goes on. In Oaxaca, the craft mind-set extends to all aspects of everyday life beyond textiles. Everything is artisanal, including food, mezcal, architecture, and the home.

“After landing in the mountains of Oaxaca, walking three miles, hopping on the bus for two hours, and grabbing a tuk-tuk to take me up to the village, I found myself deeply immersed in ancient Oaxacan craft and culture. I spent time in the mountains with Josephine and a few other families, getting to know how textiles and natural dyes are woven into their daily lives. By the end of my time there, I was beyond excited to bring a new roster of artisans into the LS family.

“Consuming mezcal, mole, fresh sopas, and elotes on the daily, paired with surf, ocean, and the most talented, loving families that opened their homes with so much heart, all gave me enough reason to be coming back here many more times in the not-so-distant future.”

“Oaxaca is the land of mezcal, craft, culture, food, and arts. Holding on to 16 different indigenous tribes and languages, 14 different moles, and some of Mexico's best surf, Oaxaca was not difficult to fall in love with.”

“Given the rich history, craft is woven into the daily lives of so many of the communities in Oaxaca. This is a small glimpse into the beautiful ancient crafts. Handwoven Zapotec tapestries all made by master weavers Josephine, Hermalinda, and their family.”

“The artisans of Oaxaca are spread out widely throughout the desert and mountains. Most of the villages are 2-10 hours up and down windy mountainous roads from the nearest airport. This photo was taken enroute.”

“The families I work with are Zapotec, an indigenous tribe that's been around for 2500+ years. Here, Hermalinda is weaving detailed motifs, each that have significant meaning to the Zapotec community. The stars, universe, cycle of life, and family tree are referenced frequently in her work.”

“Hanging out with Ana Maria near the Zocalo of Teotitlan, the village famous for its weaving and natural dye work.”

“Hermalinda, her daughter Josephine, and the rest of the family are all weavers, and have been weaving for more than nine generations! Here, Hermalinda is taking raw wool that has been hand-brushed for softness (from the basket in the lower right corner) and spinning it into yarn.”

“Handspun yarn hanging, while the family preps the dye bath.”

“This is the range of natural materials that Josephine’s family works with to make natural dyes. Pomegranate, cochineal, walnut, and lime are just a few of the wide range of natural resources. Beyond fiber spinning and the actual weaving, natural dyeing is another artisanal aspect in and of itself that the families of Teotitlan dedicate their practice to.”

“Just a fraction of the colors natural dyes produce.”

“The handlooms and workshops are typically inside the homes of the families. A child grows up surrounded by the craft, and learning to use a loom becomes second nature, similar to that of speaking his or her first language.”

“I left for the coastline from the mountains. There are only three flights a day to Puerto Escondido—one plane seats three people, another seven, and another thirteen. When it came time to board the tiny plane, there were no seats left, so I had to sit in the co-pilot's seat. With a headset on and steering wheel in hand, we flew through the mountains, almost touching them, and (safely, thank goodness) made it to the fishing villages turned surf towns of Oaxaca.”

“Morning coffee at the office! I made it to surf mecca Puerto Escondido (translation: Hidden Beach) via tiny plane and some co-pilot skills. This magical place, Hotel Escondido, was built by Federico Rivera Río, combining cacti, local architecture, and natural landscapes seamlessly (read: yoga/surf/work in the most authentic-to-Mexico, thoughtfully designed space).”

“This is in front of the market of Puerto Escondido. Some of my best meals were from the street stalls and markets of Oaxaca city, Puerto Escondido and Mazunte. Tlayudas, Elotes, fresh corn tortillas, and anything with Oaxaca cheese and tomatillos were my go-tos.”

“Only the freshest produce in Oaxaca from the most beautiful souls.”

“These three women founded Lanii and were integral to learning about what crafts the region had to offer when I first landed in Oaxaca. Handwoven palm, artisanally crafted by women for hours outside Oaxaca city in the mountains, to handwoven recycled plastic accessories made by Oaxacan prisoners, this place is a great way to discover artisan groups of the region if you don’t have time to venture outside of Oaxaca city.”

“Inside Lanii. If you're visiting, ask to see their Trump bags (but good luck bringing them back into the US).”

“The beautiful gardens of Oaxaca with Valentina.”

“Cafe/Bakery Boulenc became my office in the early mornings. The two guys that started this cafe do everything right: sourcing organically and locally from the Oaxaca region, including personal favorite produce Jicama, Oaxaca cheese, lots of avocado and tomatillos.”

“Necessary snack-for-long-journey pickup before heading into the mountains to meet with artisan groups, also at Boulenc.”

“I was lucky to have time one day to explore this magical place, Hierve el Agua. The bubbly springs were created by mineral water that pushed through limestone to make nature’s infinity pool. They used to supply water to all the canals and terraces going down the valley. Today, it’s paradise for the desert.”

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