Alexander McQueen’s letter after Romeo Gigli

I recently moved back to California and amongst my belongings that were in storage for 25 years, I found a letter from a friend I made in 1990 while working at Romeo Gigli in Milan. That friend, was a very shy guy from London, but he clarified during our first lunch together that he was from South London. I could barely understand his accent, because I had my own Mexican accent. What brought us together was his tooth ache. I was sitting in my desk on a sunny Milanese day ( the Italians are so good at making work environments beautiful, but I remember the sun because Milan is overly grey during the year), this guy was shown a desk in the middle of the studio to work on a pattern, and he kept holding his cheek in what I thought was pain… I introduced myself and asked if he was ok, he immediately said that he had a tooth ache, so I offered to find an aspirin, and our friendship was born… I would manage to check on him if he understood instructions and explain how the office worked, but pretty soon we were gossiping about the office big wigs. I though he was adorably shy and funny. He would explode into laughter at the stupidest things, and he was contagious!
My friend Lee was chubby with loose clothing and always had a sweet smile with a wink included. But he always wanted to promote the idea that he was tough and made references to South London (which I had no clue, because I had never been to the UK) but he made it sound really cut-throat and tough.
Just reading his letter made me think of how often he shared his vulnerable side… financially and shelter-wise (it was cheaper to live with his parents) while going for his masters degree at Saint Martins… not even imagining that his big leap was just a year away. Even mustering that he wasn’t sure that he wanted to continue in the path of fashion, but instead wanted to travel to North and South America!
This letter fills a huge gap in the perception that he was a rebel. I see instead, a designer making ends meet while holding his vision of a type of beauty and developing the skills to attain it.
On our last hang out he mentioned that he didn’t know where he was going, but that I could always contact his mum. The one person that he could count on unconditionally!
This is my friend, a beautiful soul that left a void in my heart.
I share this letter with the intent that those of you that hit a wall, remember that even Alexander McQueen thought about quitting fashion.

Carmen Artigas

PS, to read the letter below, click and enlarge with command +


Carta Lee


Assistant Designers ElementsLee & Norio, Romeo Gigli showroom



Let’s campaign against digitized indigenous textiles.

ST. FRANK is a global, sourcing textile company based in San Francisco, CA. They source from low and middle-income countries… and they describe themselves as ETHICAL LUXURY, which I find really upsetting. Their markup is outrageous, by far exceeding what they paid the original author.

The new era of digital printing needs to be examined. The current system of textile production supports the mass consumption of cheap goods and if this trend continues, it will inevitably lead to the abuse and misuse of original traditional textiles to be reproduced with little or no transformation applied to them. The problem is global and we need to establish ethical parameters for the application of such technology. The problem emerges again when traditional embroideries e.g. Mexican or Guatemalan are send abroad and reinterpreted in countries such as India or China.

Digital Technology is changing the face of textile design. The development of digital printing onto fabric is changing printing methods and removing restrictions, allowing designers to work with thousands of colors and create designs with high level of detail at faster print timescales. This technique is currently being employed in fashion, interior design and home furnishings industries.

There is a misconception that traditional cultural expressions are part of the public domain, they are not, they are specialized forms of knowledge that have not been protected by intellectual property rights only because Intellectual Property was not conceptualized to cover knowledge that belonged to communities and was transmitted orally.

Traditional Cultural Expressions are very much linked to place and historical context and people of the place, and the custodians of TCEs need to be fully acknowledged. TCEs are intellectual property and need to be treated as such by all those using them.

Through the use of digital technologies, profitable fashion brands, patent, copyright, and trademark something which has served them as an inspiration for a number of currently protected intellectual property works.

Such is the case of PINEDA COVALIN, a high end Mexican brand, has been digitizing traditional textiles since 1995 and registering them as trademarks. The textiles are printed in silk via China, basically hijacking Mexican artisans patrimony.

The vast majority of designers are basically unaware of this and we need to develop an ethical fashion criteria and responsible standards to work with cultural archetypes.

The quest is to REGULATE AND RESTRICT the FASHION AND TEXTILE industry from digitizing ethnic textiles. If you care about the future of traditional textiles, crafts and artisans livelihoods, please, do not support this kind of businesses.

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A great way to revisit some of the incredible lectures and events from the 2014 conference.

My lecture is on the page 3:

2014 Biennial Symposium: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future

“The theme of the Symposium, New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, explores change and innovation in textiles in the past while looking at the state of the field of textiles, textile study, production and creativity, today and for the future. Where have we been and where are we going? What are the moments that encapsulate change? What are the shifts in direction for cultures, technology, creativity and knowledge? And how do these shifts effect our understanding of textiles?”

I also recommend COTTON ROAD, a documentary film about a global supply chain.

“Americans consume nearly 20 billion new items of clothing each year. Yet few of us know how our clothes are made, much less who produces them. cotton road follows the commodity of cotton from South Carolina farms to Chinese factories to illuminate the work and industrial processes in a global supply chain.”

Images courtesy of Dan Nation

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At the recent Textile Society of America Symposium my panel addressed the topic of “Conflict, Appropriation and Certification for Artisan Production”, where I presented “CULTURAL MISAPPROPRIATION IN THE ERA OF ETHICAL FASHION”.

My quest is to regulate and restrict the fashion and textile industry from digitizing ethnic textiles including the imitation of traditional embroideries made in other countries through cheaper techniques.

Technology is driving the market and digital printing allows for the misappropriation of ethnic textiles at a fast pace, without proper recognition or compensation, the custodians of these crafts will find themselves replaced by a new generation of printed textiles. We need to develop an ethical fashion criteria and responsible standards to work with cultural archetypes. In particular, designers need apply conscience and respect when finding inspiration in other cultures heritage.

The wonderful series of events were coordinated by Elena Phipps, the last President in turn, and took place at UCLA, Fowler Museum, LACMA and The Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, CA.

My abstract:


Cultural appropriation happens every day in the world of fashion and is framed around the acts of borrowing, sharing and being inspired by other cultures. The key issue of concern is the commercial use of cultural property that fails to share the benefits or acknowledge the custodians of what can be called “Traditional Cultural Expressions”. This tension was most recently expressed through the response of those in South Pacific cultural heritage circles to a Nanette Lepore dress design (RST 2013). Lepore used a design that was based on traditional tapa and masi (bark cloth) patterns from the South Pacific, however, she labeled it as an Aztec dress. This blatant mistake underscores the lack of research and integrity that can be found in fashion companies today when sourcing inspiration for their designs. In this paper I will address the lack of cultural sensitivity and aloofness displayed by fashion designers when it comes to addressing their sources of inspiration and the technologies that enable this. While the latest technologies and global trade allows brands to digitize and print original textiles quickly and efficiently, the problem reemerges when traditional embroideries e.g. Mexican or Guatemalan are sent abroad and reinterpreted in countries such as India or China rendering a cheaper version by hand or machine. I believe the current technologies will allow for certain misuse and abuse of indigenous designs and assert that it is crucial to protect artisans and their cultural heritage. The new era of digital printing needs to be examined and intellectual cultural property protection put into place. Sadly, it is a global issue and we need to establish ethical parameters based on the premise that more should be done to apply consciousness and respect when finding inspiration in other cultures’ heritage.

Some of my slides

TSA presentation

Awards Banquet Dinner

TSA dinner

TSA Marketplace


Amazing presentations!


Surrounded by indigo textiles, artists and experts…

INdigo TSa

Closing party at the Folk Art Museum

TSa party

With Elise and Caleb

TSA Caleb

Stay tuned..


Channelling Tatum O’Neal

I recently saw a photo of Tatum O’Neal as a child in a hollywood party that reminded me of Tavi Gevinson, the “Style Rookie” blogger… And I became obsessed about finding their similarities!

Both of them reached notoriety at an early age, they were truly precocious, extremely talented in their field and making strides in a grown up world.

Finding their style coincidences took a few hours, but it was really fun!

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This is the photo that started my obsession about their similarities!