Designing New Mexican Concepts | An interview with Juskani Alonso
With deep love for the Mexican culture, Juskani Alonso Andrade focuses his research on preserving Mexican tradition and techniques. Having collaborated with several companies, studios, and groups in both national and international exhibitions, Juskani has received many awards such as Dimueble, National Silver Award and Tupperware Design Competition, among others. In 2013 he established the Juskani Alonso Studio –dedicated to the design of product, furniture and interior architecture based on a problem-solving scheme through the application of creative thinking.
Can you tell us about yourself and your background?
First and foremost, I must say that my primary aspiration is to travel. Since I was a child, I always traveled with my parents and my brother to get to know Mexico. My father is an architect and my mother is a psychologist. Thus, during their summer holidays, we used to hit the road to discover our country. Usually, the night before leaving for our journey, my brother and I pretended that the bed was a car. The following morning, while we were asleep, our parents would load us in the car so that we would wake up every time in a different place. Around the age of 15, I started traveling alone and when I was 18 years old, I finished high school and I took a trip as a backpacker around Europe for 9 months. It was a very enriching experience because I learned that there are a lot of ways of looking at life.
“When you travel alone you have time to think with your own head and you start asking questions to yourself.”
If you live in Mexico, you can take the car, drive for 8 hours and still be in Mexico. In Europe, you take the train and when you get off you always find a completely different culture, language and traditions. There are many differences. It was thanks to my trip to Vienna and the exhibition called “Superstars: from Warhol to Madonna”, at the Museum of Modern Art, that I have realized I really wanted to study design and architecture at UNAM in Mexico. I did a 7-month internship for Tupperware in Orlando and then I went to Italy at the Polytechnic University of Turin.
“I went to the “Salone del Mobile” in Milan and it was there when I concluded that all ideas are valid until they are realized.”
In fact, the difference between a nice idea and a successful one is the power of execution. It is at that moment when you can discuss the idea with other collaborators, designers. In this process, you start developing the prototypes and you start making projects. Mexico has a great craft culture and it is exactly the place to be in order to put my ideas into practice. Almost five years ago I came back to my city, I began to work alone and to rearrange my ideas. First of all, I started designing my office, then I put all these drawings and furniture’s photos on Instagram and, in this way, I created a circle of people who supports me. This is how the first work arrived. Now I have my own studio and a factory with a small production and 10 people working there specialized in wood transformation.
Can you tell us about your process?
I like the whole process to get to the final idea. So, I think we are good at researching and developing a new concept. I usually meet my customers in front of a coffee to talk about their vision of life and how they perceive the company’s values in order to be in line with them and being able to develop their new concept. I usually explain to my clients that what I can do is mainly to find a solution to a daily problem. After conducting some research on what already exists in the world, I begin to develop the customer’s idea. I like to think that my function on the project is to create a contact point between already-existing ideas and the customer. I make a selection among those ideas, I present those that can be useful, and I put them in order so that the customer can easily understand the added value that I gave.
“Design is not about our ideas, design is a response to a need.”
Juskani Alonso at SeWá Productora.
How do you keep up with how design is developing throughout the rest of the world?
Every day I read blogs and information on the internet, but maybe they all do it. When I start with a project, I usually come to some “conceptual” conclusions and I tell my team to do some research on these without knowing what the project or the client is. They bring me images, information, texts and I act as a mediator by putting all these ideas in order. After a quick briefing with my team I start developing the new concept and then I share it with my client. As the team has no idea what they are looking for, the research is not affected and more open.
Have you ever been involved with retail projects?
Yes, some of the things I’ve done are associated with the world of aesthetics and with the furniture on which to put cosmetic products. I finished a project two weeks ago with a manicure brand that has a shop in Mexico City called HANDmade Nails Spa – Polanco Manicure Pedicure. They want to make a franchise –a clinic. Mainly, it is a place where they attach eyelashes which includes beds to make the customer stray. They have this idea of doing something of various styles –a pastiche– that you do not understand well. I tried to transfer the brand’s values to the environment, making the various things coincide, but also bringing the concept to a new idea.
Which retailers would you like to work with?
Is there a specific project that you are most proud of?
Yes, the design of our factory. That was a family project. With my father and my brother –two great architects– I created this place where both the studio and the factory are located.
“Our factory is not just a factory, it is also a nice and pleasant place. We designed it, we built it, we chose the materials and the details. It's like a craft workshop.”
Is there a meaning behind the names of Colectivo Wayak, Juskani Alonso Studio and SE’WÁ Productora?
Colectivo Wayak is the architect studio of my father and my brother. I work with my name –Estudio Juskani Alonso– and SE’WÁ Productora is the factory. There is also a concept behind all of that. Considering the configuration of Mexico, in the south part there are the areas of Juskani, Wayak and SE’WÁ. Juskani is a name within the p’urhépecha indigenous population which means “el que siembra la coltivable”, namely “who sows what can be cultivated”. Wayak means “vision between dreams” and SE’WÁ means “to flourish”.
“The objective of our collaboration was to convey a conceptual idea of Mexico, a constructive and productive idea of our country”
Can you tell us about your previous projects and about projects you are currently working on?
Three years ago, we created the “Diez” collection to commemorate the journey I took at the end of high school. Each piece of the collection represents the story of a city I have visited. “Chios” is the final story of the journey and represents a story in prison. When I was in Greece and I wanted to go to Turkey as a next stop, they put me in jail because I had spent too much time in Europe and then they repatriated me. Chios has 8 arms and represents a prison mate. All the threads represent the idea of being trapped. Among others, we made also a towel holder for Tupperwear and a bench for a company called Artelinea. We have recreated the atmosphere of a yucateco restaurant, in Yucatán, in the south-east of Mexico, in collaboration with other designers.
“Each piece of the collection represents the story of a city I have visited.”