One-of-a-kind Mexican Design | An Interview with Moisés Hernández
Moisés Hernández is flying the flag for retail design in Mexico. “Now I see Mexico as the place to be and I don’t want to be anywhere else.” Being constantly inspired by his buzzing and multicolored country, he loves travelling around Mexico while rediscovering places, people, materials, techniques, textures and colors. Graduating from Ecal, in Lausanne, not only did he exhibit his work in Italy, France, Switzerland, Mexico and many other places, but he also worked with national and international companies like Ligne Roset, Tane and Helvex.
Dividing his time between his Design Studio and the Tecnologico de Monterrey –the most important private university in Mexico– the forward-looking designer has been nominated “Regional Design Director” and is nurturing ambitions for his students to think out of the box and launch their works around the world. In a nutshell, he has become a new benchmark for the Mexican design industry, shaping up new concepts and products.
“Now I see Mexico as the place to be and I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
From being the first Mexican to graduate from Ecal in Switzerland to setting up your studio in Mexico, can you walk us through how you got here?
Before my experience in Ecal, I was working at the design and architecture firm called Ezequiel Farca here in Mexico City. Ezequiel is a designer who now lives in L.A. but has his office here. We are really good friends and we are still doing things together. I was doing very interesting projects with him, such as the interior design for Aeromexico. But then, after a year of working, I really felt I was missing something. At that moment I thought I couldn’t stay in Mexico anymore. There were no opportunities and I really needed to go somewhere else. I was a big fan of this school in Switzerland, Ecal. They really don’t care about ranking and for me it’s the best school of design in the world right now.
“I applied, and I got accepted. I was the only Mexican student. The professors and my colleagues were like my brothers. We were family. It was the best experience.”
Everything was a competition. Even though there are 18 students in your class, they tell you they are going to pick only three projects. So, you really need to compete in order to stand out. When I finished the master, I was ready to come back to my hometown. Only after living in Europe, where everything works perfectly, I realised that I needed this type of chaos, you know, super stimulating…there is a young energy somehow.
Tell us about your ‘rediscovering objects’ journey and about Diario, an ongoing project since your graduation.
The story of how I started the Diario brand is quite interesting. We have lots of marvellous traditional objects here in Mexico. When I was a kid my father gave me this toy. It was one-of-a-kind hand-carved toy but, at that time, I was used to other plastic modern toys and I didn’t want to play with this new one. When I grew up, I realised I should have changed how the toy looked like, so kids could have play with it. With this new industrial design approach, we started redesigning toys and many other rediscovered objects, making the process more efficient. So basically, “Diario” –a Spanish word for diary and everyday–, is a brand that recollects and designs unique and everyday objects from Mexico.
“I still have the toy my father gave me, I keep it there because there is something important in it.”
In the following years, while I was in Ecal, I chose Diario as the project for my master thesis and when I came back to Mexico City, I decided to continue with that. Then a lot of things happened. I was selected to present Diario at Istanbul Design Biennial and then I was awarded a prize by the British Council as “Young Creative Entrepreneur”. I was happy because Diario was going well. Stores from Japan, Belgium and the US were asking for my products. To be honest, even though I don’t have that much time as I had at that moment, I’m still doing it.
“I created the brand, I really wanted to make Diario a commercial project and all my tutors said it was a great idea and that I had to make it for real.”
What about your current and future commitments?
Now I’m on the other side of the table and it’s a big responsibility. Last year I got this interesting and challenging job as Regional Design Director in Mexico City at ITESM. I’m the youngest director of the whole school and I’m responsible for selecting the professors. I am also a professor myself and I’m giving a design class. This year it was about lightning, so we designed lamps mainly for homes. As I don’t want Mexican universities to keep all their works for themselves, one of my goals is to push them to go outside the city and outside the country to show their works. Next year, in 2019, we are taking these collections to “Salone del Mobile” in Milan. We have a lot of projects going on. For example, in February, there is the most important art fair in Latin America. We are going to present a collection in the so-called “Zona Maco”, where important international galleries are reunited, and a small section is dedicated to design. Subsequently, I selected four professors, who are also working with international companies, in order to prepare our students to present their “Zona Maco”. Substantially, we are pushing them to learn in the real world.
“I don’t want universities here in Mexico to keep all the work for themselves. So, one of my goals is to push them to go outside the country and show their work.”
Can you tell us about some projects you are currently working on?
Well, this year, in Paris we launched a project called “Pájaros”, which consists of wooden sculptures made for the brand Ligne Roset. Mainly, it is regarding furniture and home accessories. The brand is working with the best designers around the world, so I really want to push those projects forward. Besides, I’m working with brands that I really love also here in Mexico. One is Tane –a luxury brand of jewelleries made from silver–, who originally hired me for designing objects. A new collection of objects is going out to the shops this week and it is about contrasts, as my work is always related to the diversities I find on the street. The other brand I’m working with is Helvex. They mainly do bathroom accessories. I’ve just launched a new design with them, which is a tap. It is super cool because they have like 500 shops around Mexico and they sell all Latin American stuff, it is really like a mass production.
“This is what I love about my work…one day I’m designing one thing and the other day I’m designing something completely different. “
Working with well-known companies, how would you describe the retail design industry today?
In my opinion, on the one hand, retail is becoming a little bit boring. You see the same shop here and everywhere else. I think that if a retail store is located in Mexico, it should appear more local than the one you find in France. In addition, I would love to see beauty in it. So, what about a super nice installation? I feel like there is something missing and the whole experience needs to change. On the other hand, there are also good examples here in the city where you can find isolated shops, away from all these massive malls, especially in the area where I live, which is Roma neighbourhood. Last but not least, I think in retail space a very important role is played by the kind of people is working there. We always speak about the furniture, the windows … But what about people?
For what companies would you like to design objects?
That’s easy. One is Vitra, which for me it’s the most appealing design company in the world. The other one is Muji. I really am a fan of the creative director –Kenya Hara– a Japanese graphic designer. His work is just amazing. It is about removing instead of adding. That is Muji’s philosophy and he’s making it work around the world. Somehow, he has always been an influence for my work.