5 Must-Shop Spots in Mexico City

Shopping with a purpose: Fábrica Social.
Designer Cecilia León de la Barra’s tableware.
Wooden serving pieces from Veracruz in Onora.

Made in Mexico

These D.F. artists and designers put a modern spin on heritage handicrafts, home goods, and fashion.


By Tanvi Chheda  
Photography by Luis Garcia

Within Mexico’s Distrito Federal, or D.F., is a cluster of design-minded stores that strike an aesthetically delightful balance between chic and authentic. Recently, fashion, textile, and interior designers have begun to congreg:ate in the Condesa, Polanco, and Roma neighborhoods, along with a few boutiques in the historic center. These fashionable, leafy enclaves, or colonias, as locals call them, feel relatively quiet in a frenetic, sprawling city that’s otherwise a mash-up of high and low, ancient and modern.

1. Onora
The Goods: Housewares

After arriving in D.F. nearly two decades ago to work at an art gallery, Maggie Galton immersed herself in traditional Mexican handicrafts, eventually opening Onora in posh Polanco to showcase everything from bedding to pottery to woolen throws. Galton’s textiles and decor pieces feel contemporary, yet still have a sense of place, thanks to regional details. “Whether it’s brocade work from Chiapas, embroidery from Veracruz, or beadwork from Nayarit, we’re always working with the iconography of the community,” she says.

She’ll open her second shop in the neighborhood this summer, with volcanic rock floors and whitewashed walls to lend a gallery feel. “We want these pieces to be beautiful and singular, but at the same time something you can incorporate into your daily life, from a black pottery sugar bowl to brocade pillows.” Galton plans to feature other high-quality tabletop pieces and edibles too, including enamel pots from Guanajuato and Mexican chocolate by La Casa Tropical. Hegel 346, Apartment 9, Polanco; 52-55/5255-2230.


2. Carmen Rion
The Goods: Women’s Fashion

Opposite a quiet park in the trendy Condesa neighborhood, veteran designer Carmen Rion’s boutique sells handwoven dresses and blouses in bright coral reds, lime greens, and cobalt blues. At the core of Rion’s architectural pieces: a single panel of embroidery, usually across the shoulders or hem, combined with modern draping or a bold silhouette. Also look for flat leather sandals, silver jewelry, and Rion’s upcoming collection of black-and-white prints.

Long devoted to ethical fashion, her work with the Zinacantán women in Chiapas led to a regional design exhibition at Mexico City’s Franz Mayer Museum, which this summer travels to London’s Fashion and Textile Museum and Pangea, a gallery-cum-boutique in Marseille. Michoacán 30 A local 3, Hipódromo Condesa; 52-55/5264-6179.


3. Bi Yuu
The Goods: Rugs

Working with expert weavers from Oaxaca’s Zapotec community, Marisol Centeno produces high-quality, handmade rugs for interior design firms, architects, and design-minded city dwellers. “It’s important to me that people know the story of these products,” Centeno says. “These artisans are not just weaving; it’s a really collaborative process.”

The modern rugs, all of which have geometric patterns, are made with natural pigments extracted from herbs and flowers such as indigo and marigold, and typically take four weeks to produce. “If you buy a good rug, you are going to use it your whole life,” she says. Sold at Galería Mexicana de Diseño, Anatole France 13, Chapultepec Polanco; 52-55/5280-0080.


4. Cecilia León de la Barra
The Goods: Housewares and Decor

An industrial designer, Cecilia León de la Barra finds inspiration in everyday objects, from a plastic altar vase that she reimagined in beautiful white porcelain to her take on the Acapulco chair, a hammock-like seat popular in the 1950s. “It’s inspiring to see how people relate to objects and how they make them feel, the pleasure the object brings,” she says.

An instructor at the Center for Design, Cinema and Television, León de la Barra says she sees a rising interest in design. “There’s an audience for design now, and more and more students are enrolling,” she notes. “We have great talent and great materials, and we just need to cultivate that.” Sold at Pirwi, Alejandro Dumas 124, Polanco; 52-55/1579-6514, or by appointment at her studio.


5. Fábrica Social
The Goods: Women’s Fashion
Browsing among cherry-red eyelet dresses and turquoise-and-black skirts at this cheery downtown boutique, you would hardly believe that all the pieces were made by 150 women in eight communities in five Mexican states. But that was Fábrica Social’s mission all along: to operate like a school, training and developing skilled fashion designers, then setting up shops where they could retail their pieces year-round.

“These women are using the back-strap loom technique or the pedal loom, so it’s all handmade or hardly using any machinery,” explains general director Paola de la Rosa Argarabel. “But don’t tell them exactly what to do; it’s like they’re presenting their own collections.” In 2015, Fábrica Social plans to open outposts in Baja California and Cancún. Isabel La Católica 30, Centro; 52-55/120-0730. 
Plus: Must-Visit Museums in Mexico
The growing focus on design coincides with the expansion of the museum scene, including Soumaya Museum and the new Jumex Museum, which are simultaneously cementing the city’s status as an art capital. Situated steps from each other, these two ambitious museums signal Mexico’s arrival on the international art scene.

Junex Museum: Commissioned by Eugenio López Alonso, heir to the Jumex fruit juice fortune, the new Jumex Museum is a subdued travertine complex housing his 2,700-piece contemporary art collection (including pieces by Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst). Don’t miss work by such distinguished Mexican artists as Gabriel Orozco, Carlos Amorales, and Damián Ortega. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Granada, Miguel Hidalgo; 52-55/5395-2618.

Soumaya Museum: The audacious, aluminum-tiled exterior contains six floors of works from telecom mogul Carlos Slim’s 60,000-piece collection, which includes everything from Diego Rivera murals and Mexican religious artifacts to van Gogh paintings and Rodin sculptures. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Granada, Miguel Hidalgo; 52-55/1103-9800.

Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, July 2014.

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Sandals at Carmen Rion’s boutique.