When a sustainable fashion journalist arrives to Mexico City, you’d better bet she will have her eyes peeled for some artisan-made goodies.
No, Mexico City is not Berlin or Stockholm, two cities overflowing with modern sustainable fashion. But with Mexico’s rich fashion history–ponchos, serapes, weavings, gold jewelry, fantastic quetzal headdresses–you know you’ll be able to find something special and ethically made by a BIPOC artisan to take home with you.
But first, before I tell you where to find the best ethical fashion in Mexico City, a little bit of background.
There are a few main neighborhoods where you might find yourself shopping: Polanco is the upscale, expat neighborhood. Here you will find mainly Prada and Gucci stores. Nothing very interesting for someone like me–if I wanted (and could afford) that stuff, I would have bought it in New York! Then you have Roma and Condesa, the Williamsburg (upscale hipster) and Bushwick (edgy hipster) of Mexico City, respectively. This is where my cool friend who was visiting from Bushwick found herself an amazing vintage reworked jewel-green blouse with fresh patches sewn on. So, you can do some good thrifting there! There’s San Angel, a quiet and pretty neighborhood a little out of the way to the south. And finally, Centro Historico, a.k.a. “Zocalo.” Even though it’s touristy, this is actually where I found my favorite artisan shopping.
Wait, I’m not done yet preparing you. Before you go shopping, make time to visit the Museo Nacional de Antropologica. Hands down the best museum in Mexico City (and I say this knowing CDMX has more than 150 official museums, second only to London), this iconic institution is a required visit for giving yourself a grounding in the cultural history of the region. You can’t really do the whole museum in one day, and some galleries can start to feel repetitive, despite being about different Mesoamerican tribes. So walk in and go straight to the biggest gallery in the back, for the Mexica, a.k.a. Aztec, gallery. As the ruling elite, they had all the best artisans living in their city, so the most amazing headdresses and statues live here. Then you can work your way outward from this gallery, to upstairs which has more modern Mexican fashion examples, and to the side galleries to learn about different Pre-Hispanic cultures. The museum also has a fantastic gift shop, so make sure to stop in there for a moment on your way out.
Ok, on to the shopping! Anyone interested in artisan fashion cannot miss Fábrica Social in Centro, a small store that promotes the handicraft work and traditional knowledge of indigenous women artisans throughout Mexico. You’ll find hand-embroidered blouses, bags, pillows, and blankets, labeled with the name of the artisan involved (there are more than 120) as well as the number of hours it took to construct the garment.
Fábrica Social is on the second level of a very Mexican-style shopping center: a large hacienda with a center courtyard containing a restaurant, ringed by stores on the first and second levels. While you’re there, explore some of the other stores on the second level, including an organic food store and another artisan store by the stairs that I did not get the name of, but where I bought my favorite thing so far on our whole trip, a Oaxacan woven long vest/sleeveless wrap dress/scarf that I’ve worn several times a week since then.
About a 25 minute walk away in Centro, you’ll find La Ciudadela. A large market, you can find any type of traditional Mexican art, clothing, decor, and chotskies there. It’s great place to find some souvenirs or gifts. The quality ranges from beautiful handmade ponchos down to cheap graphic t-shirts and plastic trinkets, so shop carefully!
At the Bazaar del Sabado, but also elsewhere in the city in Roma and Centro, you can find Carla Fernández, a renowned Mexican designer of men’s and women’s clothing, textiles and household objects that are modern interpretations of indigenous craft.
On Saturday, head to to Bazaar del Sabado (you can also look up “Bazaar Saturday” on Google maps) an indoor/outdoor market that is frankly the best market I have ever been to – better even than Brooklyn Flea! Every room in the two-floor labyrinth features art, fashion, and food that is “hecho en Mexico,” or made in Mexico. I picked up some travel-sized organic aloe and body butter, organic tea blends, and several pieces of nice jewelry. In the center courtyard, a Mexican band played music, and a well-trained bird read my fortune, as tourists enjoyed cocktails and food. It was a lovely way to spend the morning. The market spills outside to the lower-end stalls, where you can find more affordable items, though I can’t speak to whether they have been manufactured ethically.
I know, it’s a short list. But that leaves you more time for trying Mexico City’s famous cuisine and visiting more museums. And if you’re like me, less is better, anyway.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!