Utilitario Mexicano

Talking Craft and Commerce With CDMX’s Utilitario Mexicano

Utilitario Mexicano is a must visit for anyone going to CDMX. Their mix of incredible objects from Mexican craftsmen paired with a beautifully spartan store just ticks a lot of boxes for us. Through them we’ve learnt some important lessons. Uno - always keep a molcajete to hand in the kitchen. Dos - don’t be afraid to break some rules! And luckily for us we're now proud stockiest of some key Utilitario Mexicano pieces, so we carry on our Mexico City fantasies even back home.

Published 28/10/2020

SKEWED Design

Photo by Ana Lorenzana

DK

Who are the people behind Utilitario Mexicano

UM

Husband and wife Enrique Arellano and Libia Moreno.

DK

I think I read somewhere that you guys are Colombian – please correct me if I´m wrong! How did your love affair with México start? 

UM

Yes! We are Colombians, living half our lives in Mexico City (19 years now) This city has a magnetism that is difficult to escape from. It can also repel you. Once you get used to all the caos, you start seeing beauty in layers. Is playful and full of colors. Mexican markets are the best on our way of view in the world. 
    We used to live in downtown, Utilitario started those days, walking around the neighborhood, getting lost and wondering around every shop and corner, we always came home with something, we start collecting things, downtown is a huge open sky shopping mall, full of beautiful historic buildings everywhere. The blocks are dedicated to selling one thing for example electronics (Victoria street) then you walk two more blocks and you find disco balls, instruments and huge speakers for sonideros (Bolivar street). 
   And last but not least you have tacos and mezcal. Food is the master key that open the multiverses melted in this epic culture. Markets, people, culture, crafts, utensils, artisans, kitchens, ingredients, colors, flavors, music, stories, flowers, faith, traditions, mysticism, humor … and so on. 
    How come you are not going to love this city?

 

Photos by Joaquin Trujillo.

DK

We love that the store is simultaneously playful yet utilitarian. How did you create this mix?

UM

The space was full of trash and dark in all senses when we move in. We wanted the opposite, that is why we choose white, also it will serve us as a plain canvas to play with all the colorful objects we have in our catalogue. We want to bring the basics of warehouse with the metal racks and the pegboard, a utilitarian display for utilitarian objects.      
           It turned out to be fun because everything was done with our own hands, so keeping it simple, quick to build and inexpensive were the mandatory conditions. In the process a lot of the garbage, wood and iron waste that was left in the location ended up at the store front. Recycling became an organic part of the project and a signature of the store.

 
The shop in La Juarez. Photos by Erik Lopez.

DK

What did you guys do before starting the store? 

UM

Enrique:I have worked as graphic designer for advertising and branding for many years, but one day I got really tired and start working as a freelancer in projects that move me, and Utilitario came as a project that stay and became my work, our creation.
           Libia:I have another brand call Colorindio, we work with artisans co-creating traditional textiles for home decoration. I had this obsession with a little store in downtown that no longer exist, and wanted to replicate something like that, the store had all kind of cotton ropes, natural fibers, basics for the house. We try to make it in a way no one can resist on taking something that they will eventually use.

DK

Tell us about the neighbourhood that the shop is in. Your location is quite unassuming which brings with it such a charm

UM

La Juarez, was a wealthy neigbourhood in the late XIX century, many of the mansions are already under ground by the earthquakes and others are only facades with no roofs on top. Still have this charm of local living with a market near by. For us choosing the space was more because it had some of the things we were looking to express in a better way our vision of Utilitarian objects, is huge and is in the middle of the hip zones and our always inspirational downtown.

Pepita collection. Photo by Ana Lorenzana.

DK

What does #hechoenmexico mean for the future? 

UM

We think this is something that not only applies for Mexico #hechoen… is the way consumers are buying from their near stores and business. Now, these days under the present circumstances, local movement can make the difference in a nation like Mexico. It takes a lot of change to make this happen by start recognizing the economic benefits on your block, neighborhood, city and community and consequently avoid the trap or belief that because is local it’s needs to be cheaper than all others. 

DK

Are there up and coming crafts? Equally are there any crafts in need of saving?

UM

México is a big country and almost everywhere you go there is handcraft made. Is Rich in culture, many artisans are organized in cooperatives and they have been evolving with the way they produce, of course with the boom about artisanal design many of them have open to new customers and markets, internet have been a really good way of promoting their work. And with the tendency of working in communities there is an interest in young people of learning the family crafstment heritage.

DK

Are there any stereotypes about Mexican design you would like to change?

UM

Nothing to change. Everything in México has a meaning, even when it becomes a cliché still have his charm. The range of color combinations for example would not be possible if anyone tries to design within an academic or theoric frame. Mexican designs can break so many rules! that that is why they are always surprising and innovate. It contains a huge dose of knowledge and ingenuity.     
         What we have found extremely difficult to achieve is reaching production scales in the order of tens of thousands units. Factories with industrial capacity do not tend to leave their comfort zone. Designing and producing using the infrastructure of small and medium industry is only possible in the order of hundreds at best, so growing is a difficult fish to catch.

DK

Is there a kitchen gadget you cannot live without? 

UM

Lemon squeezer / Libia. Molcajete / Enrique

DK

Do you have something in the range that you are especially excited about right now? 

UM

Pepita collection.