October 2, 20239 Minutes

Mexican designer Fernando Laposse ‘Creative industries can power transformations’

The Mexican product and material designer Fernando Laposse (1988) ignited a flame during his stay in Curaçao. His critical questions awakened a deeper sense of purpose and a sharper focus for the future of Farm to Crafts. 

His work is very aligned with the mission and vision of Farm to Crafts. Fernando first grabbed headlines with his Totomoxtle project, his first venture into transforming humble natural materials into refined objects. Corn husk – a food by-product that is normally thrown away – was harnessed as a puzzle-like veneer inlaid into various limited-edition furnishings and accessories. This was just the start. His projects have been exhibited in the Triennale di Milano, The Design Museum in London, and Miami Basel to name a few. His first solo show with New York’s Friedman Benda Gallery ‘Ghosts of our Towns’ runs until 14 October 2023. 

The ambitions of the Farm to Crafts collective are similar to those of Fernando. The project seeks to enhance the self-sufficiency of the Curaçao economy by creating new ecosystems that connect the social, ecological, and cultural sectors. 

Generational trauma

I got a quick superficial look at Curaçao”, says Fernando. I am not claiming what the solution is. It seems to me that enticing people with money is not the answer. You first have to deal with the generational trauma of colonisation and slavery.” For Afro-Curaçaoans farming has long been associated with forced labour. The typical reaction you hear is ‘I don’t want to go back to the plantation. I’m not a slave.’  One suggestion is to recast farming as a path toward empowerment and greening the earth. People should see the passion of reconnecting with nature and ancestral traditions. “They should be proud of their connection with their place. With pride you can realise more than with the possibility of money”, says Fernando, who stayed a week on the island. 

On August 23rd he gave a presentation at the Cathedral of Thorns about his work and experiences. Throughout his career he has focused on bringing to light traditional Mexican craftsmanship techniques that have remained under-recognized on the international scale. He has worked with materials such as sisal and loofah to create furniture that is as innovative and cosmopolitan as it is sustainable and ecologically sound. His work explores the impact of trade and consumption patterns on small farming communities, leading to environmental crises, loss of biodiversity, community disintegration, and forced migration.

Eco experiences 

Fernando was deeply concerned about the loss of biodiversity due to advancing development projects on the island. “My most meaningful experience on the island was the hike with Frensel Mercelina from Uniek Curaçao (a NGO that focuses on raising awareness of the natural beauty of Curaçao among both the local population and tourists). His personal story touched me. After his retirement at the polluting refinery, he developed a passion for nature. He educated himself. His life mission in the second part of his life is to inspire others to reconnect with nature.”

Frensel took him to Malpais and the area of Kokomo beach. The conservation area is government land. “Although there is an island development plan that delineates areas for urban development, industry, and conservation, it is often the conservation areas that are the most at risk. It can change into urban development with a stroke of a pen.” 

Fernando is a firm believer of providing eco experiences to increase awareness for nature conservation. “These aren’t targeted at tourists, but at local people to develop an emotional connection with the land and to enhance the understanding of symbolic ownership. Government land is land of the people. If communities have a love for the land, they are willing to protect it and treat their natural resources better. That is our role as practitioners of design. Designers aren’t persons that create a cute little object. We look at systems and challenge them.’’

This is what he does at home, in Mexico. By involving himself in the entire process, from planting to designing, Fernando highlights the connection between land regeneration and community revitalization, ultimately celebrating design as a tool for renewal.


When he started his practise in Mexico eight years ago, he had to decolonize himself as well. At that time, I was still living in England. It was a tough process. Everything I learned was for a European reality. We grew up thinking that what came from the United States or Europe was always better. We need to create our own model. For my project I try to design for the most vulnerable indigenous populations in Mexico.’’ He doesn’t work with artisans, but trains people to learn the techniques required to make the product. It’s about inventing our own cultural heritage, our own techniques, our own crafts and our own practice.’’ 

First, you need to define what crafts are, says Fernando. For me, crafts involve manual work with low technology. Crafting is often rooted in tradition and relates to a cultural canon. It’s something that whole communities can engage in. Craft is not a static concept; it can evolve and incorporate new innovations. Crafts are intended to be open source, meaning that knowledge and techniques are shared openly.’’

During his stay, he even produced a soft sisal lock from a local agave plant. The team’s earlier attempts to create fibres from a different type of agave are in stark contrast to his “successful harvest”. In terms of Curaçao’s landscape Fernando believes both natural and cultural aspects provide a suitable environment for various crafts. 


Curaçao has a history of imposed craft.  A good example of this is the Panama hat. The local Panama hats industry was a thriving business in the beginning of the 20th century. The hat weavers didn’t earn much from it themselves and had a love-hate relationship with the work. They did it out of necessity, but it didn’t lift them out of poverty. Furthermore, the straw came from abroad.

Fernando stresses that imposed crafts and strategies don’t work. It needs to be from the bottom up. Begin by restoring pride: a newfound pride in the natural environment, the collective materials, the act of craft making and last but not least pride in the eventual object. The object may not necessarily be a nod to the past but could symbolise the culture and the future of Curaçao. Creative industries can power transformations. The mere fact that creatives have the ability to dream and turning it a reality.’’

Clear message

Although his stay was short, Fernando gained a good understanding of how the team operates. He was blunt in his feedback. He believes that the Farm to Crafts message needs to be refined. “It should have a clear message.” He also advocates for more visibility of the project, not only online but truly within the community by engaging in discussions about disconnection with nature, the history of slavery, and its impact. 

“His visit and insights shook the very foundation of our project”, says Farm to Crafts initiator Cleo de Brabander. “inspiring us to rediscover our path.

Written by Nelly Rosa