Onora – contemporary crafts with ancestral ties from Mexico

Based in Mexico City, Onora is a handcrafted design brand that brings together a unique selection of innovating handmade pieces, mindfully tweaking traditional design without sacrificing cultural identity. Onora works hand in hand with artisans promoting a spirit of cooperation. They also seek to collaborate with other designers creating pieces that reflect the multidisciplinary nature of their brand. Mr Hudson speaks to Maggie Galton and María Eladia Hagerman about the history and values of their brand, their work, and some of their favourites places in Mexico City.

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What is the backstory of the founders?

Before joining passions in 2013, the partners each had been involved in design and handcrafts in different capacities. Maria Eladia, a Mexican graphic designer, had been collecting handcrafts since a young child when her parents and five siblings would pile into a station wagon to explore Mexico’s remote archaeological sites and important artisanal communities.

Many years later, while living in Los Angeles, Maria Eladia felt a shortage in the representation of fine Mexican handcraft outside of the country, especially surprisingly in a city with such a rich Mexican community. The desire to showcase the exquisite craftsmanship and traditions of her country both at home and abroad became one of her main reasons to join forces with Mexico City-based, Maggie Galton, to form Onora.

A New Yorker who has been living in Mexico for twenty years, Maggie has a rich and extended background working with artisans. By the time the two had met, Maggie had already worked for over ten years with the Banamex Foundation in the Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art (Grandes Maestros de Arte Popular) program. She was implementing workshops to revive dying craft tradition and had run a textile innovation and design program for the government institution FONART and had consulted independently for various NGO’s such as Aid to Artisans.

Maggie Galton & María Eladia Hagerman

“The younger generations were finally looking within, embracing and celebrating everything made in Mexico, but especially handcraft”

Both Maggie and Maria were convinced that the survival of handcraft was dependent not only on reviving certain skills, techniques, and sharing them with future generations, but also it was also crucial to innovate, mindfully tweaking traditional design without sacrificing cultural identity.

The process of joining forces was very organic. Their timing was perfect – the market at that moment was waking up to the idea of embracing handcrafted pieces. In Mexico, the market had been focused on imported goods since the NAFTA agreement back in the ’90s, and suddenly the tides changed, the younger generations were finally looking within, embracing and celebrating everything made in Mexico, but especially handcraft.

“We aim to make our designs a vehicle for artisans to achieve a dignified and sustainable life”

What are the core values of Onora? 

COLLABORATION. Onora works hand in hand with artisans promoting a spirit of cooperation. We also seek to collaborate with other designers creating pieces that reflect the multidisciplinary nature of our brand.

WE REVERE TRADITION. It is our inspiration. We explore the vast universe of Mexican traditions, techniques, colours, and iconographies to give them new life through contemporary reinterpretations.

WE HONOR TIME. It is the key to the saviour-fair of craft. Each product is a reflection of ability, wisdom and tradition acquired over time and transmitted from generation to generation.

SOCIAL IMPACT. It is our commitment. We seek to create a bridge between artisanal work and the contemporary design market. We aim to make our designs a vehicle for artisans to achieve a dignified and sustainable life.

CURATION. It is our added value. In addition to our original designs, we include traditional handmade pieces that we discover through our travels.

DESIGN. It is our transformative vehicle. The intersecting visions and cross-cultural backgrounds of the founders help them to recontextualize and give new life to the traditional, iconographies, colour palettes and materials represented of Mexican crafts.

“Through close collaborations with artisans, we create product lines with a strong identity that is deeply rooted in the past yet unarguably dialogues with the present”

What makes Onora special?

We design products that are inspired in the past that tell stories and reflect different layers of Mexican culture through a contemporary voice. At the same time, we rely on curation and styling with a strong brand presence to create a unique journey for our clients.

Through close collaborations with artisans, we create product lines with a strong identity that is deeply rooted in the past yet unarguably dialogues with the present. We are a contemporary brand with ancestral ties. We are casual yet sophisticated. These dichotomies sustain our brand and reflect the complexities of Mexico’s complex and rich culture.

We also offer curation that includes traditional pieces to share with our audience the origins of our designs and points of inspiration. Because the collections we design are never far from the conventional design, we feel it is essential to maintain this link and allow for the cultural identity, be it Purepechá, Tztotzil or Zapoteco, to be the protagonist of the piece. There is a saying in Spanish ‘De tal palo, tal astilla’ which translates basically to the English saying ‘the apple never falls far from the tree’.

Why is your brand so popular with the gay community?

Our brand’s aesthetic is universal and very approachable and therefore appeals to ALL communities.

What are some of your favourite places in Mexico City that people need to know about?

Breakfast at Nico’s– try the huevos rancheros verdes and chilaquiles.
Enrique Olvera’s Ticuchi Bar is our new favourite –the Mezcal Margarita is killer.
Shop for mid-century Modern pieces at Emmanuel Picault’s Chic by Accident Gallery.
Design Gallery – Ago Projects with new and inspiring work by Mexican and Latin American designers.
The PACK – Roma based boutique with gender-fluid clothes and jewellery by Mexican designers.
Contramar is always a must when in Mexico City.
Rosetta– excellent Italian should you need a break from Mexican food.

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Ciudad de México

Palacio de Bellas Artes | Photo: Mario Peppino

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