The indigenous designer who is set to rock New York Fashion Week
Alberto López from Chiapas, Mexico, fought against machismo to become a weaver. Now, even Harvard wants him to exhibit his "ancestral" designs.
In Aldama, Chiapas, a region of Mexico marked by economic and gender inequality, men work in the fields while women weave, according to ancient customs. However, for Alberto López Gómez, 31, born into a Tzotzil family, it was clear from childhood that he wanted to be a weaver.
"A young man who is working at a loom is frowned upon. I thought things over and told my mother that I wanted to learn how to weave, and my mother said, 'You know that men work in the fields.'"
"But I answered that I had the right to learn how to weave," he says in an interview with the German Network for Human Rights in Mexico, which put the young designer on the map.
Four years after he started knitting with his sisters, the Chiapas man, who had to face harsh criticisms for being a weaver, runs his own workshop where 150 Tzotzil women knit.
"I was hiding within four walls, working in my house," he says, "people were whispering at my walk, but we are breaking the chain."
"As indigenous people, we don't know about our rights."
The designs of his 'Huipiles' (from the Nahuatl word 'huipilli'), blouses adorned with symbols of the cosmos, family and nature that take about five months to produce following a traditional procedure, have conquered the gatekeepers of American fashion. Now, he will present his collection "K'uxul Pok" at the 2020 New York Fashion Week.
The art and history of this young, indigenous designer and weaver have caused such a stir that even the prestigious Harvard University in Boston has invited him to exhibit his work.
We'll have to wait until Feb. 6 to see the essence of Mayan spirituality woven into a "huipil" on a catwalk. In the meantime, Alberto, who has nothing to stop him - least of all a stereotype - has set himself other challenges: to create a museum of textile designs in his native region of Aldama to showcase his work and that of his companions, and to write a memoir about the difficult journey he has made, which he hopes will inspire other young men in his community to become weavers.
"As indigenous people, we don't know about our rights," says the Chiapas artist. "Machismo has beaten us," he adds. Yet stories like his weave a much more egalitarian future and build bridges between tradition and modernity.