Embroidery Reinterpreted Through Furniture

A rich heritage of folk embroidery meets modern furniture design in Hilando México, a two-year-old social and artistic project conceived by Mexican designer Sally Azar. After visiting Ichmul, a small town in Mexcio’s Yucatán state, Azar fell in love with the intricate floral hand-embroidery the indigenous women had been creating for generations. “I decided to make this my life project, to weave my dreams with them and to start bridging worlds,” she says.

Azar first worked with the women to digitize and reinterpret the original designs of their huipiles, traditional decorated tunics, to create a more modern look. Now, she and other furniture designers come up with an idea – whether for an embellished chair, pillow, table, sofa or other piece – and Azar brings the concept drawing, fabric and threads to the Ichmul women to sew the design. A pillow takes about two weeks to complete, whereas bigger pieces, like sofas, require closer to two months of labor, Azar says.

The Hilando México project has provided the Ichmul women a steady and substantial income, plus Azar says she feels a “huge responsibility” and uses the project’s resources to help improve the Ichmul community as a whole.

Another one of the project’s goals has been to promote Mexican craftsmanship on a national and international level. After New York Design Week, The Wall Street Journal featured a piece created in collaboration between Hilando and Mexican design team Rococo: a gray sofa with a bold blue-and-white floral motif across the backrest. The publication pointed to the stylish settee as a noteworthy example of the embroidered furniture trend. Azar says the nod from the media was gratifying: “I felt that suddenly all the effort behind it was worth it, and this recognition keeps us motivated to continue,” she says.