San Miguel, Slowing Down, and SS18 Inspiration
Posted: Feb 23 2018
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
--Mary Ritter Beard
Out of all the seasons, doesn’t spring give you the most intense wanderlust? The fact that I can skip all the layering of winter, simply throw on a pair of slides, and be out the door in two minutes or less makes me feel more free somehow. The natural transition from cold to warm, neutral to colored does my designer heart so much good. These sporadic 70-degree afternoons in Nashville have me fondly thinking back to my sun-filled days in San Miguel last year. As I’m preparing to launch my Spring/Summer ’18 collection, it is quietly, increasingly clear where my brain space has been for the past few months and how, unthinking, our experiences influence our creative processes.
My husband Craige and I always have the hardest time deciding on a vacay spot. At first, we think, let’s just veg out on the beach every day with drinks and good books. Then we’re immediately like, but what else are we going to do? Ha. Our “relaxing vacation” immediately becomes a cultural excursion, although in hindsight I usually find the latter to be relaxing in its own way. Upon the recommendation of friends and a long-time desire to visit, San Miguel became our effective balance of ease and adventure with our son Luke.
In San Miguel, we stayed in the carriage house of a beautiful estate in the city center. Other than the devices we brought with us, technology was pretty limited in and around the city, so going “off the grid” felt instinctive and, well, really good. We were a walkable distance to almost everything, making an honest introduction to native life and a welcome routine considering our daily visits to a darling, little bakery just down the street. (This is how we justify eating all the delicious things as tourists, isn’t it?) On our walks, I was regularly charmed by the old-world cobblestone streets and architecture—boldly-colored exteriors and plant-lined rooftops, inserting life even into this dry and dusty environment.
I was expecting a lot from San Miguel, just because of all the things I had heard and read. But the city’s true creative and cultural inspiration kind of snuck up on me. From Atelier Stellis, a Mexican handmade tile supplier, to Mixta, a lifestyle boutique close to our Airbnb that I visited many times throughout our trip, so much of the artistic community in San Miguel is gently discerning, original yet not insensitive to place, and refreshingly unpretentious. I found the stunning works of new-to-me portrait photographer Elizabeth Gertrude Loertscher in an interiors gallery that carried ultra-streamlined furniture and goods in the loveliest earth tones. I also took home a small clay Georgia O'Keeffe-esque sculpture by Elaine Grenier titled "Black Bloom." Many Americans visit central Mexico for its refined taste in interior design, and now I know why.
A highlight of San Miguel is a cultural center and art school. It was crawling with students and spectators the day we visited, and I assume it’s like this year-round. There, they teach a variety of fine arts and crafts, including painting, drawing, weaving, and woodworking. My whole family enjoyed our time at the school, playing and watching people of all ages growing and learning. A profound moment occurred for me when I spotted a beautiful girl in one of the classes—a girl I had seen earlier in the day on the street who I instantly imagined starring in a shoot for my brand. It was a gentle reminder that the world is small and that the creative visions we think are far-fetched are actually quite tangible.
We also met mixed media artist Anado McLauchlin at a cocktail party hosted by some friends. He invited us to his property, which itself is a work of art, the following day. His mosaic style translates from small- to very large-scale, covering the entire exterior of his home with knobs and baubles and found objects but also decorating smaller trees and surfaces. Each face or figure that emerges from his compositions directly represents something in his life. Anado the person struck me as delightfully eccentric and passionate with his work, and at peace with himself.
The artistry in visual culture bleeds into the food and drink (praises for mezcal!) scene with punch. Between the street tacos and guac at Don Santos, where they spoke absolutely no English, and the sophisticated flavors at Moxi, which shares the same executive chef, Enrique Olvera, as acclaimed Mexico City restaurant (and one of my favorites!) Pujol, San Miguel de Allende offers a diverse tour of Mexican cuisine. Lavanda Café also comes to mind for its incredible breakfast. With a line out the door by 8am every morning and only a few small tables inside, it was worth the wait!
Our final days in San Miguel rounded out with a pool day at the Rosewood resort and a short four-wheeler ride to the outskirts of town, where we found the perfect desert dwelling for sale. Honestly, I wanted to buy it right then and there! (We didn’t.) Its gray concrete exterior was balanced by the most vibrant colors and textures and views. I was ready to plan our vacation home, and could see photo shoots inside this place—just so energizing and exciting, and a great mindset for returning home.
San Miguel is a subtly modern and progressive place, because of how its people seem to live an intentional, understated lifestyle and have a generations-deep contentment with the present. Moving into spring and the sharing of SS18 with you, the image of a single woman carrying her tote bag in her hand, not pulling on her shoulder, lingers predominantly. On narrow sidewalks that are difficult to navigate and cobblestone streets that are hard on the feet, it’s like she’s figured it out way before us…what’s natural for everyday life. That’s the philosophy of CERI this spring. Won’t you join us on our adventure?