Frida Larios: out of History and onto our Clothes

Fashion design, San Francisco

As published on AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) XCD: Center for Cross-Cultural design.

Photography by Tyler Orsburn

Fashion and Design Entrepreneur Frida Larios shares how her Mayan-inspired designs are taking new shapes and forms

New Maya Language

The Maya was a civilisation of indigenous natives that populated Central America from around 1500 BC. They are credited with inventing the concept of the number zero and their calendar measurements are the most accurate in the history of the civilised world. They created and used one of the most beautiful and intelligent logographic languages, still quite unknown to western hemispheres. The Maya scribes had a very privileged position in the socio-political system and were multi-talented – they were artists, sculptors, and calligraphers, and were also believed to be astronomers, mathematicians, historians and royal book keepers.

The project started by developing narrative pictograms for ‘Joya de Cerén’, an UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Site in El Salvador in Central America. This was Frida’s Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design master’s thesis case study in 2004 and is still evolving to date. The archaeological site was apt because it was about common citizen’s way of living, about their eating habits, social relations, architecture and agriculture — very unlike the majestic religious temples usually found in the Mesoamerican region. The Maya written language was not really accessible to the non-elite population, a problem that still persists in our modern times. It is really a dead language only readable by a few in the academic world. The system is a universal visual language, which can also help surpass literacy disadvantages – specially in the developing world – while at the same time enhance users experience and learning in public locations or through a toy, or simply be appreciated as an art form.

A Democratic womenswear line

The new design-oriented, 100% handcrafted fashion line features New Maya Language pictographs, allowing you to wear a story: the metaphoric language and history of the Maya as interpreted by Frida.

The concept behind this one-of-a-kind collection is planting and harvesting seeds, building a home with your own hands, and nourishing yourself and your family through eating beans on self-made ceramic vessels. Salvadorean women have lovingly hand-sewn and patched the garments to give them unique dimensions and colour.

The use of silk, silk satin, cotton, linen, and denim allow the clothes to wrap and flow on the body with ease. The earth-toned colours and modern lines marry Mayan traditions with present-day sophistication.

Frida Larios hails from Copan, Honduras. She has at taught the London College of Fashion and Camberwell College of Arts in London, and currently works with her husband to produce culturally inclusive integrated photo-design projects. In 2009, three of her New Maya pictograms earned a honourable mention in the AIGA Cross-Cultural Design competition. In 2005, she was the only Latin American to have won the Sign Design Award, and in 1999, she was nominated to Beatrice L. Warde Award by the ISTD for excellence in typographic research in England. Recently, she was selected to take part in ‘Beijing Typography ‘09′ in Beijing, China. Check out a video excerpt of Explode La Mode, Frida’s fashion show in the Mission district, San Francisco.

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