If you do not know of Vianney Mendez, you should. Vianney is a jewelery designer whose unique designs and patterns connect her to her roots. I had the pleasure of interviewing Vianney, who describes herself as “a quiet person and at the same time restless, I can be a bit lonely, I like to go inward but to get to that place I interact, listen to music, dance and travel, I could not imagine my life without these stimuli.” Vianney Mendez is more than just a jewelry designer. On top of her degree in industrial design and her master’s degree in fashion design, she will graduate with a diploma in Teaching Yoga in just a few days, and plans on starting her masters in Emotional Intelligence this November. I asked Vianney if she always knew she would be an artist. Her response to this question gave me a bit more insight in the fascinating woman I was speaking to. “Somehow I knew. My mother is an architect, my father an engineer so I grew up surrounded by shapes, colors, materials and computers, plus folk dance and Oaxacan Arts & Crafts. Since childhood I chose to express myself through clothes, I liked to customize what I had, what I could paint, break, etc”.
The artist herself, wearing one of her designs.
Her inspiration comes from books and situations that happen to her now. She is attracted to topics of spirituality and her latest collections speak to this. “The penultimate collection is based on the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, the following on Serendipity. Every day I am more in love with the idea of a Universal Energy that keeps us together, which allows us to be one. Recently I read an author who argued that Creativity and Spirituality are exactly the same, and lead us to a path of self-knowledge and happiness. I feel this.” She believes that each piece that is created has its own life, and possibly it is this life force that allows her personality to reflect itself in her work. She draws from the shapes, colors, foods, and aspects of life around her, and allows the creations to speak for themselves. As a Latina woman, I could not wait to ask Vianney about her choice to use local woman in the creation process of her designs.
A group of Vianney's artisans (Vianney is second from left).
She explained to me the importance in this decision. “I’ve been working with a group of women from the beginning, they come from the town of my grandparents so there is a relationship of trust and affection, through them I maintain that contact with my roots. They are wonderful girls and the brand has grown thanks to the love they put into every seam.
"That energy is transmitted to all who buy from us.” Holding one of Vianney's designs in my hand, I can feel this energy. There is a tangible feeling of love, positivity, and affection you get when looking at these designs. You somehow know that you are now part of more. The vibrant color and authenticity fill me with a feeling of love. I am transported back to my childhood home where my grandmother stood cooking her daily feast in the kitchen of beans and rice. As if by holding this necklace I am that much closer to my roots; something I used to feel so vividly living in Southern California, but that I have lost since moving to Minnesota.
Nessa, wearing a necklace and earrings from Vianney Mendez.
Out of curiosity I asked Vianney if there was a feminist influence to her designs, “The biggest influence has been my grandmother, she is one of our necklaces called Silvina, her dress was always colorful and full of prints. I remember coming home and watching her on the sewing machine surrounded by fabrics. I would ask for the leftover bits and use them to play with my dolls. My grandmother comes from a community called San Agustin Montelobos and the women who work with us do, too. They are all currently living in Oaxaca, they migrated because the community is very small and does not offer opportunities to work in more than the fields. They work from home on their time. We meet once a week to check the material, color combinations, etc. They are free to make whatever number of pieces they wish and therefore earn all they want.” It is important to her for these women to feel comfortable working for her, and so she has built a relationship with them by by talking about family, food, and their community.
Not only are her designs made by the hands of the woman that come from the community, but the materials and process are authentic as well. She trained in Product Design Craft in Oaxaca, which gave her the ideas for her first collection. She learned the traditional looming techniques and wants to know every detail about the textiles, traditions and customs. Most of her textiles come from the city of Mitla, about an hour from Oaxaca. She still visits the family that creates these textiles once a week and spends an entire day there, talking and spending time on the loom. They have been working together for four years now. Vianney Mendez's designs have spread internationally. She has stores in Mexico, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Chicago.
A model wearing one of Vianney's pieces.
I asked her where she was planning on conquering next. “I will answer in the same way that the architect Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon said in an interview: I do not make plans more than three months. Of course I have dreams and goals that I would like to reach but I want to live in this moment, perceive every sound, every word, every image, dedicate my mind and body to the work I do and trust that the universe will carry me, as it has, to the right place and time.” With all of her successes I asked, if she could have anyone, past or present, wear her designs, who would she choose. “At this moment I think of Leonora Carrington and I will quote one of his sentences to give you the reason: Art is a weapon that penetrates the eyes, the ears, the deepest and subtlest human feelings”.
As our interview came to a close, I asked Vianney one last question, what is one thing that the world must know about Vianney Mendez, and her response left me with this warm feeling that is almost indescribable. “That I am a woman with virtues and defects, with dreams and fears, joys and sorrows, who receives each day with gratitude and hope.” Vianney Mendez is a force to be reckoned with, a light that shines so bright in this world we live in. She carries herself with such grace and her love for life is palpable. If you do not know who Vianney Mendez is, you should.
by Vanessa Arboleda
Bio - Vanessa Arboleda lives in Minnesota, land of winter and ice, and can be found on Instagram at journey2fit_nessa.