With an mixture of just the right sass and sophistication, Norma breezes into the shop. Elegant, and worldly, her visits are some of our most savored. She lives with such exuberance it’s contagious. “I dreamed of this drink last night” as she pours the most exquisite cocktail served in a vintage gold leaf cocktail glass at Mercy one night. It’s all in the detail with Norma be it the food she’s prepared, the cocktail she’s pouring, the outfit she is wearing or the decor in her home. The vigor in which she lives life is beautiful and such a pleasure to be around. Norma is also the lady who introduced us to the world of Carla Fernandez. (Both a blessing and a curse, we love and collect Carla but have significantly less money in the bank!) We are so grateful to have this beauty in our lives.
Where are you originally from? How has that influenced your style?
I am from a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City, which is great because it allowed for a country lifestyle kind of childhood, but I was also so close to DF (Mexico City) that I had all the advantages of a huge metropolis. I love traditional Mexican regalia and love throwing sprinkles of it to accent my outfits, even the most urban ones. It is my identity. This is why I love Carla Fernandez’ collections. She lives in DF and works with traditional techniques and indigenous women all over Mexico to preserve our clothes making tradition. Her pieces speak of centuries of tradition, but are extremely urban.
Do you have a style icon?
I do not have one particular icon, but if I had to name one person it would be my grandmother. She and I collaborated on most of my dresses growing up. I can remember most of them, it would always start with an idea that we would brainstorm about, then a visit to the fabric shop, she would then make the pattern and start cutting the fabric, you know the rest, she did the whole thing. All my dressers were lined, her attention to detail and technique are impeccable. I miss those days!! Someone else I admire is my friend Ylenia in Mexico City. Although our styles are completely different I admire her originality and perfect way of accessorizing. She follows her own style rules and that is really inspiring to me. OK and the Mexican actresses from The Golden Era of Mexican Cinema.
What are some of your artistic influences?
When I was 19 I was running this “gallery” in Mexico City, the space emphasized in the integration of underground (then) marginal art practices. Young and not so young artists would show video, installation, photography and performance. Often times we would have to throw parties to gather funds to pay the bills. These parties reflected a lifestyle and a social dynamic that opposed the rigid rules dictated by the art world and society in general. That experience pretty much dictated the way in which I would see, consume and practice art forward.
In my practice as a Chef or when I am commissioned to do artsy-food-projects, I am most influenced by my country, Mexico. Our gastronomy is so vast, the more I learn about it, the more I realize I am just scraping the surface. I like to see it first by region and the ingredients that are particular to each place; then by period in history and how we have been influenced (and vice versa) by coming into contact with other cultures. This is something I could talk to you for hours, so I am gonna stop here!
Top 5 favorite records?
“Stick Around for Joy” by The Sugar Cubes.
“Maria Daniela y Su Sonido Lasser” by Maria Daniela y Su Sonido Lasser.
“Amor Prohibido” by Selena.
“Violent Femmes” by Violent Femmes.
“Santa Sabina” by Santa Sabina.
Top 5 favorite books?
Tinisima, by Elena Poniatovska.
Alicia en el Pais de las Maravillas, by Carrol Lewis.
Corazon de Piedra verde, by Salvador de Madariaga
Cocina Esencial de Mexico, by Diana Kennedy.
The Physiology of Taste, by Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
What do you collect other than killer clothes?
Spoons, plates and cookbooks.
Are you a more is more or a less is more kind of lady?
Gosh, this is a hard question! I see food and fashion kind of in the same light. Sometimes a dish or an outfit call for many layers, ingredients, colors and textures and if you are able to execute it and balance it correctly, then you have magic! Others you just want something simple, easy, fresh and very elegant, so to answer your question: Both!
Best score ever?
I think it was 2005. I was so inspired by Carla Fernandez’ work and wanted to show it to the world, so I was doing a lot of promotion and sales for her line in the Bay Area. My friend’s Irene Chilling Productions Shows were off the wall and I was doing them occasionally. At this particular one, another vendor approached me to purchase one of Carla’s pieces, she did not have enough cash at the moment, so all in good faith we did a little payment plan and she took the skirt. Unfortunately I never saw the money, the person, nor the skirt… I was really bummed and I would often think about this incident and it would make me sad. I think it was 2010, I was trying to clean up my closet and made the dreaded trip to Cross Roads in Rockridge, as I awaited for my name to be called I decided to browse through their sale rack. To my surprise that day, Carla’s skirt was there, half off from their original marked price! I payed for it and crossed my name off the list, donated the clothes and left the store. You guys photographed this skirt for the (Carla Fernandez Archive) sale we did in November. Life sometimes works in the most beautiful ways!
What inspires you?
I am a really lucky person to be surrounded by strong, interesting and beautiful women. These ladies, who I call friends inspire me and keep me going. It is people like you Mercy Girls, like Kayoko and Yoko from Umamimart, like Carla Fernandez in Mexico City, or Dominica from Cosecha who keep me going!
Name one item you could not live without.
Black eyebrow liner.