We are thrilled to be launching a limited-edition Caribbean collection with extraordinary pulled-thread needle lace, handmade by Carmen Amparo Fiol de la Cruz, an Afro-Cuban seamstress-couturière who worked for over 70 years. She was even seen wearing one of her signature lace dresses while attending the 2016 Chanel fashion show in Havana—Cuba’s first international runway event since the 1959 revolution.
Photo: On Cuba Magazine – Carmen Fiol in an interview with ‘On Cuba Magazine’ in May 2016
Initiated by peasant women in the 17thcentury to emulate the fine lace worn by aristocrats, the pulled thread technique involves separating the threads in a piece of cloth in order to achieve an openwork design. This combined with a skilled patchwork of other laces and pin-tucked cotton muslin became a Carmen Fiol specialty at her home and studio in Vedado—a still trendy residential area outside Old Havana.
Photo: Monika Knutsson – Detail from Carmen Fiol’s dress design. House sign in Vedado.
Our 18-piece Cuba collection consists of tropical-style bangles, cuff bracelets, hoops, dangling earrings, a necklace, cocktail ring and hair accessory. Some are inset with semi-precious stones displaying Caribbean Sea colors—the blue larimar stone from the Caribbean, blue and aqua quartz, moonstone and light blue chalcedony. The limited edition Carmen cuff below is inspired from Carmen Fiol’s dresses, incorporating her pulled-thread needlework into the cuff design.
Photo: Monika Knutsson – Designing and making of the limited edition Carmen cuff.
Monika Knutsson discovered Fiol’s designs on her first visit to Cuba in 2017, shortly after the designer’s death. She returned this spring, becoming acquainted with Fiol’s ingenious dressmaking techniques, artfully combining her ethereal geometric and floral-motif laces with pintucks. The lace, says Knutsson, “was used less as embellishment and more to give the garment structure, flow and air.”
Photo: Mario Ricardo Villa Bastardo – Visiting Esperanza and Luz Maria in Havana.
Knutsson has also spent valuable time with Fiol’s daughters, Esperanza and Luz Maria, and other family members, as well as and Fiol’s assistant, Naivy. These ladies are continuing the pulled lace production and providing the materials for the Cuba jewelry collection.
While locally acclaimed as a national treasure, Fiol is thus far largely unknown in the U.S. It is Monika Knutsson’s great hope that her Carmen Fiol jewelry collection will draw American attention to the ingenious designs of a dressmaker who—amazingly enough—not only served women of wealth in the pre-revolutionary years, but continued unhindered—in fact, celebrated—in the Castro regime. That is thanks to an early client, Celia Sánchez, who joined the revolution and became Fidel Castro’s confidante and Fiol’s patron.
It was the Cuban scarcity of luxury goods such as European lace that inspired Carmen Fiol’s ingenuity, according to Monika Knutsson, “I know that when you’re a designer faced with limitations, you’re forced to think more creatively.” What’s more, she explains, “Cuba is a land both frozen in time and filled with potential that is released daily by the creativity of its people. My jewelry is the same. It is lace frozen in time that is transformed into beautiful modern creations. Carmen was a gifted and creative Cuban designer who deserves again her world audience.”
Explore our Cuba Collection inspired by Carmen Fiol.