Interview: Kary Rivera on Making Statement Purses and Her Dream for Young Girls

Image: courtesy of Kary Rivera
See the beauty of Mexico City through the eyes of handbag designer Kary Rivera, who founded one of the city’s breakout fashion labels, María Rufina. Including origami-like aesthetic and foldable features in her work, Kary is on a mission to empower the next generation of young women and renew Mexico’s fashion image worldwide. We caught up with the designer to see what inspires her, the ideology behind the brand, and her favorite thing about her hometown.

1) Did you always want to be a designer?

Since I was a child, I admired how my mom and my sister drew. The first time I became interested in studying design was because of an interview that I watched on TV of a Spanish designer named Jordi Lavanda who is a fashion illustrator. I loved his work. Then, when I was studying graphic design, I discovered the industrial design world. I didn’t know anything about it: The Bauhaus, the fusion between art, and design applied to objects and everything you could do there. I fell in love.

2) What is the origin of María Rufina?

María Rufina comes from the interest in combining a traditional Mexican name with a contemporary name. María is the most common female name in Mexico. And Rufina is the name of my dog, a nine-year-old Xoloitzcuintle. For me, it was having found the perfect combination — a typical Mexican name along with the name of a being that I love deeply. In this way, I want to project through the name that Mexican design manages to combine global trends with national elements and concepts, achieving a particular identity.

3) How did you first come up with the idea for your signature bag?

During my last year studying industrial design at college, I had to choose a final topic to develop so I could get my degree. At that time, I felt like I had a creative block. But one night I was sleeping and had a dream that several models, fashion models, walked through the runway with geometrical handbags of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Waking up, I knew that handbag had to be my project, so I started creating it. And I haven’t stopped since then.

4) Why do you create with neoprene?

During my last year studying industrial design at college, I had to choose a final topic to develop so I could get my degree. At that time, I felt like I had a creative block. But one night I was sleeping and had a dream that several models, fashion models, walked through the runway with geometrical handbags of different sizes, shapes and colors. Waking up, I knew that handbag had to be my project, so I started creating it. And I haven’t stopped since then.

5) What inspires you most?

I’m inspired by female empowerment, social injustices, and the development of self-awareness. It inspires me to know that I can leave a better world for the next generation. I want to be a role model for those girls who think they can’t be transcendent and change the world we live in.

6) What's your favorite place in Mexico City? Favorite thing to do?

I like to ride my bike, exercise, travel and find new places to eat. My favorite place in Mexico City is our lake “El Lago de Chapultepec” To get there, I usually pass through the main avenue “Paseo de la Reforma” on my bike. Also, I play soccer, and I love having my family and friends cheering me on at every game.

7) What do you want your brand to signify?

I want Maria Rufina to be found as a unique and innovative Mexican brand. I want to offer a functional innovative product that could help stand out and redefine the concept of what Mexican design is, adding extra value in aspects like functionality, versatility, and folding features. This could be translated as a sophisticated, high quality design object. I think Mexican design has so many things to offer worldwide because it combines global tendencies with our own particular culture concepts, achieving a very unique identity.