We were thrilled to launch 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 plied her trade for over 70 years. She was even seen as recently as in 2016, wearing one of her signature lace dresses while attending the Chanel fashion show in Havana—Cuba’s first international runway event since before 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. Combined with a skillfully arranged patchwork of other laces and pin-tucked cotton muslin, the pulled thread technique became Carmen Fiol's specialty at her home and studio in Vedado—which today is a stylish residential area outside Old Havana.
Photo: Monika Knutsson – Detail from Carmen Fiol’s dress design. House sign in Vedado.
Our 18-piece Carmen Fiol collection consists of tropical-style bangles, cuff bracelets, hoops, dangling earrings, a necklace, a cocktail ring, and a 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 by the highly inventive dresses Carmen Fiol designed, incorporating her pulled-thread needlework into the cuffs.
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 the following 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 Carmen Fiol’s daughters, Esperanza and Luz Maria, in Havana.
Photo: 'Vestir a la Medida' by Carmen Fiol, published 2014. Carmen Fiol and her beautiful hands.
Knutsson has spent valuable time with Fiol’s daughters, Esperanza and Luz Maria, and other family members, as well as with Fiol’s assistant, Naivy.
While locally acclaimed as a national treasure, Fiol is thus far largely unknown in the United States. It is Monika Knutsson’s great hope that her Carmen Fiol jewelry 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—up until her death in 2016.
It was Cuba's 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,” she says. What’s more, she adds, “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 a world audience.”
Explore our Carmen Fiol Collection.