From natural vineyards to boutique bungalows, San Miguel de Allende is a next-generation creative capital

It’s just after sunset in San Miguel de Allende, and a delicious desert chill is already descending on the colorful cobblestone town. Here, in the heart of Mexico’s central highlands, I arrived at the home studio of Sonora-born hat designer Alejandra “Suki” Armendariz. After sharing cocktails across the street at rooftop bar Bekeb, led by her partner, famed mixologist Fabiola Padilla, my friends and I stumbled to her studio, just a few blocks away. . Breathless, we walked through a thick wooden door of unassuming facade to arrive at the studio, an underground room lined with well-worn cowboy saddles, geometric-patterned flannel tops, and antique silver-and-turquoise metal belts. . Norteño music blares from the speaker as Armendariz grabs beers from the fridge. She pops the cork off a bottle with her dusty leather boots and hands it to me; a smile sweeps his face in turn as congratulatory applause ricochets around the room.

Inside the Palomina store and workshop.

Photo: Hugo Feregrino

Between sips of my beer, Armendariz tells me how she launched her home studio four months ago to allow visitors to San Miguel de Allende to experience the region’s traditional cowboy culture and customs. Dressed in an all-black sombrero of her own design and jet black pants held in place by a thick leather belt with a gold buckle, Armendariz explains how she prefers to use one of three materials to create her hats: Bolivian wool, Mexican rabbit fur, and Mexican palm leaves. In bespoke experiences not too dissimilar to the one my friends and I are having now, she even walks guests through creating their own hat, with the option of having a more interactive experience by shaping and baking the brim themselves. themselves.

Today, I chose a milky gray base, verging on pink when the light hits it, encircled with an alabaster leather cord. As I sift through a box of gold and silver buttons to find the perfect adornment for my piece, Armendariz reaches under his workshop table for a box of feathers. There are dozens of options. I gravitate towards a tri-fold piece with brown, white, and black plumage to solidify my minimalist look. As Armendariz makes the final adjustments to my hat by hammering a series of metal buttons — and my friends solidify their creations while being distracted by the vintage tops and belts lining the wall — I can’t help to smile at the harmony of the evening. Completely unplanned, entirely impromptu, I know of no other country and culture where an artist like Armendariz would so freely open his studio for an impulsive design soiree. It’s festive and even a bit chaotic; it’s also perfect.

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