Cassandra Goad's Ola Mexicana “Conversaciones"

Mexicans really know how to party, right?
— Thomasina Miers, OBE

Originally published at: https://www.cassandragoad.com/journal

Steeped in mystique, tradition and festivities, Mexico has formed the vibrant inspiration for Cassandra’s latest collection, Ola Mexicana. Ola adventure! Last week, the Cassandra Goad store was transported to the dynamic destination, capturing a sensory myriad of Mexican artistry and lifestyle for guests to feast upon. This is a country that explodes with rhythm, heat and colour and it is clear from this week’s “conversaciones” that everyone who has ventured to Mexico has left with an intense emotional attachment to the country and the culture.

Breathe in, drink in: Cassandra’s journey to Mexico took her from the depths of the barrier reef, to Palenque’s exotic jungle, to down the mines in search of exquisite Fire Opals. Overwhelmed by the incredible buildings, the layers of history, the fiestas and celebration, Cassandra simply had to bring “all that mystery and imagination” back to London. And just as Cassandra absorbed every detail she could discover on her travels in Mexico, so too did we the audience become “sponges”, taking in the stories of host Cassandra and her fascinating guests. For those of you who couldn’t make it, let us take you on a journey through the festival.

Chillis, mythological tortillas, and Mescal: Cassandra was joined by Thomasina Miers, OBE, founder of the renowned Mexican restaurant group Wahaca, who brought a delectable insight into Mexico’s culinary delights. Studying Spanish and first travelling to Mexico “hapless and last minute” when she was 18 years old, Thomasina was simply staggered by the food Mexico had to offer right from the very beginning. Ten years after that first trip, Thomasina went back and spent a year living in Mexico City, entirely absorbed once again and returning back to London with a complete sense of deflation. How could she live without the intense flavours, freshest salsas, citrus zests, chillis (all 200 of them!) and amazing textures that she had discovered? Here she had found the “biggest culinary secret in the whole world.” A secret - luckily for us - that she simply had to share. Her dream of opening “the River Cafe of Mexican food” was born. Back in the UK, Thomasina journeyed from the more refined food of Petersham Nurseries to recreating the excitement of Mexican street food and opening Wahaca, earning herself the title of Masterchef winner along the way. For Thomasina, it’s all about honest flavours and not just about heat, and it is this distinct essence of fresh and healthy Mexican food that Thomasina has brought back to the UK. It was a treat to hear her stories and lap up her infectious passion for cooking. A passion that had the whole audience dreaming of delicious recipes and raring to cook up their own Mole sauces!

Fuel, speed, and perfection: from the heat of the kitchen, to the heat of the race-track, fast forward to Tuesday and Cassandra was in conversation with F1 Mexican driver for Mercedes Esteban Gutierrez. From the way Esteban talks about racing driving and the discipline of its design, it was clear that Formula 1 is not just a Sport, but an Art as well. It was fascinating to hear about the intense operation behind consistently designing and re-designing racing cars to reach perfection (with 1500 people in a team no less, and Esteban often driving 180 laps a day!) There is intense decision making, both behind the driving seat and away from the track, and although jewellery and F1 may seem worlds apart, their design processes had compelling parallels. “How much engineering goes into your designs, Cassandra?” Esteban quizzed with a grin. From the explosive speed of the racetrack, to the best parties in Mexico, adapting both driving and designing styles, to the future of men’s jewellery, this was a conversation that brought both Sport and Art to life.

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Conception, creativity and communication: Cassandra hosted artist Luke Martineau and V&A curator Claire Wilcox for her final “conversaciones” of the festival. Claire is intrinsically linked to story-telling and discovery, which was powerfully displayed in her curation of the V&A Frida Kahlo exhibition - the first time these artefacts had in fact left Mexico, after being kept under lock and key for 50 years after Frida Kahlo’s death. Describing this whole process to us, Claire reminisced on unveiling the “astonishing trove of items that were extremely personal” to Frida. Claire wanted visitors to arrive at the exhibition and feel instantly transported, providing an incredible glimpse into the life of this iconic Mexican artist. Communicating this sense of excitement and creating dialogue (and the struggles that come with this) sparked great conversation between all three Artists. For Claire, the painstaking curating process seems more like a complex mosaic than a painting, with the “psychic danger of falling too deeply” into the world of her subject. Frida was an iconic example of this, as a subject so raw, direct and powerful. Luke described becoming “emotionally bound up” in his commissions too, with his conflicts arising in deciding when to finish a painting, considering every mark you make and capturing that freshness and joy right till the end. Surrounded by the vibrant colours of Luke’s paintings at Cassandra’s store, some of which depicted one of Cassandra’s infamous Day of the Dead Parties, we could experience this joy for ourselves, absorbing the Mexican energy and sense of celebration. However scrupulous the work of these artists, it was clear to see and hear that they all shared unanimous love for the wonderful possibility of creation.

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If indeed, as Luke described, “all creativity is about a leap of faith”, then what better reason to experience the delights of Mexico - whether in Mexico itself or the pockets you can discover in London. Take a leap of faith, seek adventure, and transport your creativity and imagination. The tequila cocktails and delicious tortillas may now have been whisked away, but the spirit of Mexico is still burning strong on Sloane Street. From jewellery design, to painting, curating, to cooking and racing cars, this festival of conversations demonstrated just how much there is to enjoy from this vibrant culture.

Charlotte Franklin