MEXICO CITY -- Let there be light, but let it be shaded by a magenta felt hat or a burlap coffee sack.
Diez, a Mexican lighting design company with a social conscience, is fashionably lighting up homes, hotels and shops across the U.S., Canada, Australia and Mexico. The company's more adventurous collections include a series of lamps shaped from recuperated dry wood and another series employing repurposed materials such as traditional glass agua fresca water jugs, coffee bags and mannequin torsos.
In the six years since its founding, the company's design mix has been a hit at boutique hotels like Mexico City's Brick and Matilde in the popular tourist destination of San Miguel de Allende, as well as at major chains St. Regis, Fairmont and Westin. Diez creates lamps and lighting for New York-based furnishings supplier Kravet, which sells at interior design outlets including Chicago's Merchandise Mart, the Los Angeles Mart and LEX200 New York. Diez's work is also featured at a shop in New York's Soho, The New Traditionalists.
"We started by exporting," said Rodrigo Fernández Barajas, creative director and designer. "Then the curve inverted -- now we sell more here. We broke through the stigma that Mexican-made products are poor quality."
Underscoring that Diez meets the stringent safety norms that hotels require, Fernández Barajas further attributes the company's success to its "capacity to resolve problems" for clients and to illumination design that "takes risks."
Diez is a trio: Fernández Barajas partners with Allegra Dayan and Gina Diez Barroso de Franklin. All three contribute the lighting designs that have been featured in Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, Metropolitan Home, House Beautiful and numerous Mexican magazines.
Lamps standing on a heavy tear drops of blown glass and fluorescent bulbs swinging inside rings of recovered driftwood are among the fixtures on display at Diez's showroom in Mexico City's Blend gallery, a collective of local and international design companies.
But Diez doesn't just do lighting, it does enlightenment. In the same showroom space is the newest venture by Diez, Gramos de Consciencia.
After a steep climb to success, partners have decided to give back with a philanthropic effort, a brand that can be translated as "Grams of Consciousness." One hundred percent of the proceeds from products sold under the label—not lighting but books, notebooks, objets d'art, teacups and other household items—go to a social cause. The first donation is destined for a Mexican hospital that provides surgery to patients in extreme poverty.
The philanthropic brand spawned from "a need to wake up the conscience of the people," said Dayan, "a need to pause and remember the needs of others."
On a shelf, a set of cream-colored ceramic cups being sold under the Gramos de Consciencia label are each emblazoned with a word that, taken together, may perfectly sum up the mission: shine, light, glow, sparkle, believe.
Photo: Lauren Villagran