Well Designed Travel: A Visit to Elementos Argentinos

Well Designed Travel: A Visit to Elementos Argentinos

Smith Schwartz
Jan 17, 2012
  • Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Specialty: Handmade and sustainable rugs, blankets and home accessories.

    Price Range: ($$) Mid-Range - ($$$) High-End

  • Website: elementosargentinos.com

Store History

  • Founded: 2005
  • Founded by: Fernando Bach and Pablo Mendívil
  • Headquarters: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina's northwestern provinces are quite different from the bustling, European-influenced capital of Buenos Aires. With a more indigenous culture, an open landscape and a slower pace of life, this region is filled with a rich history of handmade objects. Historians have found hand-spun woven textiles dating back as early as 7000 B.C., and traditional techniques have consistently been passed down through generations preserving this visual heritage.

Fernando Bach grew up in the northwestern provinces of Argentina and always had a strong affection for the traditional rugs and blankets made by local craftspeople there. He moved to Buenos Aires as an adult, but returned often to visit family and old friends. On one of these trips, he decided to bring back a selection of hand-made textiles. He then hosted a small, gallery-style show in his home which quickly sold out and generated much excitement throughout the design community of Buenos Aires. The success of the event sparked an opportunity to cultivate this work more fully, perhaps even through a full-time gallery/shop.

On the other hand, a new endeavor requires time. Lots of it. And walking away from a great job and an established environment is never easy, no matter what potential upsides await. At this point, Fernando was a very successful hotelier so it was quite risky to leave it all behind and become an entrepreneur. However, that's exactly what he did in 2005 when Elementos Argentinos first opened its doors, and speaking to him today, I know he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

These days, Fernando Bach and Pablo Mendívil of Elementos Argentinos work directly with over 120 weavers located all over the northern provinces of Argentina. They provide direction about design and color, while the artisans use their deep knowledge of traditional weaving methods to a fantastic ends. This partnership is unique. It is based on trust, respect for the craft and fair wages. The weavers are independent craftspeople, and often the whole family is afforded the chance to make a sustainable living where once that opportunity just didn't exist.

While speaking with Fernando, the word 'community' kept popping into my mind. Fernando and Pablo spend much of their time building a community of weavers and artisans all around the northern half of Argentina, providing opportunities to turn traditional crafts into careers. On the other end, the brick and mortar Elementos Argentinos is more than just a well-styled shop in a hip neighborhood, it is also a community hub focused on design, home, local culture and social responsibility.

For me, Elementos Argentinos acted as my welcome wagon to Buenos Aires. Located on a shady, tree lined street in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood, the store is about much more than just shopping. The colorful wares and the clean design lend a richness to the space, making it feel like a home. But what really sets the shop apart are the people you'll meet inside. Armed with maps, directions and genuine smiles, everyone here is ready to tell you all about their favorite neighborhood watering hole, cultural activity or where to find the best art and design in the city. Fernando and his team are equally focused on community building than sales, something that can be tough for a North American consumer to fully grasp at first.

Although, in many ways there's no need for sales pressure because the store is so amazing. Wishing I had a home to fill with pillows, throws and rugs, I'm still seriously considering buying a rug in the hopes that one day I'll find the right home to match it!

The next time you're in Buenos Aires, definitely add Elementos Argentinos to your list of necessary activities. It's impossible to leave empty-handed, even if you don't spend a penny.

Images: Smith Schwartz

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