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Palorosa: origin story

Mar 14, 2021

Palorosa is a color. Returning to Guatemala.

Palorosa is a place, an encounter, a story of re-discovery and growth. It is the story of Cecilia Pirani, who did not run away from one place – Milan, her native city, but rather embraced another place – Guatemala, her mother’s homeland, seen with new-found eyes. It is 2012, Cecilia has not returned for almost a decade, years which marked her professional and personal evolution; a very short but decisive journey. If you had to choose a single snapshot, it would be the old market in Guatemala City, with its chaos, craftsmanship and ever-present colors. Hers are not the eyes of a tourist, but those of someone wanting to reclaim a place that already belonged to her. And it was not long after that the idea to create something took shape. To stay.

Vivian Suter, Proyectos Ultravioleta

Jacquard fabric, Del Palomar, Hiroko Tanaka
Cecilia is not your typical architect. She is more interested in surroundings than in a single project or architectural home design. She is attracted to people in the landscape, to how space is experienced, and to urbanistic perspectives. Returning to Guatemala is the rediscovery of nature. The idea that was conceived in Guatemala will be, in its own right, a return to the city, but the relationship will be inverted. The object from the other world will come first, and then will be transformed into something new.

The single object cannot be understood without first looking at all of the objects. Before Palorosa there was Guatemala à Porter, a tumblr, a blog, a platform for stylistic and aesthetic research. It was also a social and sociological platform. To reclaim her old-new world, Cecilia had to first appropriate her people. That was the tool. The setting was fertile ground for a country that constantly allows creativity to flourish, where people are ready to contaminate and to be contaminated. Cecilia studied their history, and hers. She became a local once again.

The Palorosa bag has always existed in her mind, but it was soon time to turn her attention to it. It was an intuition. The bag would become the object that could bind the two stories, the two worlds, together. The object came to life not by chance, but by cognitive experience and thoughtful reflection. Guatemala à Porter could have become a physical place, a shop with multiple products, a collision of conceptual space and concepts. But instead, it was destined to head in a different direction.

Terracottas and bamboo, Guatemala City
Detail of a hand-woven dress, Cobán
Palorosa is a color. Intertwining stories of women
At the beginning, the color was driven by Olga, long-standing expert in the art of color and who Cecilia met through a blog. She explained all there was to know about natural colors and then took Cecilia to another important place. Second shot: another market, that of Antigua. Lots of colors. Lots of bags used by local women for work, shopping, everyday life. It was at the Antigua market that Cecilia met Carmen, a craftswoman who worked in a surrounding village and who did not speak Spanish well. Together, they started Palorosa and Carmen made the first prototype. It was all new to everyone: nobody had seen a solid color bag before.
Historic center, Guatemala City

Cecilia does not appropriate culture. She appropriates her story, her land. The color of this land is the color of Palorosa. It is a two-way exchange. The order must be perfected, but the very first bag had to indicate the process, the way. More than a collection, Cecilia knew she had to tell a story, her story, and had to learn how to best express it.   Two years later, the same doubt was raised: multiple products or a single object? The answer came with the sale of 100 bags – the first not having a name – and other crafted objects collected from surrounding places, people, and daily life. It’s the bags that attracted attention, so that became the focus, the place of return, of cognitive experience and thoughtful reflection.

Around the markets, Chichicastenango
Iconic basket, powder pink

Palorosa is a color. The origin of the name

The name Palorosa came soon after. Palo de rosa is the name of the tree that characterizes that tropical belt. It’s all about its natural color, its nuances. Cecilia had already used this wood in some of her interior design projects: another element of discovery, another true starting point, something with material substance. Palorosa is a color. And the color of Palorosa becomes powder pink, the bark of the palo de rosa, the tint of wood and earth. The groundwork, the archetype. A color that is a non-color, that is Cecilia. Palorosa’s first real order came from Art Basel in Miami, where bags were hung on display in the design store of a Colombian who Cecilia met through the blog’s pan-American network, which continues to grow. Palorosa’s first real trip was to New York, where Cecilia presented her bags to her favorite stores. But this is another chapter. For now, let us focus on Palorosa’s story, which is well on its way.