Empowering Mexican women in a city that kills them

A group of women from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and Norway are using fashion to empower other women. In a place known for its long history of femicides, Juárez native Janette Terrazas wants to change the stigma surrounding her city.

“Typically when we associate women and Juárez, we always think about murder, death and femicide,” she said. “But in this case, well, it’s the complete opposite.”

Terrazas’ latest collaboration, NI EN MORE, is an inspiring organization that’s raising awareness by teaching design and sewing skills to women from vulnerable populations. The name, a mix of Spanish, Norwegian and English words, translates to “not one more.”

Since the early 1990s hundreds of women and girls have been murdered in Juárez for reasons varying from sexual violence to drug cartel activity. Only a few of the homicides are solved and the killers imprisoned. In many ways, the city continues to marginalize women, and activists like Terrazas are fighting against it – this time by using one-of-a-kind fashion.

Terrazas and Veronica Corchado, a 30-year activist from Juárez, joined visual artist Lise Bjørne Linnert from Norway to open a small sewing studio where women from marginalized parts of the city are learning a variety of craftsmanship skills. One of those skills is natural plant dyeing and their first line of clothing can be found in none other than our very own Marfa, Texas.

Designer John Patrick debuted NI EN MORE’s original collection of hand-dyed dresses in his store Communitie. Patrick, an advocate for sustainable practices and creator of the brand Organic, liked the “human rights aspect” behind NI EN MORE, and the fact that he thinks it’s “very beautiful fashion.” According to the designer, “some of the most sophisticated customers in the world” have already bought up most of the pieces.

Patrick chose his Marfa shop to debut NI EN MORE because of its proximity to Juárez and the border. “It’s really a regional thing,” explained Patrick. “With Marfa being an international place where visitors from all over the world come, it’s also good so that people can see what is produced in our region” – and what the women of NI EN MORE are producing is truly remarkable.

NI EN MORE’s story begins with the work of its founders – Terrazas, Corchado and Linnert – in the fight for women’s rights and equality. Terrazas, alias Mustang Jane, is a young textile artist whose artwork has been her platform for advocating against violence and discrimination. Corchado is best known for running Juarez’s Women’s Institute and Linnert recently completed a twelve-year global art project embroidering names of the women murdered in the city.

As Linnert tells the story, the three met through their work as activists and joined together to do something with “more opportunities.” They opened the studio with money from donations and set up NI EN MORE as a nonprofit organization for victimized women to have a safe and fair working environment. In their efforts, they’re also teaching the women management skills and how to run a small business.

“Part of the idea is for them to have a job where they can become economically self-sufficient and at some point gain empowerment that goes beyond that,” explained Terrazas.

NI EN MORE’s sewing team is made up of five women from different parts of Juárez, two of them from the Rarámuri community (an indigenous tribe also known as Tarahumara). Fashion designer Tine Mollatt from Norway donated the first design of NI EN MORE’s collection and two of her employees taught the women how to sew following international standards.

Textile artist Cara Marie Piazza from New York City was also brought in to participate in the project. Her natural hand-dyeing technique uses local plants and flowers. “We really wanted to create unique garments, we didn’t want to mass produce. We wanted to make something where each was individual,” said Linnert.

NI EN MORE’s clothing is certainly individual, not to mention powerful. Each item comes with a story tag and a hand-embroidered protest badge designed by Linnert and Terrazas. The badges are in the shape of a flower with a cross in the middle representing the crimes in Juárez, the petals symbolizing hope.

As Terrazas put it, “[NI EN MORE] is a tribute to the women who have been murdered and to the lives of those women. It changes the meaning of the word woman and the word Juárez.”

NI EN MORE’s work can be seen at Communitie Marfa and on their web shop, www.nienmore.com/shop. Pop-up shows are scheduled for Brooklyn this summer and in the fall for Munich and RULE Gallery in Denver, which has a gallery in Marfa. The line will also be featured in Patrick’s Amagansett shop in the Hamptons.

To find out more about NI EN MORE you can go to their website, www.nienmore.com. Donations to the organization can be made online to help the women reach their goal of becoming sustainable by 2020. All proceeds, including sales, benefit the sewing studio.