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Second Act

In 1953, a young Omer Claiborne set off from New Orleans in a rented car to seek his fortune in Mexico, manufacturing the modern, Eames-type furniture he loved. He established a factory in Mexico City but discovered there was no market for what he had hoped to do. “No one wanted Eames at that time,” Claiborne says chuckling. “They all wanted gold-leaf French furniture, covered in plastic.”


Claiborne pivoted to produce conventional furniture and also discovered ways to pursue his more creative interests, becoming involved in architecture while collecting pre-Columbian art and Mexican antiques—activities that foreshadowed his move to Santa Fe, New Mexico, as a noted antiques dealer and gallery owner.


By the late 1970s, while his sister, Liz Claiborne, was building her women’s apparel business in New York, he was married with young children in Mexico City, a place so

crowded by then “that even taking the kids to school had become too difficult.” One day, while perusing the Italian architecture and design magazine Domus, Claiborne studied a feature on the Alexander Girard house in Santa Fe. Girard, an influential textile artist and designer, had created a dazzling contemporary home where he displayed some of his renowned folk art collection. “I fell in love with the idiom,”

Claiborne says, “and in 1979, my wife Bunny and I paid a visit to see the city for ourselves and decided to stay.”


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This story appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of MILIEU.