The Hacienda Montaecristo factory in Valladolid, Mexico
“There is no certain individual who could wear specifically our products; our friends who have lived with us, or people that simply share our values, concepts, lifestyle,” - Francesca Bonato
Francesca Bonato and Jacopo Janniello Ravagnan stumbled upon an old abandoned factory in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico while driving around in an old 1970s truck. “We found an abandoned factory with a sign saying “Montecristo” and from there we developed the name of Hacienda Montaecristo. “Using the word Hacienda reminded us the old working mechanism, location and organization of work proper to the ones of the old Haciendas,” said Francesca. Ten years prior, with her husband, Nicolas Malleville, she started building beautiful houses which turned into small resorts on the Yucatan Peninsula: the Coqui Coqui Residences & Spas (Tulum, Valladolid, Coba and Merida). “We all needed to supply our homes, the hotels, the boutiques, so we started working with local artisans and weavers to create these pieces. I started collecting the traditional Mexican shawl called rebozo.”
And, the love for the traditionally woven Mexican shawl continued. After founding Hacienda Montaecristo with Ravagnan, or “Jack”, they now use the rebozo for their bags, sandals, and jewelry as they continue to expand the collection. “There is no scope in Hacienda Montaecristo line; everything was born naturally from the simple beauty of the places we visited, we live, the people we met, their traditions, the beauty of the colors,” said Francesca, “It is all about the pure research of the beauty we could find in every single expression of this country we founded the company in: MEXICO.” And, how did they begin to first sell the Hacienda Montaecristo accessories? “Our first clients were our friends and friends of friends, coming to visit us in Mexico,” she said, “Then, we put a selection of our first collection at Coqui Coqui in Tulum, Valladolid and Merida. Then, Barneys bought our first real collection in 2009 all the other stores came.”
Francesca Bonato with her husband, Nicolas Malleville
A fringed necklace from the Hacienda Montaecristo line
And, as for Jack?
“He loves buying an old motorbike and driving it all the way down from Laos to Cambodia with his best friend. Then, he resells the motorbike to a local and buys a ticket to go back,” said Francesca.
From where does her inspiration stem as the duo continuously adds new pieces to the Hacienda Montaecristo line? “The research is daily inspiration from different levels,” she said, “It is not a conventional way of research, not from magazines, lifestyle, archives or sector researches; it is a very natural research based on our own experiences: travels everywhere in the world, our homes, details in the studio, old books, family objects, the locals, the colors of the sky after the big rains of Yucatan, the markets in pueblos of Mexico. We do not need to look for inspiration, this just comes to us, so unexpected.” Clearly living in a paradise of her own, does she still like to travel? “Flea markets, everywhere,” she said. And, wherever she goes, the items she finds usually have to be shipped back home because they’re “too big to travel” with her through the airports. And, as for her partner, Jack? “He loves buying an old motorbike and driving it all the way down from Laos to Cambodia with his best friend,” she said, “Then, he resells the motorbike to a local and buys a ticket to go back!”
In an age where craft and spirit are not top business priorities, they are seemingly the very essence of the work and the people behind Hacienda Montaecristo. When it comes to Jack and Francesca’s collection, the physical act of creating, the time and effort that goes into making their beautiful pieces, and the people who bring them to life- mean everything. “Every single piece is produced by us in Valladolid, Yucatan,” said Francesca, “This region is a very remote area in Mexico, so we had to build everything: from the looms to the knowledge of people, teaching them how to work on every detail from the leather till the weaving, coloring, sewing… our vintage collection of pieces come from all around Mexico.”
Francesca with Hacienda Montaecristo weavers in Valladolid
3 things Francesca can’t live without:
“My son Leon, my dogs Luz and Lupe and my travel notes.”
Jack? “ Music, my factory where I can lose my self and create, my old Ford from the 70´s.”
“There are a few motivations why Hacienda Montaecristo goes across the standards: we had to create, plan, build every single piece of the imagination, creation, production and distribution of our products. Where we live and decided to develop our company is a place where there are no fabric representatives, no suppliers, no factories and FedEx doesn´t even come to pick up your boxes because it’s a remote area,” said Francesca.
In fact, it seems every aspect of the company was built from scratch. “There are a few motivations in why Hacienda Montaecristo goes above the standards: we had to create, plan, build every single piece of the imagination, creation, production and distribution of our products,” she said, “Where we live and decided to develop our company is a place where there are no fabric representatives, no suppliers, no factories and FedEx doesn´t even come to pick up your boxes because it’s a remote area.” Francesca and Jack had to start their own assembly line and it certainly isn’t one that’s contained within a single building. Furthermore, the duo doesn’t outsource and has created their entire collection of fabrics from scratch- even the leather.
“We had to invent every single ring of the chain, which is now under our supervision,” she said, “We get the leather from the cows directly, we have our own tannery where we do our own leather, we don´t buy it. We make our own rebozos, we embroider, we color, we make the fabrics, the cords, we make the packaging in wood and leather. The same artisan that makes the rebozo bag in 25 days is the same who will finish the packaging in leather and wood.” The only component that Hacienda Montaecristo purchases from an outside supplier – are zippers and buttons from Mexico.
Additionally, Francesca credits her brand with resurrecting the traditional Mexican garment (and one of her personal favorites), the rebozo. “Hacienda Montaecristo is now recognized and combined with the rebozo, which is traditionally a piece of the Mexican culture that has been used for the last two centuries and represents an entire country: Mexico,” she said, “Until the year 2005, no one every thought about reusing it, reinterpreting it, and we did it. We feel proud of it. All of the other products (rebozos) which came out recently are copies of our original work and reworking of the garment.”
A stack of antique rebozos- Francesca has over 300!
“Hacienda Montaecristo is now recognized and combined with the rebozo, which is traditionally a piece of the Mexican culture that has been used for the last two centuries and represents an entire country: Mexico. Until the year 2005, no one every thought about reusing it, reinterpreting it, and we did it. We feel proud of it. All of the other products (rebozos) which came out recently are copies of our original work and reworking of the garment,” said Francesca.
“The creation and planning of new products together with our team and of course, having people appreciating our work and efforts is certainly what makes it rewarding,” she said.
The Hacienda Montaecristo collection is built from intricately woven scarves, braided leather shoes, and fringed leather necklaces. And, it seems inspiration doesn’t always come from the outside, pieces within the existing line are always spurring new creations. “The fringe necklaces are the reinterpreting of the fringes made by hand in the crochet of the rebozos,” said Francesca, “We love to give a sense and a continuity to each of our products.” This year, Francesca and Jack plan to expand their market to Europe and Asia. “We are trying to find who will best represent our vision and our mission in their locations,” she said.
Does Francesca have a favorite piece from the Hacienda Montaecristo collection? “The leather fringed necklace with the rebozo detail in the back,” she said, “Jack’s favorite piece is the new cotton and burlap fabric we made on the looms (as it took months to produce it) and is now our best fabric in stock. We will use it for the entire Caravana Montaecristo Collection.” In fact, she lists the act of creating her own fabrics and details as one of the most exciting aspects of the entire business venture. “The creation and planning of new products together with our team and of course, having people appreciating our work and efforts is certainly what makes it rewarding,” she said.
pictures of their jewelry – along with vintage pieces that they use for reference
This is a piece that would make an entire outfit with such beautiful detail!
And, which new pieces will Francesca be rewarding herself with this spring? How does she plan to update her own wardrobe? “The new Caravana Montaecristo sandals in suede and jute,” she said, “The new Hacienda Montaecristo Panama hat with an acid green rebozo string – and a Bottega Veneta bag. Jack is looking forward to the new Caravana Montaecristo yute scarves he uses for everything!”
Thus far, it seems this adventure has encompassed everything they’d hoped for and more. Francesca and Jack are nothing but excited for the future of Hacienda Montaecristo. “Our company is growing exactly how we expected and desired,” she said, “The team we have is fantastic, we all work together pursuing the same goal and walking with the same direction: this is just the beginning.” I know what’s now on my list for spring: a rebozo (or two) from Hacienda Montaecristo and a trip to Coqui Coqui.
Hacienda Montaecristo is available at: Barneys New York, Castor & Pollux, Henry Beguelin, AMarees, Reborn, Abersons, and Coqui Coqui (Tulum, Mexico). Visit their website here.
*Read more on “Profile in Style: Francesca Bonato” in T Magazine.