Teresa Hernandez, 43, was born in the tiny village of Santa Ana, in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Her family moved to Dallas, when she was 5. She earned an MBA from the University of Texas in Austin, and moved to Charlotte in 1998 as a business consultant, a job that required world travel. “I saw all these artisans creating amazing things, and struggling to sell them,” she said. “I thought it would be nice if I could market their products.” Thus was planted the seed for Pura Vida Worldly Art!, a retail shop Hernandez describes as “eclectic, international, and sustainably focused.” The store on North Davidson Street sells handcrafted art, décor, jewelry, and clothing from 40 countries.
Q. What’s the first piece of clothing you chose yourself?
A. A long dress that my sister and Josie and I picked out. I was about 8 or 9. We would see women in long dresses at galas on TV, and girls wore long dresses on “Little House on the Prairie,” so my mom got us identical long dresses with puffy sleeves and little flowers. We would have worn them every day if she let us.
Q. What does style mean to you?
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A. It is like a diary. When you look at someone’s style it tells you what they value, what is important to them, their history, their dreams and what they want to be.
Q. What does your style say about you?
A. That I am carefree, and that I like to be comfortable.
Q. What would surprise people about your style choices?
A. People are surprised that I actually love a good suit. Being little, and aspiring to have a little career, I would see women wear suits, so when I wore one it was an accomplishment.
Q. How does your sense of style help you do your job?
A. It’s almost like my job has influenced my style. The groups that I buy from tend to make Bohemian type clothing, so my style has become more free. I try to choose things that are comfortable, that are pretty, and that will appeal to different ages.
Q. Do you have a favorite dress designer?
A. Mata Traders. The founders are out of Chicago, but the women who make the clothing are out of Nepal. They are able to take patterns and create very modern dresses. The quality is excellent; they either hand-batik or hand-screen the pattern onto the fabric, and the dresses and skirts have pockets.
Q. What jeans fit you best?
A. Since I ride my bike I try to wear skinny jeans so they don’t get caught in the chain.
Q. Do you favor certain colors?
A. I like happy colors: reds, oranges, yellows, aquas, teal green.
Q. Tell me two staples in your wardrobe.
A. A Fedora hat that I wear almost every day, and I wear a lot of scarves.
Q. What should a woman never wear?
A. Too much makeup.
Q. Do you have a prized possession?
A. I have some rosaries that I really love. I got them at the Vatican years ago, and every time I see them they remind me of the trip. I took my mom there and another of my sisters, Alma. My mom still talks about it.
Q. Tell me about your bracelets.
A. These are Turkish nazar, which is an eye, and if you wear the nazar, you are protected from the evil eye, which is jealousy and ill will from other people. The eye is looking out for you. The other is from Pakistan, made of lapis lazuli, which is also thought to protect you from the evil eye.
Q. What hair products do you use?
A. I put coconut and olive oil in my hair.
Q. What scent do you wear?
A. Essential oils. Ylang ylang is my favorite. It is very grounding.
Q. What’s the last thing you bought for yourself?
A. A Brooks saddle for my bicycle. That was a treat.
Q. Where do you shop in Charlotte?
A. Value Village, Junior League, Buffalo Exchange, because I don’t sell jeans or shorts here.
Q. What two interesting items are in your purse?
A. A tiny St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel, because I’m on the road all the time with my bike. And a milagro, which means miracle. You carry one based on what you need healed or protected. It can be a house. It can be livestock. I have a milagro leg, to keep my leg protected, because I broke my leg really badly in Mexico.
Q. Do you have any particular fashion quirks?
A. I like my clothes to be cotton, because other materials are not as comfortable, and they make you sweat.
Q. What do you look for in jewelry?
A. I buy all handmade jewelry. I like to find things that are either recycled or upcycled. I like things that are old, that have a story. This necklace is a prayer locket, and I’m not Muslim, but typically people would put Koran verses inside. It feels very spiritual.
Q. What was your biggest splurge?
A. I took a nine-month sabbatical once to travel. I went to Europe and Mexico. I was going to travel all through Latin America but instead I spent six months in Mexico, because I realized I only knew a little part of it.
Q. What’s your favorite comfort food?
A. Mexican food. Mole is my favorite food. Lately I’ve been getting a lot from Three Amigos. There’s a good place called Morazan on Central. And I like to cook. When I get homesick I will eat mole every day.
Q. How do you take your coffee?
A. Black and fair-trade.
Q. Do you collect anything?
A. Crosses and Virgin Marys. There’s one cross I got in Mexico City that is really beautiful, a bright Mediterranean blue ... and he has what looks like dreadlocks, and people say he looks like Jimi Hendrix on the cross. It is about 18 inches tall. Almost all my crosses are on the wall.
Q. What do you always pack when you travel?
A. My Oaxaca scarves. They are cotton, they can be incredibly warm but they are made in a hammock style, so they are also breezy. They are long enough so if you are in a place where you have to cover your hair it is easy enough to do that.
Q. What have you learned from the artists who craft the wares you sell?
A. That our purchases really make a difference. Some of the groups I’ve bought from grew from 20 to 300 people. They start working together, and they bring in more and more women. When I travel I’ll try to meet some of the families, and they will talk about how because of this work they bought a house, and shoes.
Q. Who is your muse?
A. All my sisters. They are very different. My older sister Maria was like a second mom when we moved to the U.S. She’s a really strong woman. My sister Josie is super laid-back, and never worries, and my sister Alma is a big champion of human rights, and does a ton of community work.
Q. What advice can you give to women?
A. Speak your voice. Be confident. Believe in your vision. All that matters is that you believe in it.