Clara Diez sees responsibly-cultivated cheese as one small way to lessen environmental damage caused by large scale food production. As the founder of Formaje — a community, e-commerce platform, and brick-and-mortar store in Madrid — she and her husband curate natural cheeses and work to develop industry standards. Prioritizing open grazing for livestock, the use of raw milk, and high caliber flavor, Clara brings together the highest quality producers and their cheese; exposing them to Formaje’s clientele through commerce, community, and educational opportunities.
A similar desire for exceptional quality applies to Clara’s wardrobe, which is a tightly edited selection of well-made basics. Here, she pairs pieces of it with the Ernest sandal, and tells us about cheese, Madrid, and what’s inspiring her now.
How would you describe your style?
Masculine, quite monochrome and based on good basics. I like to wear wide clothes that make me feel kind of free inside them, and I prefer good quality clothes instead of quantity. I’m obsessed with capsule wardrobes. I’m lately getting more and more interested in jewelry and accessories that can make a statement and elevate a very simple look.
Can you tell us about Formaje and how it came to be?
After working with artisan cheese for almost eight years (I started when I was 22!), my husband and I felt that we needed to build a platform that would contain everything we had learned about this particular niche over the years. We wanted to build a space that will allow the final customer to have access to a selection of cheeses that represent Excellence in artisan cheese practices from different cultures, though Spanish cheeses have a bigger presence. Through Formaje, we also wanted to create a new conversation about what’s the real meaning of artisan food. We realized that the word ‘’artisan’’ needed to be deconstructed in order to better understand what we were standing for when we were talking about crafts. This review led us to create a manifesto that collects the reasons that we personally consider can lead a cheesemaker to obtain a cheese that is in line with this way of understanding crafts and production, which does not focus just on the product itself, but also on the particularities that surround it. The project, nowadays, consists of a flagship in Madrid and an e-commerce with refrigerated shipments to Spain and Portugal.
Photo by Pablo Zamora
You are so conscious of the waste and the global climate change issue. How does your business, and artisanal cheese making in particular, play into remedying this concern?
In order to be sustainable over time, it is necessary for the artisan food system to defend solid principles. The main change is to understand Artisan Food as a practice that not only affects the value or quality of the product, but also that it is configured as a social asset, that defends one or other practices and that impacts the future of its environment, its culture, and in the practices associated with its production. Crafts cannot be understood as an object, as a product: if not as a philosophy that involves and impacts the future and continuity of its environment. From this perspective, I think that small scale productions have the potential to create such a positive impact in its environments and to even restore lost ecosystems, the principles of regenerative agriculture are based on the importance of small scale food farms whose animals will interact with the soils in order to create a positive relation with it. Having that in mind, we created a manifesto that put together the basic things that we value from the cheesemakers whose cheeses we sell. This manifesto focuses on natural cheeses, the use of raw milk, sustainable farming (giving priority to farms who graze their livestock, ensuring the animal is nourished by the native flora of the territory or, those farms who make their own feedstuffs) and of course, very high standards of flavor.
What is currently inspiring you? Sartorially, culturally or otherwise?
I’m very much into Asian culture lately and the meaning of rituals in their societies; I think it has a very deep special meaning for them that we’re kind of leaving behind here in Occident. Tea ceremonies, gathering around the table, painting rituals, ancient weaving practices, pottery and ceramics … I love the passion they put into detail and how details are embroidered all over their culture.
Guilty or not so guilty pleasure?
Crème Fraîche: I love to eat it with cereal in the morning...
What is your current favorite shoe from Emme Parsons, and how would you style it?
What I like about the Ernest in Hazelnut is that I think I’m going to be able to wear them with so many things. I love how they look with linen pants and a white cotton shirt. That’s more or less what I could wear every day during spring…
Last great book that you read?
Right now I’m reading ‘’The Well-Gardened Mind’’ by Sue Stuart Smith and I’m enjoying it so much.
Favorite meal to cook for friends?
I’m not a cooking person… unfortunately!! But I really like Indian dishes and flavors and spiced food in general… Learning how to cook is one of my pending tasks.
How would you spend a perfect spring day in Madrid?
Wandering around the city with no particular destination in mind, having coffee with friends (Toma Café and Acid Café are my favorite spots), maybe picnicking in El Retiro (biggest park in the city), and on Sundays visiting some decoration and antiques shops en El Rastro, the biggest outdoors market in Madrid. I enjoy very simple things.