Now Glenda Bailey, who was editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar from May 2001 until February 2020, has ventured into the profession by collaborating with Peruvian Connection on a fall 2022 capsule collection of alpaca knits, shearling coats, pullovers, dresses, trousers and jewelry. Priced from $88 to $3,800, the collection will be sold starting in October on PeruvianConnection.com and in the brand’s six stores in the U.S., plus the one in London.
The collaboration marks the first time Bailey has designed a collection professionally. It’s also the first time Peruvian Connection — a 46-year-old fashion brand known for Andean textile tradition, high-quality Peruvian alpaca knits and artisan craftsmanship — has tapped an outsider to collaborate with its design team. Glenda Bailey and Peruvian Connection are spelled out on the label. On Tuesday, the capsule collection will be previewed at the Explorers Club in Manhattan, where preorders will be taken.
“It isn’t often that a fashion visionary like Glenda Bailey turns her attention to a small, though extraordinarily skilled and accomplished knitwear design company in the farmlands of Kansas,” noted Annie Hurlbut Zander, the founder of Peruvian Connection.
It’s clearly a fashion step forward for the Tonganoxie, Kansas-based Peruvian Connection, with Bailey inspiring new proportions, colors and silhouettes. The brand generated about $80 million in gross sales last year and is family owned.
“Glenda has really given us the confidence to step out, which is what we always secretly wanted to do, but said maybe that’s not going to sell to our traditional Peruvian Connection classic customer. It’s occurred to me that we may have been selling our traditional customer a little short. Now we have this great muse,” said Hurlbut Zander.
Asked if a career in fashion publishing can be parlayed into a successful fashion design career, Bailey replied: “Not necessarily. So many editors come from journalism as opposed to design. But I was fortunate because I actually studied design and worked in a factory that manufactured clothing, to put myself through university. That knowledge was incredibly helpful coming into this project. I don’t think every editor would even want to do design. It just depends on their sensibility and their desire to express themselves.”
Bailey studied at Kingston University in England, where she aspired to become a designer and won student design competitions, which entitled her to visit design houses in Europe on trips organized by the university, including Valentino, Fendi and others. “For a student, that was a tremendous opportunity. But frankly I was not going to be the next Karl Lagerfeld, so I was very keen to find an area of the industry where perhaps I could have an influence, and hence I became an editor.” Since leaving Harper’s Bazaar, Bailey said she’s been consulting on different sides of the industry, including financial, marketing and design.
When she lived on the West Side of Manhattan, she became familiar with the Peruvian Connection store on Columbus Avenue. “I thought the craftsmanship was so excellent. It had real originality, and an authenticity that I responded to.”
A mutual acquaintance, Kathleen Ruiz, a former Saks Fifth Avenue public relations executive running KRW Consulting, connected Bailey with Hurlbut Zander. “It was Kathleen’s idea I should do a collaboration with Annie, so we met on Zoom a year ago. When I left Bazaar, I wanted to try things I have never done before. But I never really considered myself a designer. That’s why I ended up being an editor because I felt at least I’ve got judgment.”
Bailey characterized the capsule collection as “pretty extensive, with 74 styles” and said her experience at Peruvian Connection has been “an exploration into craftsmanship.…The process of being able to work with talented designers was a complete joy. We played off of each other. It was organic. I’m used to dealing with a lot of divas, and I’m thrilled to say this was not the case.”
“Glenda saw what we needed: a little push. She shared her secrets of appealing to a fashion crowd,” said Hurlbut Zander. “One of the first things she said to me was ‘fashion is exaggeration.’ Such a simple sentence, but really brilliant. Her inspiration enabled us to take another look at a collection which has had beautiful pieces, but has been fairly safe. She helped us evolve in a very authentic way. It really looks like Peruvian Connection, but on steroids with Glenda Bailey. She definitely was the core of most of it.”
The company has been able to quickly design and develop the capsule collection and is on track for the October launch despite the difficulties in Peru. “The political issues are chronic, that is cyclical. But what has really been a challenge in developing this collection is COVID[-19]. Peru has a higher mortality per capita rate than any country in the world. It’s ripped through the factories and cottage industries. It’s been a nightmare, but we have great resources down there that helped. It’s been barely on time,” said Hurlbut Zander.
Peruvian alpaca is the foundation of the capsule collection, along with Peruvian Pima cotton, though fabrics from Europe and the Far East and some from the U.S. are also utilized.
Among the designs bearing the Bailey touch are a shearling waist coat, one for day, another for evening. “It’s a piece that when you are a little bit chilly, you put on, and you look great, fashionable,” said Bailey. There are big pullovers and cardigans, and long scarves that wrap around the neck several times.
“Glenda and I went back and forth on an electric blue color that she brought in. Glenda loves these clear brights. Imagine the color of molten lava. That’s in the collection. We call it ‘lava.’ You can get it in a full pullover, and there are echoes of it all through the collection. But the collection is so cohesive. It’s one concept,” Hurbut Zander said.
A 40-page catalogue will be distributed “quite different from the ones we have done in the past,” said Hurlbut Zander. “We have approximately 35 strong looks, each look is several pieces put together.” Some of the pieces are used in multiple looks.
The women described the Glenda Bailey Peruvian Connection collection as a one-off but didn’t discount the possibility of a second season or more. “Never say never, but I will say we are great friends; I am sure we will be talking in the future,” said Hurlbut Zander. She is considering collaborating with Bailey on a home collection. “Glenda and I could really have fun with that — that’s down the road.”
“Peruvian Connection is this little jewel a lot of people don’t know about,” said Bailey. “Annie has pioneered a collection using the inspiration and cultural heritage of Peru. She has consistently championed sustainability and local artisans. I am hoping people will look at Peruvian Connection again and see it as part of their personal style. It offers the sort of pieces you long for now. People want to buy less but want to buy quality and pieces they can love forever.”