Buoyant, bright and ancestral: These attributes are preeminent when perusing the latest fashion collections hailing from Peru. For a country rich with mineral wealth, natural beauty and a textile legacy that has created significant, lasting impact, Peru is atypical with its slow fashion approach to design, as much of its focus is on producing handmade, small-batch, high-quality goods, often decorated with intricate or voluminous embellishments, embroidery and cheerful color palettes.
At the 22nd annual Perú Moda show, a two-day fashion trade event held earlier this month at the Lima Convention Centre, the theme was “Believe to Be Sustainable,” described by show organizers as a “wake-up call to reflect on the impact of the fashion industry on the environment” and an opportunity to “demonstrate that creativity and conscious design can play in harmony.” And its message is timely: Given the country’s long-standing history as the birthplace of an expert weaving culture and its continuous use and promotion of natural resources such as alpaca and Pima cotton, Peruvian fashion is definitely having a moment.
Perú Moda showcased the talents of Peruvian companies across fashion, textiles, footwear and jewelry, with a built-in focus on hand-made, artisan products that are inherently found in Peruvian goods and apparel. There were 41 brands — or exporters — and 373 buyers from 30 countries in attendance at this year’s event, which was adjacent to Perú Moda Deco, a design and interiors concept. In regard to its sustainability leitmotif, Edgar Vasquez Vela, Foreign Affairs and Tourism Ministry, said “sustainability is an essential need to today’s world and Peru can’t be external to that. We believe that together with the enterprises a difference can be made and also, we can make a significant contribution to the change our planet needs.”
Exhibitors spotlighted highly unusual handwoven goods, many with symbolic, meaningful purpose behind the patterns, weaving techniques or material choices. Among them is sustainable Peruvian fashion brand Anntarah, a minimalist, stylish and sleek women’s wear line designed by its founder and chief executive officer Jessica Rodriguez, a charismatic and talented business-owner, who today boasts 12 brick-and-mortar stores located throughout Peru. Rodriguez, also the founder and ceo of Art Atlas, a socially driven enterprise that specializes in the manufacturing of garments, accessories and household products for major international fashion luxury brands, works mainly with natural fibers from Peru, such as alpaca and organic cotton, as well as blends with wool, silk, angora, Tencel, Modal, bamboo and linen, among others, depending on the needs of the client. (Anntarah is also manufactured at Art Atlas.) The fibers come in many natural colors, in addition to a selection of natural low-impact colorants.
Peruvian brands such as Evea, Nuna, Qaytu and Las Polleras de Agus also exhibited at Perú Moda — and each brand is 100 percent manufactured in Peru. Cristian Gutiérrez, cofounder and marketing manager of Evea, said, “To participate for the first time in Peru Moda is a great opportunity for us. This event is a stepping stone to reach other markets and will allow us to interact with representatives of other companies that carry out similar activities to ours.” And Griela Pérez, founder of the brand Las Polleras de Agus, added that “Through our participation in Peru Moda 2019 we seek to strengthen our relationship with foreign markets and we want to start exporting. We think we are ready for this challenge.” Pérez’s brand is inspired by her respect for traditional Andean embroidery techniques and “admiration for the cultural identity of Peru.” Las Polleras de Agus’ garments are created by traditional art weavers — a total of 13 families — from communities in vulnerable areas of Cusco, Puno and Huancayo, the company said.
Or take exhibitors such as Ayni, a luxury fashion brand that manufactures exclusively in Peru and also focuses on using Peruvian materials such as alpaca and Pima cotton. Nina Moons, head of sales at Ayni, told WWD, “Our founders love fashion but they didn’t just want to create a fashion brand, they also wanted to make an impact with local communities. So besides Ayni, we also work with Ayni Certified, which is a certification program where we go to communities and certify local knitters to help them reach a certain level in their work,” adding that while the women often know how to knit, they don’t necessarily know how to develop a business. “We then try afterward to work with them directly to support them with our collections or our sourcing — we do private label as well. But it’s basically to help them work with other international brands, to say ‘I have this certification and my work is of this quality that you need,’ and really help them to support their families. Most of the time the men work but the women are home with their kids, and knitting is something they can do from their home.”
And alpaca was the shining star of the occasion, as many designers are becoming aware of its sustainable qualities on many fronts. Once considered the “gold of the Andes” and worn by Incan royalty, alpaca has become known today as a wholly sustainable fiber. Eighty percent of the global Alpaca fiber production takes place in Peru and aside from its light, feathery-feel, buttery softness and adaptability to dyeing and weaving, the fiber has a natural range of 22 colors, which largely eliminates the need to dye it, in addition to possessing a silky, attractive sheen. But brands are choosing alpaca for its most basic characteristics: It is hypoallergenic, water-resistant, temperature controlled, biodegradable, antimicrobial, breathable, lightweight and obtained annually through “ecological and ethically sound practices,” according to the trade commission of Peru in New York. Alpaca fiber manufacturing processes in Peru are very carefully monitored and the animals are entirely unharmed during the annual sheering process. Alpacas are also thought of as “the greenest animals of all,” as they do not destroy land from their eating methods or treading, the organization added.
The event culminated with its “Young Creators to the World” runway show, an annual competition in its 15th year running that spotlights the talents of emerging Peruvian designers — aged 18 to 30 — whose collections were selected to compete for several prizes: An internship at the Beijing Institute of Fashion and Technology (including airfare and accommodations); a scholarship to The Istituto Europeo di Design, based in Milan, Italy; an internship at Michel & Cía, based in Peru (the firm also sponsored paid airfare to Italy), and a diploma awarded by The Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú for development of its brand project.
The competition’s theme, “ReThink,” encouraged the young designers to develop a sustainably made collection and theme for a runway show review by a panel of fashion industry judges. And this year’s winner, Diego Flores Nazario, presented an ultra-cool collection called “Reimagina” that included an embroidered camel colored dress with volume, cut-outs and ties; a hand-woven skirt and fringe top in an off-red color with navy, designed and executed with startling detail and a long jacket with small cut-out holes that created a wholly unique texture, among other looks. The 6 finalists included fashion designers Anggela David Ochoa; Elsbeth Cárdenas Durán; Paula Maria Ramirez Lores; Tatiana Sullcaray Rivera; Tomas Revilla Palma and Yaid Zamudio Florez. Show organizers said that its contest “[encourages] sustainability through the balance between nature, fashion and society,” and that it is an opportunity for emerging Peruvian talent to “transform the impacts of the industry as a tool for positive social and environmental change,” for a market that is ready.
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