Designed by women for women supporting women. Sustainable. Chic and comfortable. Just a few ways to describe a group of Peruvian designers that have been expanding their presence in NYC and at retailers around the USA every season. The combination of the creativity and talent of these designers mixed with their use of Peru’s fine native materials of Alpaca and Pima cotton, yields fashionable results.
Local Talent with Global Flair
These brands, sitting in the Contemporary sector of the market, consistently exhibit at trade fairs around the world, including the big ones in NYC of Coterie, D & A, Brand Assembly, Cabana, Moda and Curve. In the latest round of shows for the upcoming Fall/Winter season, Ayni, Escvdo, Kuna and Inka Moda showed a great range of style points-of-view in their ready-to-wear collections, Itala Testino incorporated a variety of luxe trims on her outerwear, Lavender Dreams does lounge and sleepwear in Pima cotton, Organic cotton along with light and cozy Alpaca sweaters and wraps, Huma Blanco is a collection of stylish, handcrafted shoes and Lima Sagrada does handbags and small leather goods rooted in the designer’s architecture background.
Many of the Peruvian designers have studied and lived abroad, in Paris, London, NY and other cosmopolitan cities, which inform their collections with a global sensibility. Then returning home to their roots in Peru, they support the local industries and create collections that are international in flavor with authentic Peruvian flair. From ready-to-wear and loungewear to handbags and shoes, jewelry, even items to ‘outfit’ the home, Peruvian designers do it all. Once only locally distributed, their collections can be found at retail around the world. With the common core of sustainability, responsibility and quality homegrown materials, yet differing aesthetics, it’s no wonder you’re seeing the Made in Peru label more and more.
Masterful Mix of Past, Present and Future
Peru is well known for its archeological sites dating back to the Incan times and even older civilizations. While many of these masterpieces still stand today, when excavated, remnants of garments were also discovered. Alpaca was considered “gold of the Andes” and worn by Incan royalty. There’s also a long textile heritage in Peru with techniques being passed throughout generations. So, it’s really no surprise that Peruvians maintain a passion for materials and fashion…it’s almost encoded in their DNA! Today’s designers seamlessly blend the past with the present and the future, merging artisanal techniques with modern ones.
Many USA brands, from the luxury to mass and all in between, turn to Peru for their manufacturing needs. Ralph Lauren, Vineyard Vines, Tory Burch, Vince, Lululemon, John Varvatos, Kith, Ulla Johnson, Tibi, Mara Hoffman, to name only a few, all produce in Peru. The European fashion houses of Prada, Max Mara, Loro Piana use Alpaca del Peru in their collections and Hermes produces their Vicuna sweaters and scarves there, too. They appreciate that Peruvian factories have an expertise in these natural fibers as well as with Pima cotton and mixing them into a variety of blends, including with synthetics for performance-wear. The manufacturing sector in Peru is technologically advanced with respect to machines used, development and processes, while also staying true to its roots and supporting local artisans with hand-knitting. Peru is also a global leader in terms of social and environmental responsibility. Adding to that, Peru’s speed to market plus it holds free trade agreements with the USA, Canada, Europe, China and many other countries, so shipping is duty-free, providing even more advantages.
Starting with the Best Ingredients: Alpaca del Peru and Pima Cotton
When it comes to Alpaca, Peru is the place since it’s home to 80% of the global population. As such, there is an incredible importance placed on Alpaca del Peru, so they are well respected, well treated and are never harmed for their fleece and fur, with the shearing process being 100% ethical. The docile and friendly nature of the Alpacas further eliminates the need for any harsh treatment. Plus, they are incredibly cute!
Alpaca fibers naturally come in a range of 22 colors, from black through variations of grays and browns to white, a characteristic unique to them, and can also easily be dyed any color, making its color options virtually limitless. Alpaca fibers are also lightweight, breathable, soft. Due to the microscopic air pockets in the fibers, they have thermal properties, which makes Alpaca something that can then be worn all year round. The benefits of Alpaca fibers don’t stop there! They are also innately hypoallergenic, anti-microbial and contain no lanolin (the same cannot be said for sheep’s wool). Unlike the cashmere goat, Alpacas are not harsh on their environment, delicately eating the grasses and plants, leaving the roots safe to regenerate.
Pima cotton has an interesting history. It was first grown in Peru, then brought to Egypt and made its way to the USA, where it was further cultivated by the Pima tribe of Arizona. When Pima cotton was brought back to Peru, it grew even better than all the rest due to its terroir. The weather and rich soil in the Northern coastal valleys of Peru provide the ideal conditions for Pima cotton to grow and thrive, which explains how the different qualities of cotton around the world can vary greatly.
Peruvian Pima cotton is an extra-long staple fiber (1 and 3/8 inches in length), twice the normal length of ordinary cotton. The longer the length and smoother the filament, the softer the hand. Which describes it perfectly. It’s also more durable and absorbent than other cottons as well as hypoallergenic. Peruvian Pima cotton is harvested by hand, which makes it environmentally friendly versus other cottons that are industrially harvested. The manual approach is also better for the cotton itself. Industrial harvesting tears the cotton fibers resulting in a yellowed hue and scratchy texture while hand harvesting results in bright white fibers which can also dye beautifully and are oh-so-fine.
Alpaca and Pima cotton play key components of the Peruvian textile sector, engaging and bettering the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, from the farmers and herders to all the people in the production chain, both inside and outside of the factories.
Escvdo is a women’s collection full of texture, colors and stand out knits while being “committed to sustainability and transparency in the execution of our collections, inspired by Peru´s vast cultural and natural wealth, combining ancestral textile traditions with premium fibers.” Escvdo is currently sold in the USA at Moda Operandi and other stockists.
Ayni was founded by 2 women drawn together by their mutual desire to do business in a socially responsible way. It incorporates Peruvian Alpaca and Pima cotton and is “a complete seasonal wardrobe spanning from elevated leisure pieces to contemporary luxury.” Currently sold at retailers around the world and throughout the USA, for example at Revolve.
Kuna has more than 20 of their own stores throughout Peru that showcase their total lifestyle collection. Based on quality and elegance using Baby Alpaca, Royal Alpaca, as well as Guanaco and Vicuna they create timeless silhouettes using both neutral and rich colors, solids and patterns inspired by the past cultures of Peru executed via the latest in technology.
Inka Moda is a women’s clothing collection full of soft knit dressing including novelty sweaters, dresses, soft jackets and coats, made of Alpaca and different blends. The brand is inspired by “art, love, nature, respect and responsibility.”
Itala Testino has a passion for the best quality materials, primarily Alpaca, and quality workmanship. The result is a full range of styles of coats, from long to short, innovative capes and ponchos, from neutrals to on-trend colors, with great details and exotic trims.
Huma Blanco is designed by a 3rdgeneration shoemaker based in Lima, whose family is part Peruvian and part Italian. The shoes are made from local materials like leather, suede, Alpaca, using natural dyes and carried by Nordstrom, Anthropologie and other retailers. Providing modern styles along with sustainable work for the craftsman are paramount to this collection. www.humablanco.com
Lima Sagrada, with an architecture background and point of view, the collection features handbags and other accessories that are handcrafted with a minimalist aesthetic. The leathers used are designed in a way that get even better with time and age. www.limasagrada.com