“My accent is from everywhere,” laughs Carola Solis, as she sits comfortably in her breezy studio, filled with natural light. Speaking fluently in English, the fashion designer has lived a seemingly globetrotter’s lifestyle that took her from her hometown of Huancayo, in central Peru, to one of England’s most exemplary cities of architecture and design; however, it wasn’t for fashion, but rather furthering her education.
“I wanted to do the international development career because I lived through terrorism,” says Solis, explaining her big move to London in the 90s. Along with Ayacucho, Huancayo was one of the nation’s areas that suffered the most during those tumultuous years. “My childhood was overwhelming with everything that happened, and all that I wanted to do when I grew up was help my country become a better place.”
In between studying photography and international religions in Europe, she worked as an au pair, until she eventually returned to Peru to gain her Masters. With her humanitarian passion in full force, Solis joined the Red Cross foundation, a job that would take her all across Latin America helping others in need. By her last efforts, served in Chile to aid during the horrific 2010 earthquake, Solis had taught herself “that you really can change the place where you live, and the world, just by doing whatever you can do.”
The designer, right, has created her own brand with a diverse fan base.
Returning to Peru with her husband, Carola was hoping to focus on herself and a growing family (now a mother of two), however, having settled on the nation’s capital, an unknown city to Carola, the designer was paralyzed by culture shock in her own country.
“It’s a very hard city that, like most big cities, can push you to do a lot of things very fast,” Solis says of Lima. “I longed for space and the ability to nurture myself, especially as a creative person.”
Refusing to allow the grey skies and loud shrieks of a city to tear her down, Carola came to the conclusion to actively search for beauty (“I need beauty in my life”) in a city that, at first glance, was anything but. She began walking around central Lima and old districts, snapping photos, usually of architectural details, sometimes of panoramic scenes that caught her eye.
“The photos were a way for me to finally feel connected to the city,” Carola admits. In fact, these images, including classic architectural pieces like Casa Roosevelt and the Government Palace, would lead to her first collection, ‘Lima,’ presented at Flash Mode in 2014, and would become the catapult to her career.
Large, attention-grabbing shots (all taken by Carola herself) have now become the designer’s signature. Images showing flashes of Paracas, Pachacamac, Barranco, even cultural scenes like Marinera dancers and Caballos de Paso, are printed on tailored skirts and dresses from the designer’s various collections. Her designs have expanded to include laptop bags, small clutches, shoes and other accessories. She has even worked alongside PromPerú to bring her designs to an international market.
This week Carola will present at the fashion fair Alpaca Moda, in Arequipa, where international buyers will peruse a wide array of Peruvian goods. And like the agreeable guest she is, Carola has prepared a collection (aptly titled ‘Arequipa’) especially for the White City: vibrant colors and local images, complimented by alpaca bustiers and tops.
“Peru has been known for its raw materials, but the big step I want to take with this is to export the brand, the finished product. We have creativity here, and it’s worth showing.”
Carola Solis currently sells in the Belmond Hotels in Lima and Cusco, as well as on her website. Visit her at Alpaca Moda this month, October 26-28, in Arequipa, Peru.