Peru’s fashion landscape has transformed dramatically in the last five to ten years. In many ways, it has mirrored and followed Peruvian gastronomy’s rise to fame and success.
Fashion shows have multiplied in and out of Lima; designers are aplenty; public and private support are there; there’s no shortage of local and international fashion brands offering the latest international trends; and one look at Twitter or Instagram will reveal the proliferation of Peruvian fashion professionals – from bloggers, to models, PR specialists, illustrators, photographers, stylists, make-up artists, production experts, and so on and so forth.
We find ourselves, so it seems, at a prime moment to elevate the Peruvian fashion brand to international stardom, at least the latest initiatives coming out of New York, Mexico, Vancouver, and Madrid would have us believe so. But let’s ask ourselves: What is Peruvian fashion? Is there such a singular, all-encompassing thing? Are there Peruvian fashions, then? And from all the press coverage and social media hullaballoo that fashion receives on a daily basis, what are we left with to ponder, to discuss or criticize (it’s neither a bad word nor practice, my friends)?
A recent fashion editorial in the lifestyle magazine Ellos&Ellas featured an image that caused an online stir for its dangerous flirtation with, some would argue outright use of, racialized tropes; an image, and accompanying caption conceptualized in such a way that “othered” the indigenous woman who became an impromptu model for the photograph, and placed her in anonymity in respect to the model and designer, who were given a name and profession: they were given an identity.
This incident, like others that aren’t what one would call celebratory in their nature, are left in the dust by big media players and the participants themselves (the designer, Susan Wagner in this case, the photographer, and the response from the editorial board was nothing short of an outright dismissal). Of course, this isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to Peru, or exclusive to fashion, but at the same time: as the industry continues to aspire to do bigger and better, shouldn’t we also seek to create a more inclusive, self-reflective space in which the plurality of participants and visions comes to the surface?
This is where fashion designer and researcher Lucia Cuba comes into the picture. Firstly, I invite everyone to read Cuba’s call to action in response to the aforementioned image. Along with the online magazine Sientemag, she will present a collaborative workshop entitled Objects/Subjects: Constructive Conversations this upcoming December 11-13. Cuba’s ethos as a practitioner and investigator falls under the premise of clothing and fashion as cultural and social manifestations. As such, this workshop will allow for fashion enthusiasts to approach this world by way of exploring the potential for critical understandings of design objects and their social functions. By way of conversation and the practice of making, participants will generate dialogues around wider socio-cultural issues that can indeed manifest themselves, and arise from, clothing.
Dialogue-based workshops and conversations such as this one are few in the field of fashion (as we know it in Peru). That, we hope, will change and is something that we should take up as a challenge to amend. For more information and to sign-up for the workshop, visit our Events Calendar.