Claudia Ruiz Palacios is 26 years old and founded Vernácula Concept Store a year and a half ago with her mom. Claudia had studied Fashion Design for a while and worked in textile factories, so she was already very involved in the fashion world. The idea started to grow when she realized she preferred to work for herself; perhaps she would earn far less, but she would be happy. Now, the more than 250 suppliers and two (going on three) locations, Claudia believes there is no salary worth all her work in Vernácula: the freedom of choosing her schedule and doing what she wants to do.
Mariella Rendon of Café con Ella, and contributor to Living in Peru, met with Claudia to ask her a few questions.
What characterizes Vernácula?
The independent design, in fashion, art, interior decor, not only Peruvian (the majority) but also foreigner. Beyond design, Vernácula works also with Peruvian microbusinesses that are putting their brands out there: artisanal beers, desserts, liquors, organic coffee, and so on.
What do you look for in the possible products for your shop?
It has to be different from what you see every day. In the case of art or style, we value handmade products a lot. We want Vernácula to be that shop that makes you say “you have to buy that in Vernácula”, because you only find it there. Otherwise, we would be any other shop.
I still haven’t asked about you: what did you study, how did you end up here?
I studied Marketing and went to Australia for a business course. I love to travel and I spend all my savings visiting other places. I think it’s from that that I get my ideas, from experiences I had in other countries that made me think: why can’t this not be made here? After that, I came back to Lima and I worked with different companies that I believe helped my business and administrative training. One day I called my mum and I told her I hated working in offices, I just couldn’t, and then I quit.
I created a clothing brand with my mum called Purpurné, which went very well… my mum always believed that what I was thinking was possible, and that influences a lot of people’s success. Once we had the brand, I began to know many friends inside the design world, so when Vernácula was born we already had a set of brands.
Did Vernácula ever wanted to create a social impact?
Besides that, we worked with two young girls (19 and 20 years old) of the Santa Margarita penitentiary for around six months. Since they were inmates, they would come here, work part-time and go back…The idea was that they learn and tell the other girls in the penitentiary that there was a world of opportunities outside.
There were a lot of people against me, saying that I was crazy, how could I give a job to someone that could kill me, rob me. I never thought that…I believe that when you want to give an opportunity to someone, you have to do it for real, not halfway, stretching one hand and keeping the other hidden, waiting for them to ruin it. We hired them so that outside they could ask for a job saying they have worked with us and we recommend them saying that nothing happened, so they could go further with their lives. The two girls were from Huancavelica, and when the district attorney found out they were working he said they shouldn’t have the luck to work so he prohibited them from continuing…the project got cancelled.
If this serves for something, it’s that other people start giving opportunities. It doesn’t have to be to someone in jail, it can be to someone who wants to study, start a business. Peruvians care to grow but we don’t think about the rest, we should help everybody to grow equally.
After this experience, I came across Pietá, a brand that works with boys of the Lurigancho penitentiary. They do absolutely everything and it’s also an income for them.
What’s in the future for Vernácula?
Vernácula is a peculiar place in Lima. It’s a store but it’s not a store, it’s a café but it’s not a café, it’s a place where you can sit and steal wifi, drink a beer, listen to live music. Nobody forces you to buy. I believe people are getting used to concept stores, I like that there are people betting on independent designers, since the competition, for example of malls, is huge. That’s why after the more bohemian and relaxed shop in Barranco we opened a second one in San Isidro, more chic, and soon we’ll open a third one [location yet to be revealed]. The idea is that, in the end, Lima becomes a city not only with a culinary boom, but also with a cultural, fashion one, with cool places to visit.
Calle Ayacucho 269, Barranco
Born in Lima but raised in Verona, Italy, Mariella Rendon came back after ten years and a diploma in Foreign Languages and Literatures for Publishing to finally discover her country. After deciding to stay, she created a blog called Café con Ella where she tells her life as a returnee and shares the snaps of her adventures around the city (there is a a lot of coffee involved). Find her on Facebook and Instagram.