Fashion

Micaela Llosa and the Philomena project

Agnes Rivera

The entrepreneur is highlighting local and national artisans and convincing consumers to value sustainable and handcrafted products.

You could say that Micaela Llosa is a walking billboard for her young store, Philomena.

“When I traveled to the U.S. [a few months back] I wore this,” the entrepreneur told me, pointing to Philomena’s Sophie cardigan, a lush, charcoal black alpaca jacket. “People literally stopped me in the street and asked where I got it.”

Of course, the former model, fashion blogger, and TV host also knows how to work it, as she brims with confidence not only in what she wears but what she does.

Tucked away on a side street between the dizzying movement of Ovalo Gutierrez and the deep stillness of Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores, Philomena is, as Micaela tells me, “more than a store, it’s a project.”

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Canta Gallo necklaces (Photo courtesy of @philomena)

Local and national artisans have filled the store with soulful and free spirited wear and home decor, not only from the store’s namesake brand but from various other labels that share their core values: 100% Peruvian products made in sustainable work environments. Encouraging the work of artisans and the natural fibers they use (be it alpaca, cotton, leather, or suede), Philomena finds a way to connect the consumer to the producer with a small detail.

“It’s important to me that the artists we work with are recognized for their work,” says Micaela, pointing out the tag on a nearby knitted poncho, whereby a consumer can learn where it came from and who made it. “With these [tags] you can understand who made your clothes, where, what was the process, and understand a little more about what went into making the piece.”

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Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse honored in handcrafted alarpieces (Photo courtesy of @philomena)

Having worked 11 years and counting in the fashion business in some form or another, Micaela always knew she was interested in working with people and making a social impact. Her trips to Huaraz were especially life-altering, and would inspire her to focus less on trends and more so on sustainability – both in style and production. She continues to travel to keep in contact with her team of artisans (many of whom do not have access to phones or computers), whether it be to Ayacucho, Caral, Puno, Huancavelica, or the Shipiba communities on the outskirts of Lima.

And fashion travels as well. Currently, you can find the Philomena brand in locations as diverse as the fine Belmond hotels as well as the art store and gallery, Dedalo, in the bohemian district of Barranco – both of which see heavy foot traffic from tourists and foreigners.

“The Peruvian public is beginning to value these kind of things but the majority [of consumers] are not yet convinced…they’re not yet valuing their own heritage,” Micaela states. And when you consider the recent surge of shopping malls and invasion of foreign fast-fashion labels such as H&M and Forever 21, it’s painstakingly evident.

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Rustic and vibrant sandals (Photo courtesy of @philomena)

With just over a year since opening the Philomena store, Micaela carries nearly all the marketing workload. She notes that “little by little things are moving, but productivity is vital” in order to get the word out there. Then, taking in a long, deep breath before letting out a chuckle and brightening into a wide grin, she concludes: “Nobody said it would be easy.”

What’s in a name?

As a woman’s name, Philomena likely derives from the Greek word, philomene, meaning “loved.” A name likely befitting her service, the nana (nanny) of Micaela’s mother was named Philomena, a somewhat over-the-top yet somehow endearing name, so characteristically adorned to Andean women (see: Fortunata, Santosa). “Growing up I would always hear about nana Philomena, how she would take care of [the family], do everything with care,” and it stuck with Micaela until it came time to search for her store’s name – something that would give a nod to women of the sierra.

“It’s important for us that it goes beyond just clothes, that there’s something behind it.”

Philomena
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