Peru inspires British fashion

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Yet again, Peruvian influences are spreading across London. It was only a few years ago that the capital’s culinary scene was inspired by Peru, but the fashion industry is no stranger to Peru either. Several clothing and accessory brands are using the country’s artisans for inspiration or collaborations this winter.

The Heritage Brand

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A long-admired label inspired by Peru turned 40 this year. Peruvian Connection, founded by Annie Hurlbut, launched to a US customer base in 1976 and caught the attention of the New York Times in 1979. The company has had a UK presence for 20 years, appealing to women “from a fashionable Kensington or Chelsea address or from a castle in Scotland,” Hurlbut says. Throughout its long history, the company has supported Andean workers and championed high quality Pima cotton and alpaca wool – not only fabulously soft, but moth-resistant – from Peru. The heritage behind Peruvian weaving also comes into play.

“Each village in the Andes is represented by its own iconography and colour schemes,” Hurlbut explains. “You can look across a crowded market place and spot the women from Pitumarka and the men from Q’ero. 

“The artisans who’ve made our collections over the past 40 years are a part of Peru’s deep textile heritage; their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers spun the alpaca yarn and wove the textiles that reflected their identity.”

The Winter 2016 range, which you’ll find in store at 322 King’s Road, is full of wearable pieces in burnt orange, terracotta, charcoal and teal shades, with finishing touches like the Back Country felt hat.

The Peru-Inspired Designers

Scandi brand Gudrun Sjödén, whose British store is 65-67 Monmouth Street, showcases all things Peruvian and Bolivian in its Winter 2016 collection. A trip to shoot the seasonal catalogue included stops in Lima, Cusco, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, before going onto Lake Titicaca and across to Bolivia with its famous Salar de Uyuni, the world’s biggest salt flats.

Gudrun Sjödén has always been passionate about eco-friendly design, often incorporating recycled materials such as recycled polyamide and eco cotton into her fashion ranges. This environmental obsession is arguably mirrored by the stops on her trip, such as the man-made Uros islands of Lake Titicaca (made entirely of reeds) and the agricultural terraces of Ollantaytambo, and the use of alpaca yarn in the collection.

Even athleisure has its eye on Peru: print designer Anna Sudbina – a former Central Saint Martins student – created the Peru print for Lucas Hugh’s Autumn/Winter 2016 collection, available in white or black. Pieces come with a vibrant hand-sketched nature motif, featuring botanicals and hummingbirds, and cross-stitch details. Highlights include the moisture wicking double-layer Inca shorts (£155) and matching sports bra (£80).

Lucas Hugh’s founder, Anjhe Mules, started her research not so far away: in Portobello Market. “We visited Portobello to buy lots of traditional garments and fabrics,” says Mules. “Peru was the planned destination of my honeymoon – the colours and weaving were all part of our research process.” 

The Transatlantic Jewellers

London-based Soluna ensures its luxury jewellery is well-travelled: it’s dreamt up in London and crafted in Peru. British-Peruvian owner Miguel Depaz trained at GIA (the Gemological Institute of America) in London and is accredited by the Goldsmiths’ Company.

Every Soluna piece is eco-friendly, and the company’s social responsibility policy extends to fair wages, life insurance, health checks and training programs for its South American workforce. Traditional Incan symbols, such as the sun and the jaguar, give these distinctive designs an enduring cultural relevance. They can also be engraved.

Chavín is another Peruvian jewellery brand making waves in London, inspired by the ancient Chavín culture (which pre-dates the Incas) and worn by the likes of Made in Chelsea’s Rosie Fortescue and Louise Thompson. Stockists include the on-board Duty Free shops of Austrian Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific.

Founded by Simon Ogilvie-Harris, Chavín uses a portion of its sales to support an SOS Children charity project at Lima’s Luz y Vida Centre, where jewellery making workshops run give single mothers a new skill and potential extra income. Like Soluna, Chavín has strong ethical policies, and provides life insurance and health checks for every employee in Peru, 60% of whom are women. Every precious stone used in its designs has been responsibly sourced, and even the product packaging is environmentally conscious. As prices start at under £50, this is an affordable way for consumers to embrace Peruvian culture.

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