The article and the poem below were written by Carola Solís and selected by Fashion Revolution for their fourth fanzine ‘Fashion Craft Revolution’ after a global selection. You can buy it here: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/ fashion-revolution-fanzine-library /? fbclid = IwAR2bYzFt4HVISYy7LQx5j67cE1ZiRe3MWKNK7KLsEnkDrc98Kfz7E87Fo8Q and in this way contribute to Fashion Revolution.
Women in Peru, how we are threaded.
I grew up in the Peruvian Andes, where all the folk bright colours shaped my taste for clothing but where really, most of the commercial clothing available was in the tones of grey, blue and black and sometimes red, or yellow if I was lucky. That, as a little girl represented oppression for me. Colourful clothing was used only for typical dances, or for “typical clothing” but not for everyday dressing, not in the cities.
Today, after 30 years, I can gladly say that I feel this is changing, we are connecting. Peru is reconciling with its diversity, or that is the feeling I get when I see native artisan fairs in the heart of Lima, our capital city, where artisans from all over Peru get to sell their art and even more when I see communities like the Shipibo Konibo being invited to events like ARCO, the Contemporary Art International Fair in Madrid or Olinda Silvano, its maximum representative and Meritory character of Culture, representing us at Casa Peru in Russia during the Soccer World Cup.
This is not only seen in the art world, but in fashion, where working with artisans and artists from our country is IN fashion. Various Peruvian designers such as Naty Muñoz, Qarla Quispe, Lourdes Chambi, Lici Ramirez, Anabel de la Cruz, Las Polleras de Agus, yours truly and many more, are contributing to re-create our identity, consume locally, export and transform stereotypes. The economy is changing for the artisans, it is changing for us, owners of small businesses, and it is changing the way we see ourselves, the way we see our clothing and the appreciation we have for the crafters of what is called Peruvian. It is allowing us not to only work together, grow as a nation, but to re-invent Peruvian attire, make it more modern, inclusive.
We, women who live in the cities (who in some cases are from rural areas too) and women from rural communities were apart for many generations but both had a thing in common: Women did not have access to personal income, depended on their male counterparts for money, and that is changing.
When I travelled to Tarapoto (some 28 hours road trip from Lima, 1 hour by plane) in order to present my “Peru, diverse country” collection, the Asociacion Amazonica, was keen and kind to take us to meet the Warmi Awadora (women knitters in Aymara), a project supported by the National Program for the Conservation of Forests for the Mitigation of Climate Change, which promotes that women are trained in economic activities such as textiles, so that they do not depend on forests and therefore protect them. After travelling from so far, Chirikyacu seemed close and easy to access, but it wasn´t, which shows reality and why we have been separated for so long.
But reality also shows we live similar realities. We need to look after our children, earn a living through an independent initiative and many times on top of that, help our husbands with the family business. When I hear stories from other sustainable clothing initiatives, these stories from women artisans are always the same and these are repeated when I talk to women designers with little children. This connection unites us, makes us more empathetic.
We designers learn that a simple piece in waist loom can take the work of up to two days without stopping and therefore end with waist pain. Artisans learn that selling is not an easy task at all, and that it involves much more than having a facebook page and beautiful pictures.
Which is why to hear Olinda Silvano say “When I grow, everybody grows” and viceversa is inviting and is true. And it was one of the reasons why I decided to portray her and her mother on a collection. I thought to myself: If we can have printed shirts with Madonna, why not Olinda? We can all be inspiring, we can all be stars. And most importantly, I get to wear the colours I always wanted to wear, the true colours of Peru.
I appreciate the fact I decided to connect with these women. It helped me to reconcile with my country and the world. To reconcile with myself and live in my own country (so far, I have enjoyed living in the Andes, the coast and the jungle). I have learned and understood that no matter where we are from or what we do, we are all ONE.
Threads of Peruvian Women
I let the threads and bright colours of my country shape my heart and soul.
But commercial – ism, made me turn onto gray and blue.
It was only when I rediscovered my colours, I could paint bright and pink.
And when I met Olinda, I knew my heart was green.
Then the Warmi Awadoras, explained the telar to me
And when they knitted my pieces, I could reveal my golden spine.
Spine? You would say?
Yes, I´d reply… My spine was harmed when I was younger. For I did not know where I stand or who I was.
I thought I was Guess and Levi´s
Or that wearing Madonna or Michael Jackson would make me bright
But really, what I needed was to portray my women on my skirts
To only see much after, that Olinda was much much brighter too.