Imagine the warmth of the sun softly burning on your skin, a refreshing breeze of summer-like air, while the buzz of cars and hectic people is barely audible. Imagine bittersweet cocktails in the moonlight, soft laughter, live music and an atmosphere so full of creativity, exuberance and life itself. Picture a coast so very golden; the ocean harsh but beautiful, tropical palms and soft tunes of old guitars.
After an exhausting flight to Lima from Amsterdam we finally arrive at the airport of Lima. With this being my first trip to Latin America I was very much looking forward to finding out everything about this new culture, the people, the country and – since this is what I am here for – the fashion.
Arriving at the BTH Business Tower Hotel after a 20 hour trip felt like heaven: the atmosphere so full of positivity created by the staff was so refreshing and exhilarating that the long trip was almost forgotten. The cool air blowing out of the AC reminded me again that I had really just made a trip to South America all the way from Europe – and I felt rather unprepared. I looked outside of my hotel room window and looked over the dim lights of the city laying below my floor , realizing again just how small the world really is. I thought about all the people I saw on the plane and wondered about where they had traveled to from the distant airport and where they had come from before boarding the aircraft. I thought about the smiles I had exchanged with the stewardesses and I wondered if they had to fly back home that night or if they got to catch some sleep first. And the very second I thought about sleep the tiredness and exhaustion kicked in and I went straight to bed.
Day 1: Tuesday
After sleeping a surprisingly refreshing eight hours I awoke to the 6.17 am sunrise. Bathing in the Jacuzzi bathtub had me feeling rather posh and helped me to feel a little more relaxed for the day that was ahead of me. This being my first trip for the official press and right away one filled with so many different challenges – while all being in Spanish – I felt as young and foolish as I last had when I was 12 years old. I tried to shake the thought of not being well prepared and not adept enough for a trip like this and got ready for a day full of new experiences and challenges.
After meeting the rest of the journalists that were invited to attend Peru Moda 2016 we started making our way to the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism to meet Magali Silva Velarde-Alvarez who is also the president of PROMPERU to hear about her thoughts on the future of Peruvian fashion in the global industry and get a detailed insight on her thoughts for Peru Moda ’16. With more than eight and a half million people living in 43 districts, the traffic in Peru’s capital is heavy and slow. Already getting used to the Spanish commercials motivating people to buy mosquito protection for summer we slowly made our way through the busy city, passing buildings that could easily be featured on the next cover of Wallpaper* magazine as well as old and rustic church. The dualistic synergy of this place became more vivid with every yard we drove.
Arriving at the Lima convention center to see the runway show by the popular Peruvian fashion designer Jorge Luis Salinas was overwhelming to say the least. Close to the center of the city that is just filled with people and noise and cars and an overall hectic and buzzing and bustle, the compelling size of the concrete building only added to the nervousness I was urgently trying to hide. With the soft breeze wafting through my hair, the humidity and heat of Peru’s capital seemed to be forgotten. The cold shade that was provided by humungous cement walls and architecturally complex roof parts offered moments to rest my thoughts and try to recap what was going on. Having sat in various front rows in Berlin, London and even Paris would make this seem less crazy. So I thought. But having a seat reserved at a fashion show on the other side of the world, meaning people want to hear my, yes my opinion on collections, events and developments just confused me to say the least. I looked back up and studied the invitation again, reciting my name over and over and over again until some announcements were made and the show began. With beautiful fabrics and complicated cuts models in beautiful gowns, skirts and culottes pants walked down the runway, completing the picture perfect scene of modernism in a traditional environment, just like the hyper minimalist convention center in the midst of old town Lima.
I had only started to get adjusted to the feeling that this environment had created when I was brought back to reality and the small group of journalists that I was with made their way through the crowds to the next part of this day. I had no idea how important lunch is in the country but already the outside of the restaurant “Jose Antonio” gave my high hopes. Opening with the traditional Pisco Sour cocktail, the five-course meal was exceptionally delicious and made me just there realize again how tired I actually was. An afternoon nap in the sun was what I was really craving but there was no time to rest; we had a number of showrooms to visit and made our way back on the road and through the stuffed streets of the city. Young labels like Escudo alongside of traditional, classic Peruvian labels like the one from designer Meche Correa really use the city’s atmosphere and vibe to create original pieces. They incorporate the feeling you have walking down the streets in the pleasant sun, passing palm trees and minimalist residential buildings just to end up in the middle of a rustic church or school – and create beautiful ready to wear pieces. The mid century modern style of most of the apartment buildings inflamed my love for architecture anew and motivated me to strengthen both general knowledge about designers and interior design styles as well as it wanted me to look deeper into the history of global metropolises.
We made our way back to the hotel just in time to see the sun set in the distance – a view more spectacular than expected, considering I have seen the sun set before. But there was just something about the way the shadows grew on the warm concrete streets and the way the streetlights slowly turned on. Something made me feel embraced by culture and art and the atmosphere just intensified when the moon slowly rose over the distant Peruvian mountains. I had made my way to the sixth floor after a little chat with the other journalists and again, the first thing I did was turning on the AC. When outside the climate didn’t seem to bother me at all, yet inside of this room with the huge bed, the cold natural concrete floor and the minimalist decoration, I just needed to feel the cold exiling the humidity. Unsure about what was waiting for me for dinner after the big traditional lunch in the place with the big bar, I put on an outfit suitable for any location (all black – who would have thought so) and made my way back down to the lobby. The drive to the restaurant was the first time during this trip that enabled me to just lean my head back and process everything around me. If I had wanted to assimilate all the pictures and words and names and sounds in my mind that I had collected during this day, the drive would have to be at least 12 hours long. More or less fortunate though, it was merely a 15-minute trip to arrive at one of the most prestigious places in Lima – the Lima 27. The stylish restaurant took dinner to another level and made me realize again just how much I love desert. Having followed a strict vegetarian diet for the last 13 years, my will to “try new things” has never been very strong. Yet, after it had been made clear to all the waiters that I was the “special one”, meaning the only vegetarian amongst the 24 guests, I happily took any recommendations regarding their meat-free options. And I haven’t been disappointed once.
Day 2: Wednesday
Having taken a class in textile technology in college I thought I had some basic knowledge on fabrics and their characteristics. Well, the tour through the textile museum “Amano Museum” taught me differently. The pieces of fabric that were partially a couple thousand years old explained so much about the Peruvian textile industry that I was surprised I had never heard about it in when I was still in school. The collection includes probably more than 200 single pieces of differently weaved fabric, from alpaca to cotton. Some of the pieces exhibited in the museum were actual garments such as dresses and shirts, dolls and household goods that allowed a detailed insight on the lives of people from 2000 years ago. Also being located in a beautifully refurbished building intensified the feeling of culture just pouring into me.
Driving back to the fair to meet the labels exhibiting at Peru Moda I thought about how beautifully most of them had set up their booths when I walked through the big hall yesterday and tried to figure out the best way to choose who to speak to. Since I usually work with sustainable brands, this was my go-to strategy: picking the label that works most sustainable, eco-friendly and fair. But here in Peru most brands sold handmade garments and worked with traditional production procedures that were hundreds of years old. Making a decision was more difficult than I thought and I felt like going with my guts was probably the best way to handle the overwhelming amount of beautiful fashion. Arriving at the convention center I was taken away by its size and aura once again and had to hide the fact that I was absolutely overwhelmed by everything I saw, heard and simply felt. I searched for a quiet place to work and finally write a review for the gorgeous collection by Salinas and found myself on the open terrace of the convention center, enjoying the soft breeze and warm sunshine while typing frantically in order not to forget anything. It took me much longer than expected to really focus on my work since I got distracted by beautiful people in beautiful clothes walking around in this beautiful location just too often – and I barely managed to finish my article before we went back to the hotel to get ready for our evening plans. After enjoying the gorgeous sights of Lima for just a little while we arrived at the Peru Arte, the art fair that had just opened that night. Being able to get an insight into the art scene of Peru and meet the artists while sipping cold, Peruvian white wine just made the trip feel like an illusion again. The project “Angels Trumpet” by Horacio Goitre Testino in collaboration with the Casa Macchiavello took my breath away. Not realizing what I was standing under when I spoke to a curator about the fair, I was quickly taken away by the dim lights and brought into a world where nature and technology are one, once I had realized that the roof over my head was a piece of art. The piece made from bamboos and PVC is shaped like a flower that is originated in the highlands of Peru and offers shelter for a large number of people, including a small bar (the one that served the delicious wine). The characteristics of the flower – being organic, light and open – provide the perfect features for the lounge area of the exhibition. Not having enough time spend at the art fair – although I firmly believe that no time in the world could possible suffice to learn all about the amazing artists – we had one last stop: Tragaluz in Miraflores. With Slavatore Ferragamo celebrating his new collection, we got to enjoy great cocktails at the after party. Again, the vibe of the people, the warmth of the night and the hospitality of the Peru Moda team made this night unforgettable. We danced to soft jazz tunes and sipped sweet cocktails while watching the runway show on big screens again – what an amazing way to end this remarkable day.
Day 3: Thursday:
Waking up to the sound of the AC softly blowing cold air into my face presented a refreshing start to the last full day in Lima. My new friend Patrick that I had bonded with right on the first day and I both got excited at the thought of the fresh Avocado and chia seeds awaiting us in the pretty restaurant of the hotel. These days really could not start any better than with the handsome waiters even pulling out the chairs for me. Spending time with various labels at the fair offered the chance to really look into the history of some brands and discover their unique styles and values – and it was more impressive than expected. Living an all around sustainable lifestyle has always been a goal of mine, yet it never seems like a realistic option. Still, the people I got to meet during my time in Lima, especially the artists and designers were proving me wrong – they really did value nature and people over everything and created beautiful garments that paid a tribute to humanity and mother nature by visibly incorporating those cherished attributes into their collections.
Still dreaming about the avocado I had for breakfast we were stuck in traffic again and I was observing my surroundings. The sun was shining so brightly and the soft breeze that came through the streets from oceanside moved the big green palm tree leafs rhythmically. We arrived at the most impressive location I had ever visited in my life – and I have been to places. Not the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids of Giza could compare. The restaurant of Huaca Pucllana is located right in front of the pyramids that are named alike. The seven staggered platforms create an incredible sight that served as an important ceremonial and administrative center for the Lima Culture, which is a society that developed in the Peruvian Central Coast area between 700-200 A.D. Having lunch next to ancient ruins was one thing; the sight of modern, minimalist office and residential buildings and an elegant restaurant with a chic outside dining area within five yards of those ruins was the other. Again, the feeling of being astounded and overwhelmed overcame me as we clinked glasses with another round of Pisco Sour. Making our way to some more showrooms and ateliers gave me some time to rest my head, because – as expected – we were stuck in traffic for a little while. Being so fascinated by the sight that we were able to enjoy this afternoon I had not expected to see anything even slightly as beautiful again any time soon – but I didn’t know where we were going to be having dinner at that night. Meeting designer Meche Correa in her beautiful loft studio brought me back to the reality of why I was here: I am a fashion writer. We spoke about her new collection and her inspiration to start her own brand many years ago. The beautiful pieces made from Pima Cotton, Baby Alpaca, wood and horn perfectly resembled the Peruvian culture with just a touch of modernism. Correa is originally an interior designer, which was not hard to tell by the way she decorated her studio. She has worked in the fashion industry for many years and her skillset and eye for detailed clearly showed in the traditional pieces and the stylish accessories. Being born in Peru you would think that she knew every corner of the city, but with a smirk she revealed that she discovered something new every time she walked through the streets of the town.
One of the last stops of our the day was the competitive fashion show for “The Young Creators for the World” which includes ten fashion design students that create pieces for a certain theme and take part in the competition in order to win a desired prize: this year this prize included an internship in China as well as professional sewing machines to take their own label to a new level.
Celebrating both the winner and the end of the fair on that beautiful Thursday night we made our way to the last official stop: the Cala restaurant. Cala is located on the cliffs of Lima and offers an unforgettable view over the ocean and the beach. The open floor-to-ceiling windows allowed the fresh ocean breeze to stream softly through the open room, moving the tablecloth gently and allowing me to cool down after the day that was behind me. Ordering the only vegetarian option again, which was – for a change and other than expected in a Peruvian restaurant known for its local specialties – Italian, I enjoyed my first pasta in days. Since none of us were able to decide what dessert we wanted we got a plate with every option on it and I still believe it was intended for more people that actually ate it - we were four and this could have easily served eight people.
After arriving at the hotel after a quick trip down to the shore I was on autopilot: turning on the AC, taking of my make up, showering and then brushing my teeth with sparkling water out of a bottle (I was just as confused, especially since this was such a nice hotel, but I didn’t want to take a risk) exhaustion took over and I fell flat into my bed.
Day 4: Friday
Considering the fact that I haven’t been feeling quite well these last two nights, the thought of being stuck in an airplane for 13 hours made everything worse. Yet, the team from Peru Moda and PROMPERU did everything they could in order for me to be comfortable. We started our day early in the morning and discovered some of the amazing art of fashion photographer Mario Testino, including his very personal and intimate shoot with Lady Di. The museum is beautifully located and hosts many amazing photographs from various stages of Testinos career – when in Lima, this is definitely a place I would recommend. Right after we got adjusted to the cold air of the museum rooms, we made our way to the coast. This was the first time we all got to enjoy the true beauty of this place without any articles we needed to write, interviews to prepare or features to organize in mind and I have to honestly admit: This place is radiant. The light tiles in front of official buildings, the intense red of roses filling the air with a bloomy scent of spring, the sound of the ocean in the distance – Lima, you are gorgeous. We hiked a small path alongside a cliff and I tried to take in all I could before leaving this beautiful country. To our surprise, we had dinner at the famous Mango’s restaurant, which is located on the cliffs of Lima as well, enabling us to feel like we are on a million dollar vacation. Surrounded by tourists and families I had yet to realize that this trip was almost over – even though it felt like it had only just begun.
Enjoying some of the best dessert I ever had (again, Lima really pushed my sweets- consumption to another level) I looked over the coast and tried to really remember what it looked like when the turquoise waves slowly crept up the golden sand. This was something I never wanted to forget.
We allowed ourselves a little time off before driving back and went to one of the most popular and famous markets of town to walk through the tight alleys filled with carpets, pillows, scarves and candles and took in all we could. Fortunately it had cooled down a little and we were not concerned with getting sunburned for the first time during this trip – even though the market was so tightly packed and stuffed with garments and goods that it was hardly possible to see the sunlight in the first place.
Back at the hotel the driver was already waiting for us so we didn’t have much time to say goodbye to this beautiful place. Without a sound, the car became part of the daily hustle of the traffic and merged into the perfect picture of Lima’s busy streets. The sun slowly started to set behind the distant mountains of the outside regions of the capital as we pulled into the airport. I turned around again and tried to memorize everything I saw this past week: from the billboards to the palm trees, the dusty sidewalks and bright flowers, from the smell of bittersweet cocktails to the ocean to handmade garments and modern architecture.
Can you see the streets of Lima yet?