LONDON, United Kingdom — I know I’m running late. I’m going a million miles an hour in a cab, through Marylebone on the way to Covent Garden, where one of the most exciting events in my calendar this month is about to start and hopefully not before I arrive. Tonight Peruvian Connection launches its first catwalk show accompanied by an exclusive Peruvian degustation.
I fling open the taxi door and dive through the front door of Lima Floral, the latest Peruvian restaurant to open in London, showcasing some of the latest creations and cooking styles of chef Virgilio Martinez and head chef Robert Ortiz. What a great moment to try out this fantastic new entry, while feasting my eyes on the latest Peruvian Connection’s Gift collection.
Peruvian Connection Success Story
There is a wonderful welcoming by Ana Orihuela the London Store Manager and an introduction to Annie Hurlbut, the CEO and mastermind behind the brand that was founded in 1976. I then make my way to one of the tables where I start mingling between welcoming drinks and Peruvian pisco, my favourite!
The intimate setting has tables carefully placed around an L-shaped catwalk where all the attendees, including long-time customers, bloggers, journalists and representatives from the Peruvian Trade and Tourism Office, are thrilled to see how this international brand is settling into the London retail scene less than two years after the opening of their first store on King’s Road.
While the first degustation dishes start to arrive, Annie Hurlbut begins the fashion show with a heartfelt introduction, walking us through the beginning of Peruvian Connection that was born by the inspiration she gathered in Peru as a Yale anthropology student and through her Peruvian ethnographic textile collection. As the brand began to establish itself, a significant turning point for Annie was a fortunate article about her newly created brand in the New York Times’ Style section, which moved them from a wholesale business to directly selling to consumers and entering into the fascinating world of retail.
As Annie finishes the history of the brand, I can see the first model flawlessly walking through the tables, giving us the chance to take a closer look at the patterns that each garment features and feel some of the softest materials Peruvian Connection uses, like baby alpaca, wool and Pima cotton.
“What makes us different is the originality of the products we offer, which are carefully crafted and produced,” says Ana Orihuela. I couldn’t agree more with her while I’m admiring the ensembles that each model is parading along the catwalk. As we speak a stunning brunette saunters past us sporting a snuggly, beige alpaca capelet matched with a flowing black skirt and a pair of elegant, fingerless, elbow-length gloves.
As the second model wows the crowd by wearing a beautiful coat featuring bold black and white patterns, Annie explains: “Everything is designed in our warehouse in Kansas City, but most of the production is done in Peru, other than the boots that are made in Tuscany and the beading work that is made in India.”
Peruvian Connection: The Show
Walking towards me now is a model wearing a remarkable combination of a Plumage Maxi Skirt beautifully accessorised with a leather Obi Sash and a Zoe Floppy black Hat. Ana explains the inspiration behind this piece: “Our designers, located on a farm in Kansas City, are often inspired by their surroundings, in this case the inspiration comes from patterns on chicken feathers.” As I browse the other designs, I realise that every garment has its own unique story and inspiration.
The catwalk starts to get even more intriguing with models featuring more casual looks such an adorable Alpaca Nordique Pullover followed by a very Peruvian Connection look featuring a beautiful patterned Kilim textile shawl wrapped on top of a cozy coat, dramatising the look with an alpaca fur hat. One of my favourite looks: classy, edgy and perfect for London weather!
The last few pieces, while being more traditional, render a playful look through the creative use of layering that starts with a hand-knitted Larapa Market Skirt, combined with two different types of shawls, beautifully pinched at the waist of the model, giving a coat-like look. Leather gloves, a belt and a trendy Peyton Felted Hat add a vintage flair. There was also a Reykjavik Pima Cotton Tunic featuring colourful Icelandic motifs and ingeniously matched with a Peruvian chullo and a hat. The final look was a beautiful ruana made with warm colours setting the trend for this winter.
While more exquisite dishes like anticuchos and tamales continue to flow across the tables, we are all mesmerised by the beauty of each new garment and accessory. It is a playful, versatile and colourful collection that could fit any age from teenagers to elderly ladies in search of fashionable and unique pieces. While the quality of the garments speak for themselves, these kind of patterns and combinations need to be presented in the right way to a less aware European audience, something that Peruvian Connection is doing impeccably. As Annie explains:
The whole point of the retail stores, more than just make a profit, is to establish the brand and educate our clientele.
“For this fashion show, we were able to shake things up a bit,” says Andrea Menke, the stylist of Peruvian Connection. “I wanted to render a cool look, more modern and very contemporary, getting a bit more traditional along the way to finish with strongly Peruvian inspired looks.” Andrea loves to mix patterns and has a great talent in bringing together layers and layers of garments without losing functionality and style.
We have the fabrics and the prints so you can put on one at a time or all together and have a sort of a explosion of colours and patterns.
Andrea assures us that ponchos and anything with striking patterns are right on trend for this season’s look. She also suggests to mix & match: “… a classic baby alcapa sweater, a great patterned ruana, a pair of the skinny jeans and knee-high boots, finished off with a top hat if you feel confident enough!”
Peruvian Connection: The Future
When asked about the future of Peruvian Connection, Annie says: “The response in London has been extremely positive and I would love to open other stores in Europe. We already have great distribution of our catalogues in Germany, so this is a destination that could be considered in the future.” Anna adds: “We would love to see Peruvian Connection in the London Fashion Week next year as the conservation of textile tradition in Peru is so important and we have to make people aware of that through high-profile events such as the LFW.”
The Gift collection, which features some pieces from the winter collection, also includes exclusive items to celebrate Christmas and the festive season. Whether you buy on-line or in the store, get ready as the Gift collection arrives at the stores in mid-November.
Heading back home after this great event, I couldn’t help but smile about the gigantic steps that Made-in-Peru has made in recent years and having brands like Peruvian Connection centre stage, who feature the work and tradition of ancient Peruvian communities, is great for the country as a whole. I can’t wait to get my hands on the Gift collection and try some of the “layering” myself so that I can have the Peruvian Connection look this season!