Ecuador de­sign­ers rein­vent indige­nous style for modern age

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

Af­ter years of tak­ing a back seat to Western style, indige­nous fash­ion is re-emerg­ing in Ecuador, thanks to a new gen­er­a­tion of de­sign­ers who are reimag­in­ing tra­di­tional clothes.

“Make the turn snappy!” says Juana Chi­caiza, who founded the mod­el­ling agency Awkis y Nus­tas

- ‘Princess and Queens’ in the Quechua lan­guage.

She is teach­ing her young charges how to best show off the

anaco, a tra­di­tional An­dean skirt, on the cat­walks.

A former beauty queen with long dark hair, Juana - a mem­ber of the Pu­ruha indige­nous group - was mocked at a pageant be­cause of her tra­di­tional garb.

The ex­pe­ri­ence in­spired the 32 year old to open her agency in 2013 and “strengthen the iden­tity” of the Pu­ruha on the run­ways, where models now sashay in out­fits that mix “the Western and the an­ces­tral”.

Latin Amer­i­can agen­cies gen­er­ally seek models with hour­glass fig­ures and fine fea­tures, the de­signer told. “We’re not look­ing for that,” Juana said. “We’re look­ing for women with char­ac­ter.”

In Ecuador, indige­nous peo­ples make up 30 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion of 16.5mn, ac­cord­ing to or­gan­i­sa­tions rep­re­sent­ing them. But many in­hab­i­tants do not recog­nise them­selves as such: Of­fi­cial cen­sus records say the coun­try’s indige­nous pop­u­la­tion is just seven per cent of the to­tal.

Like Juana, fash­ion de­sign­ers are also work­ing to help peo­ple re­new their pride in their her­itage.

A hint of edge

Lu­cia Guillin and Franklin Janeta, who are also mem­bers of the Pu­ruha eth­nic group, have launched their own indige­nous fash­ion la­bels - re­spec­tively, Chu­randy and Vispu.

“Our Pu­ruha clothes have dis­ap­peared and young peo­ple have started dress­ing in the Western style,” says Lu­cia, don­ning one of her own shoul­der-bar­ing cre­ations. Pieces from their lines, in­clud­ing tops and skirts em­bel­lished with hand-em­broi­dered flow­ers, range in price from US$150-800.

The most ex­pen­sive items, of­ten em­bel­lished with stones and em­broi­dery, are aimed at brides and beauty queens. The de­sign­ers use tra­di­tional or­na­ments and sym­bols, like flow­ers or the sun, but are mak­ing up­dates more in line with con­tem­po­rary styles, such as with more dar­ing cuts. “There were no low­cut neck­lines, no short sleeves,” Janeta said. “I asked my­self, ‘What if we changed it?’ Be­cause young girls like things a lit­tle more modern.”

Lu­cia, for her part, has suc­ceeded in con­vinc­ing women to wear the tra­di­tional skirt proudly once more by giv­ing the gar­ment a hint of edge, with mer­maid cuts, trains, flar­ing and side-slits, she said.

“We must put a stop to the idea that In­di­ans are closed off,” she said. “If we con­tinue with this, we also risk los­ing our cul­ture.” Ac­cord­ing to Janeta, who said he makes some US$12,000 a month in sales, cus­tomers are be­gin­ning to un­der­stand the value of the hand­made at­tire.

“We taught peo­ple how to dis­tin­guish dif­fer­ent qual­i­ties,” he said. “Be­fore it was dif­fi­cult to sell a blouse for more than US$60 - not any­more. They’ll pay up to US$400 for a corset.”

This new gen­er­a­tion of indige­nous en­trepreneurs also in­cludes Es­ther Miranda, Jose Mullo and Jacque­line Tuquinga - who launched the per­fume brand Yu­yary - de­sign­ers who also see Western­ers as po­ten­tial tar­get con­sumers. “As it’s a brand in Quechua, peo­ple think it’s just for our com­mu­ni­ties,” Es­ther said. “But we want to go be­yond that.”

Our Pu­ruha clothes have dis­ap­peared and young peo­ple have started dress­ing in the Western style

Lu­cia Guillin


Pu­ruha-style hand-em­broi­dered blouses at a store in Riobamba, Ecuador

Franklin Janeta, the owner of indige­nous-style cloth­ing store, helps a cus­tomer to try an out­fit Es­ther Miranda, owner of a per­fumery Lu­cia Guillin, a Pu­ruhastyle fash­ion de­signer shows her de­signs

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