When Peruvian savoir-faire meets today’s trends!
The variety and quality of Peruvian handicrafts are pretty mindblowing. From the leather works to the (many!) colorful textiles, the country crawls under hundreds of communities with unique savoir-faire and ancestral techniques that you get to discover walking around the markets, and it’s pretty hard to resist their charms (I’m paying the price right now with a backpack that has doubled its size since our trip in Peru and a future flat that might turn out to look just like a Peruvian art & craft museum of Paris…).
Two girls who couldn’t agree more are Lele (Elena from her real name) and Kina Andersen, two sisters from the Canary Islands who settled down in Lima 2 years ago. Their idea? Launching a clothing brand mixing the best of Peruvian traditional savoir-faire with today’s trends to create one of a kind pieces. The result is amazing and as Lima was on our check list, we had to meet them!
Unfortunately Kina was in Europe at the time we were there but we were lucky enough to meet with the great Lele. She welcomed us in her incredibly cool appartment of Miraflores (one of Lima’s liveliest district along with the up and coming Barranco district) and told us about her concept and her work before taking us to her new workshop in the city’s historical center.
Elena always knew she wanted to create her own brand but it took her a little bit of time and thinking to figure out the idea that would make it work. After studying business in Spain, she took a year off to figure out what her next step would be. She wanted something to do with fashion and soon realized that working with clothes wouldn’t be enough, she had to make them. Be it, she applied to Parsons New York, definitely not the worst place when you want to study Fashion design, and got in. Simple as that! The Peruvian adventure started a little after she graduated, when Kina moved to Lima (love story related) and asked her to come with. After a trip there, Elena fell in love with the country, its colours and its people and decided to stay. Again, simple as that!
Launching the Siblings Army machine wasn’t the easiest thing, but the sisters are more of the get-up-and-go style, a big smile on their face and a great dose of patience in their minds. They worked hard for a year before they had their first articles ready to sell. But oh lord it was worth the wait. A perfect mix between the Peruvian unique savoir-faire and Elena’s sharp sense of fashion. Target reached!
The sisters’ collections are based on genuine «mantas», very colorful blankets Peruvian women wear on their backs to carry basically anything! A baby or the harvest of the day for example are two very common things you can find in it. But not all mantas are equals and if some sneaky industrial works have found their way on the markets’ stalls (damn productivity race), the two sisters and their team are only looking for the real thing, the best of the best, handmade mantas that can take up to several months of work and sometimes are over 60 years old. And you won’t fool Elena who now has the educated eye of the one who has seen thousands of pieces and knows when something good comes up. She knows when a colour is rare (Lila is what you want to be looking for if you are into rare stuff) and that each mantas tells a story based on several symbols, which are just Chinese to us but that she starts to manage pretty well!
Elena and her assistant Rosmery will spend days running around markets in Cusco to find the perfect mantas among the thousands of pieces offered or driving throughout the mountains to go meet the women behind the mantas and get the right dying and motives for a future piece. That’s probably one of the best part of this job, or at least the one we are the most jealous of!
But the process doesn’t stop there. How do we go from the slighlty old-fashioned stuff we see on the Peruvian markets to these modern and urban Siblings Army pieces? That’ts when Elena’s ideas and Johns’s hands enter the scene, putting together the carefully selected mantas as well as the high quality leather to turn them into cute denim jackets, leather visors, camera straps or handbags. You get it, from the dying to the sewing passing by the weaving, it’s all natural and handmade, just how we like it!
Oh yeah and the good news for you people not living in Peru: Sibling’s Army is actually sold by several shops around the globe, just check out their website to see where is the one closest to you.
Like every encounter we make, after a few hours of talking, sharing stories and imagining what the future will be like, time came for us to say goodbye to Elena. Not without a bit of curiosity on what would be next for Siblings Army. And of course not without taking some of her beautiful creations with us. Will I have the balls to wear this leather visor? Mayyybe…! Anyways it was too beautiful not too take it back home!
Today, after two years of hard work, Elena and Kina are like two girl looking at water that is about to boil, just not knowing when it will happen exactly. That’s probably when patience comes as handy! One thing that’s sure: Those two girls are loaded with energy and ideas and definitely have their place in Lima, a city that has recently been booming and should keep developing in the upcoming years. Can’t wait to see what they have next for us!