the meeting between a Brazilian stylist and weavers from a Peruvian village
Flávia Aranha and Maria Vetancur are toiling over pots and pans. After withstanding the thin air while climbing the mountain in search of plants and roots, they returned to the village to boil fabrics and begin the dyeing process. Vetancur speaks only Quechua; Aranha only Spanish. Somehow they agree on the colors and the temperature of the water.
We're in Choquecancha, a remote pueblo about four hours by car from Cusco, a region which Aranha, a stylist from São Paulo who specializes in naturally dyed fabrics, had long wanted to visit. “The Andean territory, especially the Peruvian part, is very rich in dyeing techniques,” she says. “The villages maintain sophisticated ancestral Incan practices. This is what I wanted to experience. We were winding our way through the roads and suddenly we came across those women dressed in astonishing colors.”
Choquecancha is home to one of the many local cooperatives that promote the insertion of the communities in the market. Led by Vetancur, around 10 weavers make their livings from weaving and dyeing with organic materials. Aranha was enchanted by the unique things she saw there. “They have colors that I never saw before, some shades of red, sea green, that come from plants that only exist there.”
Technique and apprenticeship
In the village, clothing is primarily made of alpaca or llama wool. According to Aranha, the animal fiber absorbs the coloring better than vegetable fiber, one of the reasons the final result is so bright.
The dyeing process utilizes clay. “They pick the plants, boil the fabrics and dye them by using this clay that only exists there,” explains Aranha. “There's a very intimate relationship with the mountain and nature, and this is reflected in the fabrics. If you ask them how they choose those colors and patterns, they'll simply say that they're recounting what they saw and felt that day.”
Imbedded in the Lares Valley, at an altitude of 11,800 feet [3,600 m] in the Peruvian Andes, the village is inhabited by roughly 800 families who live off the land and artisanal textiles. The snow-topped peaks and pastures that frame the region help to hide (and preserve) the village, located outside the tourist circuit that leads to Machu Picchu. “The work led by Vetancur is tremendously important because, in addition to providing sustenance, it helps to document their culture,” explains Aranha. “It is what they are; it's the history of that people.” It's possible to buy clothes from Choquecancha at the San Pedro Central Market in Cusco, one of the most traditional in town.
LATAM has flights to Cusco departing from Lima, Arequipa and another two cities.
Adhering to such concepts as slow fashion and sustainability, Flávia Aranha decided to start her own brand after working in the industry. At her studio in Vila Madalena, São Paulo, she creates collections using processes like hand embroidering and natural dyeing. Perhaps, at some point, we won't talk about sustainability as the exception anymore, but instead about the value of clothing and the poetry of artisanal production.”