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BY VICTORIA LESCANO
A look at the sartorial trends among Latin American women gives us a hypothetical style guide, spotlighting fashion creators and enthusiasts in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Colombia. Let’s start with the latter, specifically the city of Medellín. A few seasons ago, during a stopover at the Panama airport, I had my first experience with Colombian style when a group of paisas burst into the plane’s business class, clad in white miniskirts, matching white Chanel boots and corsets that they wore with the ease of everyday T-shirts. A few days later, at the celebrated Medellín fair Colombiamoda, a man and a woman modeled girdles, bras and corsets in sand and chocolate tones, from a noted lingerie brand specializing in post-op care following aesthetic surgery: a fetish-friendly display with Caribbean influences. The fashion-loving ladies of Colombia can also opt for Hernán Zajar’s creations, including the crackling Technicolor hues of his silk skirts (adorned with ribbons and lace) and delicate crochet and macramé corsets. Silvia Tcherassi’s designs are perfect for cocktail parties. Her shantung shirts with three-quarter sleeves and pastel trench coats are all the rage among businesswomen. Those who favor a trendy, experimental look love the rock-influenced chiffon dresses and jackets of Isabel Henao and the folksy vibe of Olga Piedrahita’s custom handbags.
São Paulo is the Mecca of Latin American fashion, and “Made in Brazil” is the mantra of those who flock to São Paulo Fashion Week or the elegant stores of Jardins and the more bohemian shops of Vila Madalena. There’s plenty of variety, from the experimentation of Alexanger Herchcovitch to the artsy style of Gloria Coelho and Reinaldo Lourenço to the ethnic mixes of Isabela Capeto. On a recent visit to Buenos Aires, Capeto told me, “I find as much inspiration in an embroidery pattern as I do in a flower, a meal, an art or cultural exhibit. I use the sum of these elements to create a universe of design.” International luxury brands also loom large at stores like the renowned Dalsú, but there is a persistent love for more humble textile traditions and chitá – the popular flower-print fabric brought to Brazil by the Portuguese, who had originally adopted it from India.
In Peru, day-to-day fashion is marked by the use of fine Pima cotton, which is locally produced. A staple in the closets of fashion-savvy Lima, this crisp, cool fabric comes in designs that salvage details from pre-Columbian textile work. The ethnographic symbols include designs like the tika (a round flower) or the pumachaki (a puma-paw print) and speak to the rich textile traditions of ancient Peru.
Buenos Aires has always been a center for style in the region. The fashion-conscious neighborhood of Palermo preaches an innovative silhouette, with a patchwork of colors and textures that challenge yesteryear’s devotion to camel tones, while also ingeniously facing up to the local textile industry crisis. Standout examples include Cecilia Gadea’s romantic dresses, Vivki Otero’s Victorian-inspired silhouettes for women’s business attire, the colorful fabrics of Juana del Arco and Araceli Pourcel, the chic prints of Pesqueira TM, the vibrant and innovative “constructions” of Martín Churba and the monochromatic evening gowns of Pablo Ramírez.
Simultaneously embracing tradition and the avant-garde, all these styles and forms of expression find a voice through fashion, and from the closets of Latin American women, they suggest the larger aesthetic of each country. in
Victoria Lescano is a journalist specializing in fashion, and the author of the book Pret a Rocker, Moda y Rock en la Argentina (Ed. Planeta, 2010). She is also the fashion columnist for the newspaper Página 12 and has curated the Malba Moda cycle at the MALBA in Buenos Aires.
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