The Sacred Secrets of Peruvian Craft

Exploring the rich heritage of textile talent in the remote Incan lands.

Spring '17

Isolated Artistry: The Sacred Secrets of Peruvian Craft

Out of all the world’s travel destinations, Peru is among Ulla’s favorites for uncovering cultural treasure. “I have been there close to a dozen times, and I am never at a loss to explore new regions and find fresh inspiration,” she says. “The country is so vast and varied, with the most biodiversity to be found in any region of the world, and within that, there is such an array of traditional artistry.” In anticipation of her 2017 collection, Ulla embarked on a sourcing trip to discover the rare processes and talented people of the local weaving and knitting communities, her friend and photographer Peter Stanglmayr in tow.

The pair set out from Lima and traveled up to the mountains around Cusco, where they met with a group of women working on the fall accessories: knitted hats, scarves and lengths of tasseled ribbon woven on the backstrap loom for pieces made in collaboration with jewelry designer Sonia Boyajian. Next, they visited the remote village of Ocangate to work with a particular hat maker who tends his own flock of alpaca, the source of fine fleece felted to Johnson’s specifications, to be formed into hats. “The tiny villages we visited were so breathtaking, and the local craft and cuisine so captivating,” Ulla muses. 

Despite her many visits to the Sacred Valley, this was her first trek to Machu Picchu. She and Stanglmayr stopped at Ollantaytambo, at the base of the Incan citadel, where they met with a women’s collective that specializes in handspun, vegetable-dyed yarns. These would be hand-knit into lushly layered sweaters and cozy wraps for the collection, weaving a Peruvian countryside sensibility into a line with a decidedly urban-cosmopolitan point of view. 

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