Date of this Version
Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii
Peruvian Connection is a high-end clothing, mail-order catalog company that has built its reputation on clothes made from finely crafted textiles in luxury fibers. The company appropriates elements from various textile practices and fuses them with Western fashion. The company simultaneously stresses distance and connection, colonization and celebration. We cannot simply locate the company in the rural Kansas town in which the corporate headquarters are based. Rather, this company straddles multiple geographic, temporal, and cultural locations, while simultaneously trying to ground its products in Peru. But we’re not in Kansas anymore, and we’re not in Peru, either.
I have chosen to look at Peruvian Connection’s textiles designs because they manifest both positive and negative aspects of cross-cultural appropriation in textile designs. I discuss how Peruvian Connection is an engaging case study because the company selfconsciously markets the ways their products distort the textile designs, objects, and cultures of a colonized region that they also claim to celebrate and keep alive.
In my analysis, I use information gathered from the company’s promotional material as well as other scholarly research on the company. Several studies have addressed the export of products of indigenous peoples. These provide a larger context in which to situate Peruvian Connection’s textiles. One particularly insightful essay, “Representations of Tradition in Latin American Boundary Textile Art,” analyzed how Peruvian Connection and Maya Traditions construct public perception of traditional textile practices.
I analyze several key elements that Peruvian Connection manipulates to fashion their cross-cultural image: they use luxury fibers native to Peru, employ indigenous women in Peru who use “traditional” textile techniques, sell handcrafted collectible art knits, and design garments inspired by pre-Columbian and other cultures’ textiles. I will discuss how their glossy, full color, fifty-six page catalogs and content-rich website reinforce the tension manifested in their cross-cultural designs.