I remember returning from South American trips during my youth with gifts that intrigued my non-Latin American friends. You know, the beautifully beaded wallets, the hand-carved ashtrays, the vibrant mochilas, hand-knit scarves and about 17,000 of those woven friendship bracelets that you are probably wearing right now. Basically the stuff that Urban Outfitters now mass produces and sells at an insane markup.
In this globalized internet culture, it has become increasingly difficult to define the line between drawing inspiration from traditional garb and exploiting another culture’s output. So it’s refreshing that legendary Peruvian photographer Mario Testino’s newest exhibit, Alta Moda, showcases the workmanship and textures of native South American dress that are often referenced in collections and ‘high street’ clothing these days. The title of the exhibit, which literally translates to “high fashion”, most explicitly seems to point out that this clothing – much like haute couture – is constructed by hand with extreme attention to detail. But it also slyly hints at geography – this is the clothing worn by communities that dwell up in the Andes, after all.
Photos by Mario Testino
Testino photographed the fashions in his native country over a period of 5 years and was inspired by the work of indigenous photographer Martín Chambi to create the monochrome backdrop. What results is a stunning contrast to the vibrant colors and life that pours out of each subject wearing their traditional dress.
“It‘s a tribute to traditional Peruvian costumes, to their embroideries, their colors, the fabrics that are still worn in the Andes,” Testino told Vogue Paris. “I wanted to pay tribute to the richness of traditional clothing, to which the Peruvians are very attached.”
Alta Moda will be on exhibit at The Queen Sofía Spanish Institute from November 20 through March 29,2014.