Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Florence Babb (University of North Carolina At Chapel Hill)
This paper explores the growing fashion boom in Peru through the lenses of gender, racial, and class politics. We argue that notions of “the Andean”—or refusals of it—are on prominent display in high-end and alternative clothing design and in the shopping experience. Beyond the politics of scale, fashion and clothing production in Peru take different shapes depending on the designer and the intended consumer. Clothing can become both an accessory for the body and a political disposition. We explore high-end boutiques (and their online websites) and independent (do-it-yourself) stores in order to identify how different processes of aestheticization unfold around ideas of Andeanness. In the case of high-end products, the Andean is often sanitized, smoothed, and refined, and the garments are directed to wealthy Peruvians, tourists, and global consumers. Independent stores tell a different story, as they may also use Andean elements yet deliberately make their t-shirts, skirts, hats, and other apparel edgy and rough, even “ugly,” and ultimately political. Their principal consumers are not tourists or conventional middle-class shoppers but rather youth with sufficient income to spend on such forms of self-expression. Many of the independent venues do not even have a physical location or a website, but rather offer their products via social media, word-of-mouth, and private gatherings. Our research considers high-end boutiques and alternative shops that trade in notions of the Andean, or intentionally sidestep such notions, in order to highlight the uneven seams of capitalism, class, and gender and racial politics in Peru.