Peruvian clothing culture

When sourcing fabrics for STPL our aim was to use a fabric which was truly exceptional. 

We were drawn to Pima cotton due to its vast array of increebile properties but we still had a choice to make as to which country we sourced our Pima from.

Peru has a rich history of textile production and it is this which we decided to tap in to. 

Fine textile production is a millennial tradition in Peru, dating back more than 2,500 years, when cotton was first domesticated in the country. It played a central role in society and daily life in ancient Peru.

Cotton clothes were not only utilitarian but they had a symbolic and ceremonial purpose, oftentimes indicating power or religious beliefs. Garments achieved their highest technical and artistic levels during the height of the Paracas civilization in the Ica Valley, between 600-150 BC.

Made from camelid wool and cotton, the extraordinary Paracas textiles were finely woven and brightly coloured, indicating religious beliefs as well as social status and authority. Later cultures, including the Wari and Chancay, continued this tradition, producing very fine and high complex textiles, including muslins, tapestries and brocades, using a variety of techniques.

During the pre-Hispanic Andes period, cloth continued to be the most valued item from an economic, political and religious perspective. Like their predecessors, the Incas employed cloth both as a utilitarian good and medium of taxation as well as a sign of wealth and political favour. The form and decoration of cloth itself denoted components of social identity such as gender, ethnicity or social status. For instance, feathers, vicuña and metals were materials reserved for political elites.

An intricate repertoire of techniques was used for making and developing cloth, including tapestry, double and triple-cloth, and warp-patterned weaves. During the Spanish conquest the European foot pedal loom was introduced and European fashions and knitting became predominant. However, pre-Hispanic weaving techniques are still in use today in some parts of Peru.

“The value attributed to textiles by pre-Columbian societies can be compared to the importance given to gold and silver. Textiles served as much more than clothing; they were also a medium for spreading religious ideas and for transmitting messages to the next world when they were employed to wrap the mortal remains of the dead. They also served as exquisite gifts for the rulers of these societies, as well as to denote social status” (Museo Larco, Peru)

Many people who live in Peru today still wear traditional Peruvian clothing and when we visited Peru it was great to see. On our brand building journey, we have learnt so much about how clothing is such a big part of various cultures but to see it first hand was a far more mind-blowing experience.