The spilled drink seeped into the ground. This oblation, a symbol of gratitude towards Mother Earth, always seemed a little strange to me growing up. I was raised between the Western mindset that we, the people, can control the earth, and the animistic mindset that the earth has its own spirit. How that entity is treated determines what it produces. During planting season in rural southern Bolivia, the owner of whichever field we were invited to that day would offer part of his noontime meal to the ground, a preemptive thank you for the planted crop.
Pachamama, the Quechua word for Mother Earth, happens to be the name of Eliana Paco Paredes’ current fashion collection. She is a Bolivian designer of Aymara descent, one of Bolivia’s largest indigenous groups. But instead of seeking to erase where she comes from, as so often happens when minorities enter the fast-paced, ever-shifting world of fashion, she is taking indigenous Aymara fashion to New York Fashion Week this September. Bolivian President Evo Morales, Aymara himself, declared cholitas, indigenous women who dress in traditional attire, a central part of the capital city, La Paz’s, cultural heritage in 2013. Their clothing consists of high bowler hats, called “bombins”, full skirts, blouses, and shawls, along with two long braids down their backs. And that is exactly what Paco Paredes designed for her show.
Keeping the traditional framework, she created what would be expected from any European designer: outfits for multiple occasions, including evening wear and even a bridal gown. Traditional textiles were also used but were mixed with other non-traditional media including a shawl with an oil painting of a cityscape.
I recently finished watching the tv show Ugly Betty. A young Mexican woman who dreams of running her own magazine one day lands a job as an assistant to the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine. From the beginning she does not fit in, but instead of conforming, she undergoes changes that allow her to stay true to herself at home in Queens and at work in downtown Manhattan. The show did an excellent portrayal of the negative aspects of the fashion industry while also acknowledging the catalyst it can be in someone becoming more comfortable with and confident in him- or herself. Paco Paredes does not throw out the old, but instead recreates it in a way that fits the current times.
The present is a bridge between the past and the future. Standing on a bridge is frustrating because of its already/not yet paradox. But I believe we can use the earth while also respecting it; cholitas can wear designer petticoats; and I can be comfortable with myself, with where I am right now.
For more information and my source, click here.