Peruvian brands join forces during the pandemic to sell to the United States

Through the Peru Gift Shop, more than 10 companies offer handmade products. Currently, the handicrafts and clothing are in Amazon, Ebay, Shopify, Wanelo

The Peruvian ingenuity -in order not to fall in the middle of the crisis due to the coronavirus- conquers North American lands. Especially, the artistic talent. Eleven handicraft and fashion brands have joined together in an online trade channel: perugiftshop.com. The virtual store -which receives individual and wholesale orders- is supported by the Commercial Office – Houston (OCEX).

Photo: Adrian Dascal
Photo: Adrian Dascal

“In this time it helps us to generate sales and employment. And it makes it possible for the United States market to know our history through handmade pieces. Peru has unique ancestral techniques and we must maintain them,” points out Evelyn Brooks, the project’s director. What’s on the platform? You can find wood carvings, traditional clothing, decorative objects, handkerchiefs, purses and more. At this early stage, they have sold to California, New York, Delaware and Missouri.

Evelyn (45) is an enterprising Peruvian jewelry designer who has lived in Washington D.C. for 17 years. She founded the Evelyn Brooks Designs brand in 2004 with the vision of making fashion pieces inspired by our country. “Many designers used stones and crystals in their jewelry, but nobody gave importance to the huayruros (native of the Peruvian jungle): objects for good luck. I had to make the wearer proud of these seeds,” says Brooks. So he has been successfully using them in his collections for more than 10 years.

To achieve her masterpieces, she works hand in hand with an Amazon community: Amarno, in Bagua Grande. “I was very interested in his work. Although our communication is limited, because they don’t have stable access to the internet. We have been working for three years and her pieces sell well in Amazon Canada and the United States,” says Evelyn.

Someone who also put the value on the traditional Peruvian essence is Griela Pérez (34). Her soul as an artist and the desire that her little daughter Agustina would never lose the link with her roots, led her to give life to Las Polleras de Agus. “I decided to dress her in skirts, with the help of an artist who specializes in Huanca embroidery. I wanted her to be a real girl,” says Griela. So, in 2014 she set up this project, with the desire to transmit identity, beyond just a fashionable garment. “I base my work on ethics, by making visible the people behind the creation of each piece,” says Pérez.

Artisans from Puente Piedra and Rímac (Lima), as well as from the Andean communities: Canchis, Cañas, Paucartambo and Calca, in Cusco; and Huayocachi, Huancayo; collaborate with the company. Without a doubt, the mission is to rescue the typical embroidery. “We promote the work of the artisans through high quality garments, worthy of an excellent place in the world of high fashion. In addition, each one carries a certificate of authenticity. By means of a QR code they can connect with the artist. In this way, we create a direct link with the protagonist,” says Griela.

She also considers that isolation is a necessary pause that – in a way – brings new opportunities to renew ourselves as a society. “We can’t ignore the fact that many people are losing their jobs. For example, our main suppliers (embroiderers) are in serious trouble because of a lack of liquidity. That is why we make solidarity products, whose sales serve to give them a bonus. In addition, we start with pre-sales to take action as soon as restrictions are lifted”.

Rocío Mantilla (50), who heads Platería Rocío, stresses that Perú Gift Shop has helped her family business – over 65 years old and dedicated to decorative and utilitarian silverware – to have an important sales channel in the United States. For her, the fact that the virtual store has the support of PromPerú and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, allows greater coverage. “It is as if you had a sales team in another country. Each brand has the freedom to negotiate with buyers. It’s an open project that maintains ethics,” he points out.

She says that she works together with the workshops of women artisans in Iquitos. They are in charge of working the wood of one of her lines of utilitarian pieces. “It’s a fusion with silverware.” In the same way, it gives the opportunity to grow to a workshop of young people with special skills from Ventanilla. “They do glass-fusion. They have very fine hands and can create applications with glass and seeds.” Finally, Rocio is aware that the pandemic brings changes. In her case, orders for products decreased, and many were even cancelled. However, she sees this context as an outlet to reinvent the brand.

Author: Rosa Aguilar. El Comercio