RELEASE DATE: 01 Oct, 2013

EDITORIAL BY Amaru Villanueva Rance

One of the symbolic objectives behind the campaign that took Evo Morales to power in 2006 was to move towards a ‘gobierno de poncho y corbata’; a government equally made up of new indigenous leaders (represented by the poncho), and mestizo leaders of the prevailing political class (represented by the corbata, or tie). The party leaders could just as easily have heralded a government era of ‘pollera y vestido’, the corresponding symbolic female garms. But they didn’t. While racial and social inequality was strong on the agenda, gender was not a salient political issue.

As it happens, the President-elect wore neither a poncho nor a tie during his first diplomatic tour, but rather a plainish stripy jumper which quickly became iconic around the world. It was telling that the person spearheading the ascent of an indigenous political class opted for an outfit more representative of a hybrid urban class with a dual heritage—at once rural and urban. While the government still denies the existence of a mestizo identity, it has certainly found its own cultural and aesthetic expressions.

From formal suits with prominent aguayo details, to imported second-hand clothing repurposed and appropriated for the local market—Bolivia has become a point of confluence for diverse fashions spanning time and territory. Rather than harmoniously meeting in new aesthetic expressions, what we are witnessing more closely resembles a series of uncontrolled explosions. Austere indigenous colour pallets combine with neon and glitter, giving way to beautifully monstrous creations. Fashion trends seem to be driven by kitsch, chaos and entropy, rather than by an elite cloister of designers and models.

We have chosen to steer away from the few catwalks and established haute couture names in the country to pay more attention at fashion which originates and takes place on the streets: military tattoos, counterfeit clothing, second-hand gems from El Alto market, cholita clothes, traditional hairdressers, and even an emerging fashion brand inspired by a ‘rap-rave’ South African band. If we are to find the true expressions of what fashion means in the Bolivian context, it is needful to look at the people and movements that define the local aesthetic. It’s especially important to seek out those silent icons who are seldom seen as fashion pioneers, even among themselves.



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