Would you tell us a little about your familial and personal background, as well as provide some educational background?
I spent most of my life in Peru, but I finished my high school in the U.S. I lived in Minnesota for a year and went back several times after that and I did all of my university in Lima because after high school, I went back to Peru. Though I am not originally from Lima, I’ve lived there for, maybe, 10 years. Finally, I stayed working there in advertising and marketing. After a few years of work, I felt the need to change industries because fashion was actually moving in Peru. Before, the industry wasn’t much in terms of creative fashion – it relied more on manufacture and production. I wouldn’t have really called it a fashion industry, more like industry-suppliers. But at that time, the creative industry was already moving, though in a slow pace.
So, I decided to travel to see what the fashion industry was actually like around the world because I knew we were in a very early phase. I decided to move to France to do my Masters in fashion management, with thoughts of moving back to Peru right afterwards to help develop the industry there and build a bridge between the Peruvian industry with the rest of the industry abroad. While I was here in France, I discovered sustainable fashion – which in Peru we didn’t know about.
Now, there is a little bit of it. In Latin America in general, there is a little bit of sustainable knowledge, but people talk about it and don’t really know about it. Here, even though French people consider it not that important or developed, to me, it was like, “Wow!” It’s been eye-opening. So, I decided to stay here to learn more about it.
You are a freelance writer and activist for better practices in the fashion business. How does this play out in personal and professional life at the present?
To be honest, until maybe, two years ago, I was really the regular professional person. When I was in Peru, I would work for several companies in marketing. On the side, I would always do freelance design just for the fun of it. When I moved to France, after school I started working for fashion companies. I was on the regular path I guess. But ever since I decided to fully commit to sustainable fashion and the promotion of sustainable fashion in Latin America, starting my own company of course, I quit any possibilities of a full-time job and have been doing freelance ever since. I have been freelancing for fashion showrooms, for sales, and everything that has to do with writing. Everything that aligns with fashion and sustainable fashion. I do that nowadays. I am an entrepreneur and freelancer. It’s a mess sometimes (laughs).
You have experience in the international market and a specialty for Latin America, and you are a featured author for Trusted Clothes. How does your expertise influence chosen article topics?
I’ve been checking a lot of blogs and writers that are contributing. They write about their own personal experience, which I think is important to start. I also started to write what it is like to start your own business, and I think it is the first step because you are connecting people that are thinking, “Maybe, I should be more interested in this, than that.” But in the articles that I’ve been doing afterwards, I’ve been trying to look at it more from a commercial point of view. At how sustainable fashion and practices is something that you can make profit off. Little businesses, and major brands, are looking into it and developing. I cannot not see that with my background.
I’ve studied marketing strategies, green-washing cases, and successful online startups. So when I see it happening, I immediately do a little research and write about it. The last article, which I wrote for Trusted Clothes, and hasn’t been published yet, is about the shared economy and how it applies to fashion, because it’s a big thing right now.
It has taken longer for fashion. So, I wrote a little bit about my thoughts on it, and at the end I always end up mentioning, based on personal observations on the international scene – why it’s happening or not happening in Latin America – how it applies there. Because being from Latin America, and going there once a year, I get to see how the market changes, and then I get to compare it with the rest of the world because I want to say the US and Europe are somewhat aligned. However, I feel Latin America is behind. And I try to state why it is we’re behind or in different states.
I mix my professional background with my cultural background every day (laughs).
It sounds to me like something personal in that way. As an aside, you would know better than I would, have you looked at the amount of carbon footprint from synthetic fibres compared to natural fibres?
Right, I think at the end I do take it personally because of what I have seen. What pushed me is that Latin America produces a lot of raw material that is high quality. I think the first article I wrote for Trusted Clothes was about farming in Latin America because we are changing our ways to become better.
What I think is silly is that we produce high quality coffee, food, and textiles, and it all goes abroad. All of the footprint you’re reducing by changing your ways of production, it needs to be transported to the other side of the world. All your savings went out, again! Actually, we aren’t producing it for us. We’re producing it for them (developed countries). You hardly find those in the local market. Then we get really low quality products imported from Asia, and so on, we follow trends. We follow the American look.
Low quality products from these far away countries coming all the way to Peru… In my logic, this doesn’t make any sense. You’re making high quality fibres and not even using them. You’re sending them far, far away. So, though my idea, initially, was to produce high quality clothing to sell in Europe where people actually care about manufacture… seeing the situation in my country. I figured this was impossible, something had to be done.
In my eyes, we have full potential. We’re just not seeing it. At the end, it’s a matter of misinformation. It’s not a matter of money. The price is not even that high.
You founded La Petite Mort, organic streetwear company, where “la petite mort” is translated as “little death” or as a popular reference to a sexual orgasm. How do these two relate to one another?
The inspiration for the company is, first, to develop an alternative to streetwear, common streetwear, that we wear every day… but in organic cotton. Farther than organic, I’ve chosen to work with Pima cotton. You have several types of cotton. The pima one is the cotton that has a longer fiber. So, when you do the textiles, it’s going to be softer. You notice that immediately when touching a t-shirt. I really want people to relate the brand to the substance. I decided to work with the best that I could find to make these pieces. If you look at the brand, it’s not really about statement pieces. It’s a regular t-shirt, so it better be a good one! I also try to make it very approachable.
The second is also that it’s environmentally friendly. I wanted to develop the brand with a lower impact, of course.
Then, the inspiration for the name brand… la petite mort is, of course, the orgasm. It is actually the moment of the orgasm that lasts maybe half a second. As if you were dead for an instant. It goes farther than orgasm itself. It is the feeling of emptiness – total, ultimate freedom, it is what people look for when they do yoga or meditation, or reach nirvana. It’s just another way to put it.
I chose it because when I learned the meaning of it. I thought, “Wow! This is so true, we all look for this” Even before I had the brand, I had this concept in my mind, back of my mind. So, I decided that when the time came to grab it. I am having trouble with it because the new generations of French do not really understand or make the connection with la petite mort. It’s kind of sad as a name.
Once they get it, they connect to it, some of them. (Laughs) And once you do, it’s hard to forget, right? I don’t do the whole la petite mort when working in Latin America, because French is hard! In Spanish I use the short La P.M. standing for la puta madre, which means something super cool. It’s slang, urban slang.
To me, La Petite Mort, is the ultimate nirvana. There’s no other name to call it. I don’t want to use a yogi name! (Laughs)
Any concluding feelings or thoughts about sustainable fashion?
I’m going to say it is a lot of work. Sometimes, I feel like the brand, if I didn’t mention “sustainable,” it would run even better because when you take this approach people immediately back away. I think there is a lot of clichés around it. That’s why when I try to communicate I try to be very soft, very positive, and not to make people feel guilty. To this point, I think fashion has been sold in the wrong way.
I wish there was more of this movement in Latin America. I know there are organizations working on it over there, but the road is still long. So, I take it personally to help raise consciousness. It’s crazy. We are the ones that get affected the most in the developing countries. That’s all that.