Authentic, Ethical and Sustainable Peruvian Fashion: Silvania

With vibrant and colorful patterns based on pre-Columbian art and design, “Silvinia Prints” became an institution of fashion in Lima from its opening in 1958. Founded by Silvia von Hagen, wife of the renowned explorer Victor von Hagen, the company was inspired by the iconography and artwork of indigenous cultures that the couple witnessed on their expansive explorations throughout Peru.

Silvia and Victor von Hagen

Silvia and Victor von Hagen travelling in Peru in the 1950’s

When Silvia sadly passed away in 2007, however, it looked like the charming, smart and much-loved designs were to be a fond memory only.

Not so! When I met with Silvia’s granddaughter Georgia last week she told me the fascinating story of how she has taken her grandmother’s company by the reins. She has now registered the company in both the Peru and the United States and is currently busy launching her own debut collection for Spring and Summer 2012, you can visit the website here.

Georgia Kirkpatrick  Chan Chan Blouse, Silvania, Peruvian Fashion

Left: Georgia Kirkpatrick of Silvania

Right: “Chan Chan blouse” which features in the Spring+Summer 2012 collection

Based in Portland, Oregon, Georgia has made many trips back and forth to Peru to setup the company over the last few years. This has entailed research into every detail, from sourcing the highest quality organic pima cotton to setting up production in Lima.

“The entire process takes place within Peru, with the exception of sales which I manage in the USA” Georgia told me. “At the moment I am only selling in the USA but in the future I want to expand internationally … and of course within Peru itself!”.

Although she had always daydreamed of becoming involved in her grandmother’s company, the prospect of this becoming a reality dawned on Georgia after she completed a placement in the town of Mórrope in the Lambayeque region with the NGO Textile Exchange. She interviewed families who cultivated organic pima cotton and assisted them with work on the fields while assessing the environmental impact of the farms. Through her experience it became clear that these subsistence farmers needed a more stable market for their cotton, and that’s when the idea to relaunch Silvania came to the surface.

Most impressively, Georgia has been stringent in ensuring that the company is ethical and sustainable. 100% organic cotton is used in the garments, and this is sourced from small farming communities such as that in Mórrope who avoid the toxic chemicals used in conventional cotton farming and who receive a higher (and fairer) price for organic cotton. Georgia now travels to Peru regularly to oversee production and ensure that Silvania’s production partners work in healthy conditions while being paid fair wages.

In a similarly authentic manner, the embroidery in the Spring + Summer 2012 collection has been hand-embroidered by a small community in Pucallpa, Peru who belong to the Shipibo tribe of the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon. Silvania will put aside a percentage of profits for the healthcare and education of such production partners and their families.

The photo shoot below of the debut collection took place in Callao harbour to the north of Lima, an authentic setting for this genuinely Peruvian line of fashion.

Location: Provincial Municipality of Callao
Photographer: Monicka Menesis
Model: Claudia Oliveira
Hair + make up: Claudia Michelle

If you are living on the west coast of the USA and want to get your hands on the debut collection check out the outlets below. And for those living elsewhere you can order direct from Silvania’s website.

Stores carrying the Spring + Summer 2012 Silvania debut collection:
Adorn – Portland, Oregon
Being Green – Nevada City, California
Silkwood – Lake Oswego, Oregon
RGB – San Francisco, California

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