Jul 15, 2012
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Andean couture hits the catwalk in Bolivia

Jul 15, 2012

LA PAZ- Bowler hats, billowing skirts and scarves in vibrant hues: Andean couture hit the catwalk in Bolivia's capital this week with a fashion show dedicated to local styles from this majority-indigenous country high in the Andes.

"We've come to showcase our identity," 25-year-old Edith Sillerico, one of the models, told AFP of this week's show, in many ways a fancier celebration of the traditional clothing of mountain farm folk, including trademark textiles.

Photo: AFP

The show in the exclusive neighborhood of Calacoto marked the anniversary of 1809 native revolts against Spanish colonialism and drew a lot of keen interest from the city's diplomatic corps.

Bolivia is the only nation in South America with a mostly indigenous population; ethnic Aymara are the biggest group among its native peoples whose traditional life is largely rural and can involve potato and quinoa farming and llama or guinea-pig raising.

Their women tend to lead quite traditional lives, but there is something new in the air now in their celebration of self.

Celebrating their attractiveness is perhaps especially important in a country where a white minority held political and economic sway for centuries and in many ways imposed European beauty standards, looking down on indigenous culture.

The models, all indigenous Aymara women, smiled flirtatiously as they strutted their stuff under bright lights, at times twirling oversize scarves with flowing fringes to reveal flower patterns in bold stitching in bright colors.

One, sporting a copper bowler hat over her long dark braid, even lifted her skirt to reveal a lacy black petticoat.

Also not to be missed were her shimmering flats.

Bolivia is South America's poorest nation, and is currently led by its first democratically elected indigenous president, Evo Morales. More than 60 percent of the country's citizens are estimated to be indigenous, with the Aymara group being one of approximately three dozen native groups.

The creations, which also included gold and silver rings, brooches, earring and bracelets, were made by local artisans and designers.

The garments came in a glowing palette of colors, including reds, blues and greens, with even bright green, orange and violet mixed in.

Clothing items were priced between $1,000 and $2,000 while the jewelry -- which included 20-karat gold and amethysts -- went for $5,000 to $10,000.

Before facing the glare of the bright lights, the models twisted their long hair into braids, meticulously applied makeup and painted their nails.

"We're nervous," admitted 18-year-old Maribel Mamani, who is in her last year of school.

But once on the catwalk, all the preparation paid off.

The bursts of applause said it all.

by Jose Arturo Cardenas

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