Qarla Quispe

When she was a child, Qarla Quispe was discriminated because of her skin colour. She never let prejudice defeat her. On the contrary, she studied arts and design and has reinvented the use of “polleras” (Peruvian typical skirts), turning them into a revolutionary garment.

“What encourages me is the fact that there are many things that Peru still has to show”

At first, your skirts were made of “chicha" (Peruvian music genre) concert posters and potato sacks. Why?

Because I had no money (laughs)… Of the five garments I presented for the course, only one was made of fabric.

When you were a child, you used to make your own skirts and blouses from the clothes your relatives did not wear anymore.

Yes. I believe in recycling; that is why I follow no trends. I wear something because I like it, because I feel good, and my clothes follow that direction. My collections are inspired by one province, one place.

It was in a trip to the Mantaro Valley, while looking for your grandfather, when you got familiar with “polleras”…

Right. I went to look for my grandfather because he and my dad were in bad terms. I found out that he had already passed away and that some street held his name. I arrived in Huancayo during the Santiago festivity (one of the most colourful festivities in Peru) and I saw many “polleras” moving to the music’s rhythm. It was amazing! I began doing a research into the colours, uses and meanings.

You now have a workshop in Comas, another one in Downtown Lima, and one store in Miraflores. How do you explain your success?

It is the result of perseverance. What encourages me is the fact that there are many things that Peru still has to show to the world. We have to go to every province and look and continue looking. For example, I was recently asked to make a “pollera” with drawings of the Nazca lines. I said, “No, Nazca is much more than that; I have to do some serious research!”

Research is key, because many entrepreneurs only copy what others do, but you take the opposite direction, you do your homework.

Definitely. A great part of the success of Warmichic is due to the exclusivity of its designs, and that implies work. Some could say, “Oh, she’s drawn a house on it”. No, that is the house where my grandmother used to live, and to draw it I had to take pictures from different angles, change certain things and visualise them in a landscape. It is a great amount of work and it takes time! It is not a matter of copying and pasting, which I do not like. I like researching.

Have you seen the girls of your school again? Have they told you anything?

I think they do not remember.

Do you hold any hard feelings?

Not at all! It is part of being a child. They were taught those things, they were not born that way. 

Your work is helping to stop discrimination among children.

That is why we launched the line for children! We want them to see and wear them as any other regular garment.

It is clear that is a garment for brave people.

Two weeks ago this guy bought a “pollera” for him… a guy! I loved it!

Was he gay?

Yes, he is. He will attend a wedding and wants to wear it there. I took pictures of him; he looked very masculine.

You have to be very brave to do that and not care what people think.

You have to have a strong personality. It was a challenge for me. When he tried it on and I realised how great he looked, I felt very proud of him.

And of yourself.

That too! (laughs)....