Product Manager Elizabeth Frels travels to Peru and discovers its history through the eyes of Mario Testino.
Peru is a country of color and creativity. From its delicious food to its Inca citadels, Peru’s stunning heritage is on electric display no matter where you go.
Outside of visiting and tasting these offerings in person, one of my favorite experiences during my time in Peru was witnessing Peru’s history through the eyes of one who captures is best: Mario Testino.
Best known for his ability to capture sensuality and humanity in pictures, Mario Testino is widely considered one of today’s greatest fashion photographers. His work has been published in some of the leading magazines around the world, including Vogue, V Magazine, and Vanity Fair and has contributed to the success of such beauty houses as Gucci, Burberry, Versace, Michael Kors, and Chanel.
And yet, despite his degree of influence in the world of fashion photography, not everyone is aware of Testino’s Peruvian origins and pride.
Testino was born into a traditional Catholic family in Lima in 1954 and moved to London in 1976, where he first tried his hand at photography. Inspired by the works of Stephen Tennant, Cecil Beaton, and the Mitford sisters, his first professional project was a commission for British Vogue. Since that time, Testino has photographed a great number of icons including Kate Moss, the British Royal Family, Beyoncé, George Clooney, and Diana, Princess of Wales, in what would become her final photo shoot prior to her untimely death.
Yet as he grew in success and fame, Testino never forgot his roots and continues to draw much of his inspiration from his childhood and experience growing up in Peru.
One such project is currently on display at MATE – Museo Mario Testina in the heart of Lima’s Barranco district, just a 10-minute walk from such properties as Hotel B and Villa Barranco.
Titled ‘Alta Moda’, this collection centers on an archive of costumes from Filigranas Peruanas, a non-profit institution of Peruvian art and folklore in Cusco. The exhibition is the result of a five-year project that investigates not only Peruvian traditions, but also the history of photography as evident by its turn of the century distressing techniques.
As I meandered through the many photographs in ‘Alta Moda’, I was able to witness the deep dance and textile history that is preserved in the vibrant colors and textured fabrics of traditional Peruvian dress. The clothes themselves are works of art: layers upon layers of all of the colors and qualities of the rainbow and meticulously hand embroidered cloth paired with fabulous head-dresses lined in sparkling beadwork and fringe. I was captivated.
“So much Peruvian history lives on in these clothes,” said Testino with respect to this particularly series of work. “I have become aware on my travels that when a country loses the connection between its history and its traditional dress, something truly precious is lost. Something we can easily take for granted.”
Witnessing Mario Testino’s ‘Alta Moda’ exhibition was like traveling through a time capsule – one that transforms color into conversation and pattern into a call for preservation. It is an example of the true hue and creativity of the Peruvian people and a remarkable celebration of Peru’s rich heritage through a refreshing and contemporary perspective.
In only a few images and one iconic museum, Testino has contributed to the new cultural landscape of Peru while also protecting its beautiful past.
For all of these reasons, MATE has become one of Ker & Downey’s new favorite highlights in Lima and a must-see for anyone traveling through Peru’s dynamic capital.
Add a visit to MATE to your next Ker & Downey journey to Peru. Contact your Luxury Travel Consultant to get started.