Peru is a country full of chaos and culture
Designer Vacide Erda Zimic’s pieces have become so sought after that they are now showing at MoMA in New York
Peru boasts many treasures and anyone who walks through the doors of Vacide Erda Zimic’s studio in Lima, will think that they’ve just come across one of them. The white-washed showroom sports a dizzying array of couture pieces. Glass cabinets are filled with colourful chokers, statement necklaces and jewel-coloured brooches, while sequined clutches are draped over the walls. The pieces are so sculptural that some have even found their way into New York’s MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago.
But as grand as these pieces may first appear, they have more modest origins – for Zimic is famed for creating these striking accessories with recycled materials.
“I find my materials everywhere. I buy the offcuts of felt from the hat factories and I go to the garment district Gamarra to buy the scraps that are left over from when they’ve made t-shirts,” says Zimic. “Many small stores will have odds and ends of fabric that they are happy to sell.”
But in Zimic’s hands, these pieces of fabric become something far more beautiful. The triangular scraps of felt turn into pieces of arm candy that resemble colourful sea urchins, or pop art-style necklaces whose multicoloured dots would surely thrill any Damien Hirst fan. The former fine art graduate says that when a client buys a piece from her collection, she wants them to think: “that it’s not just an accessory, it’s a piece of art… It´s a piece that comes from an art concept.”
Zimic started by founding a design company, but she soon realised that it was fashion and textiles which inspired her the most and in 2006 she opened a textile workshop making handbags and jewellery using upcycled materials. While the fabric kickstarts the creative process, her fine art training and her love of detail is what takes it from trash to treasure. “We make everything by hand, which mean that each piece takes a lot of time to make,” says Zimic.
While she was able to perfect her love of art at college, she learnt her seamstress skills at home. “My grandmother, mother and my aunties all designed our own clothes and accessories. My mother was always knitting at home. I learnt everything from her. She knows everything about textiles, patterns, knitting and crochet,” says Zimic. And even her grandfather was an artisan at heart. “In the basement of my grandparents’ home they had an extra room where they made jewellery and practiced carpentry and other crafts.”
Vacide Erda Zimic may be the creative force behind the brand, but this truly is a family business. Not only is her mother involved in dealing with orders from abroad, but her grandmother, whose images adorn the wall of the showroom is her model.
The silver-haired Peruvian with enviable bone structure first modelled for her granddaughter to get her out of a bind. “I got a call from a TV show and they asked if I could join them the next day at their studio with a model who could show my products. It was such a rush,” says Zimic. “I had never worked with any models and I didn´t like the look of the typical thin, pretty model, I wanted something different. The problem was I needed to find someone and quickly. I thought of my grandmother and she agreed to help out.” Zimic shot her grandmother wearing some of her sculptural pieces and was blown away by the photographs. “We never ended up going on the TV show [laughs], but I’d found my perfect model. We now do shoots together all the time.” And like the new lease of life Zimic has given her fabrics, she has found a new career for her grandmother. “She’s 89 years old and she loves to model.”
Peru’s Carmen Dell’Orifice has been shot in Zimic’s artistic pieces in a street market, in a white-walled studio and she even caused a storm herself when they did a tongue-in-cheek photo series where they photographed her aged grandmother wearing the latest collection while pretending to lie in state. “My grandmother and I were laughing a lot when we did the shoot, but not everyone appreciated our sense of humour,” says Zimic.
Zimic says Peru has always been rich in talent and design. “I think our culture has had a super contemporary design from 1200BC, with the Chavin culture, also the Moche civilisation, and many, many others until the Inkas. It is amazing how contemporary they were, now we have a lot of very good fashion designers using our culture – Meche Correa, Susan Wagner, Lorena Pestana and Sergio Dávila – and they look so contemporary and fashionable,’ she says.
For her latest collection Zimic is taking inspiration from the Inkas and it’s the one that she’s found the most challenging. “The collection that I’m working on right now is The Inka Princes. To do the research I needed to drive to a museum that was 14 hours away, and the pieces that I decided to create involve many hours of embroidery. However, as challenging as it has been I have loved every minute of it. In fact, I’m finding it hard to finish the collection because I keep coming up with more and more ideas. I hope this month I can finish it.”
Zimic’s plans now include showing her latest collection at Maison Objet in Paris and adding to her collection with ceramics and weaving – in her downtime, she intends to learn how to weave using a loom. At the moment, most of her works are being snapped up abroad, but her audience in Lima is starting to grow. However, she says that Peru she says will always remain her inspiration. “[Living in Peru brings] everything to my work. Peru is a country full of chaos and culture.”