After the big four's shows were over, the AW19 edition of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week hit the Moscow streets. Both Russian and international brands were showcased, and although the fashion world is often solely associated with the visual part, I highly sympathise with brands that value the social component as well.
Annaïss Yucra Mancilla—the founder of the eponymous brand—is interested in reflecting Peru’s social issues through clothes. Her previous collections covered issues such as Peru’s indigenous children and immigration, and her new collection—called Resistencia—focuses on the problem of femicide. Side note: According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, at least 2,795 women were victims of femicide in twenty-three countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017.
The designer has abandoned the standard fashion defile and arranged a performance where the audience acted, not just as observers, but as participants to the sounds of the media cameras. Thereby, she urged the audience to overcome indifference and start fighting violence against women.Fluffy textures, layers, illustration-like stylisation, piercing audio, interaction with body and space, bright colours and natural lines were united in a symbiosis of femininity and challenge.
All photos by Liza Mikhaleva
I got a chance to speak with Annaïss:
Liza Mikhaleva: You are from Peru, so what are you doing at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Russia then?
Annaïss Yucra Mancilla: I am a part of the Global Talents programme organised by the Russian Fashion Council and MBFW Russia. They were looking for designers from different parts of the world, so I decided to apply. I was very lucky to be chosen – they brought me all the way from Peru to showcase my work.
LM: The audio part of the show was in Spanish, and not many people understood the language. What was it about? I felt ideas of protest and political tension, but these are just my interpretations of sounds and their mood.
AYM: It’s great that everyone felt something different. The language barrier played its role well – even if you didn’t know the language, you could feel the emotions. The conversations that you heard were actually real testimonies of people talking about how they lost women from their families and how femicides were increasing (n. 15% increase per year); real facts. The people came from different parts of Latin America: Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina. I think that this is what allowed the audience to feel emotionally connected to the collection.
LM: So, the idea behind the collection lies in creating a conversation about femicides?
AYM: Yes. The collection is called Resistencia, which means ‘endurance’. This is why some models were laying down on the podium. I thought that the only way to present such a sensitive subject was through a fashion presentation, a performance within which the audience could interact. As a society, we hashtag a lot and we say that we are feminists and all that, but in reality, we do not act. This presentation was my reflection on people’s inaction; I wanted the spectators to participate. I believe that if I look at my phone now, I will have so many hashtags of people saying ‘Oh, I am a feminist, I feel like a part of this’. But is that really how it is?
LM: This is so powerful. Where did you get your inspiration from? I noticed that the forms of the clothes were very feminine, but in a new way – a way, which questions the social norms. Those huge gloves especially caught my attention. What message did you want to convey?
AYM: I am so happy that you mentioned the gloves! It is known that women in Latin America often wash clothes – both theirs and men’s ones. So I decided to use this action not as a joke, but as a satire. By staging the act of washing-up through the use of the enlarged gloves, I tried to reform it. There is a lot of space for deconstruction in my collection because I feel that nowadays in Latin America we are living in a dystopian society. For example, there is one heterogenous knitwear piece made from different materials to reflect that. Also, you could see many transparent looks because when women in Latin America go to protests, they go naked. The looks reflected flowers—a reference to bruises—but the main question I wanted to ask was: ‘How do you flourish from such a traumatising experience?’.
LM: Tell me about your last collections and the inspirations for them.
AYM: One of them was about terrorism. The source of inspiration for another one about immigration was my grandmother who moved from the immigrants’ side to the capital of Peru, Lima. This is really important to me as I am a third generation of indigenous Peruvians.
LM: Would you say that all of your work is connected to activism?
AYM: I definitely think that what I create can be defined as activism. I believe that being a designer today means conveying a social message through your work; I have media influence, and I should use it positively to speak about real matters.
At the end of the conversation, Annaïss admitted that she was slightly afraid to show collections with such activist and feminist messages in Russia, saying she even thought of choosing another direction, but decided to stay true to herself, because her ideas generate a reaction, and this is what is important. In the end, Annaïss' creations gave a voice to the women of Peru.
Video by Liza Mikhaleva
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor