An exclusive interview with fashion trendsetter La Pulga that explains the rebellion and revolution of style in Lima.
From a stylish shop to a creative community.
By Florencia Luna
Thirteen years have passed since La Pulga was opened to the public. Despite the fact that this colorful space has a long standing in the market, it has renewed itself with the recent works of young designers. We talked with the architect Daniel Gamarra who now owns the store, to get more details about this project.
1. How was this project begun?
La Pulga started in 2004, as a small store in front of the actual one. It was founded by Eliana Otta who was studying Art at PUPC where she had many friends that were making utilitarian art. At this time, artists were looking for a platform in which they could share their work. The store was founded at the same time as the PLK project, which was booming and mostly talked about identity. That’s why Pulga involves the theme of gender identity (there are no gender clothes available at the store) as well as young universes; the different worlds that young people create. Anyhow, it was a little disruptive because Lima at that time was very traditional and so this change was necessary. We had come from a history marked by Fujimorism and hard times so we needed a change, that’s why I talk about disruption.
The youth needed to escape from reality but also to create a better world. That’s where Pulga started.
It first began with brands for girls, but then for boys. We worked with independent designers and vintage objects. Eliana had a fascination with young consumption; things young people buy, what they watch on tv, the concerts they go to, etc. Moreover, Eliana had an interest in markets and everything you can find inside them. She walked through the city looking for interesting and unique objects, which she often recreated. Then we moved here, to a bigger space and we had an art gallery for a while. It was an era of textile entrepreneurship and creative economies were generated at a different level but it was a success.
Different Peruvian clothing lines were born in a time where the market was dominated by importations and big stores that also imported. The local market was represented by Gamarra and some boutiques. Pulga was always very democratic, it was never elitist or something like that and it was very inclusive with everyone.
It drew in young people that were looking for something different from what the system offered. That was very cool.
Then people got inspired, not exactly by the store, but by the movement, we created. We are always mentioned as one of the first independent stores and it has been such a very nice process that has changed many things. We are always reinventing ourselves, joining new brands and always collaborating.
(Photo courtesy of La Pulga)
2. How did you come to join the project?
I met Eliana during a trip to Cusco thanks to our friends we had in common. It was very, very cool, actually, it was the best time of my life. One summer when I was still in college I was supposed to travel to the USA but I couldn´t and I wanted to do something, so a friend that was working in the store helped me join in on the Cusco trip and it was awesome. It was great to meet Eliana and the first day was fascinating. I had always been very curious and I learned a lot of things there. Then, I launched my own brand and I got away from the store. But then, Eliana wanted to dedicate more time to her art, so we talked one day and I decided to buy the store. It was like 6 years ago.
3. Tell me more about the creation of your brand. And why did you change from architecture to the fashion industry?
It was a time of discovery, an exploration time. In general, the process of creating clothes is faster than creating buildings. Both require a lot of details but are different. I just wanted to create, even before getting into the store. I always liked fashion, my older brother influenced me a lot, he had a very cool style.
I remember a time in which I wanted a pair of shoes, but then I thought, why I don’t create my own.
When I was growing up I liked the more surfer style, and I felt like the system wanted me to look a certain way that I didn’t understand. The first garments I made were swimsuits. I used old swimsuits from my dad as examples. I made many of different colors but they didn’t fit me well so I had to sell them. It was very natural. Then I made t-shirts that were inspired by the video D.A.N.C.E from Justice. It was the time.
(Photo courtesy of La Pulga)
4. Are the first brands that joined the beginning of the project still here?
The first brands came from 5 friends of Eliana and then came brands from the friends of friends, and a creative community was created. The first ones, however, are not in the store now. Some of the ones that came later still exist, but others have disappeared or changed. Everything has its time. Architects, graphic designers, people as well as the market have changed.
5. What brands can we find now?
You can find many very interesting ones like Mysteria, Jonas y Aurelio, We All Wear Denim, Maria, Salaverry 700, Fother Mucker, Power Pop Project, Gris la Gris and much more.
It’s cool because we have a lot of brands and that’s La Pulga: young impetus.
I think there are like 50 brands here. We are now looking for new projects. With the entrance of new international brands and the growth of big retailers, the young entrepreneurs have been affected, so we have to join forces.
(Photo courtesy of La Pulga)
6. Have you thought about opening an online store?
We are working on that. Foreign customers are the ones who are more interested in
shopping Peruvian products and supporting creative locals.
As global citizens, we have trendy designs that fit the international market so there is attention focused on our work.
I think that in July we should be launching the page. I’m sure the web is coming soon, we feel it´s necessary. It’s a new interesting challenge not only for us but also for the designers. The Internet is such a great tool.
7. Any other project coming for the store?
There are great things coming. Campaigns about young empowerment are coming. We
have been talking about fashion and style but also about conscious shopping. We have always been a different alternative.
We want to let young people know that they have the power to change society.
I think there are two types of people, those who want to be bees or those who prefer to be flies. Bees are always positive and hardworking while flies don’t go to the prettiest places. We want to be disruptive about how we think, what we shop and make a positive impact. We are on the way, I don’t consider that we have “the solution” but we are in this dialogue. We are a small team but if you want to join us we are willing to do many things and collaborate. Everyone who has a project is invited to come to the store and talk with us.
Florencia Luna is a Visual Artist and Art Director that loves writing. She is a full-time Instagrammer/ and social media fan. Creating new things and discovering new spots are part of her everyday life. Now, she is focusing on her latest project: SALAVERRY 700, her own clothing brand that focuses on designing artistic pieces with a street fashion feeling.