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Business of the Month: Trama

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Trama immediately announces from its windows along colonial Calle Pizarro in Trujillo that it’s not your typical souvenir shop. Locally made ballet flats and Limeñan high top sneakers fabricated from manta andina peek out at the streets. They embody what the shop is trying to do, bring the Peruvian tradition into modern life.

Inside, the artisanal shop carries something for everyone, from laptop cases to Amazonian bow and arrows, Andean ceramics of the holy family and wooden guinea pigs. The young woman jotting sales receipts behind the counter smiles to answer your questions about the material, origin, and purpose of anything you pick up. She’s just as knowledgeable as the owner Fernando Briones. He and his mother Liliana Cabanillas were always interested in the styles of fabric of their home town of Cajamarca, and began to create their own for sale. “It brought me to understand ceramics, wood, and other arts, and I always had in mind a space where I could showcase this variety,” the owner tells Peru this Week. He rattles off excitedly the best places in Peru for different materials and styles, “The best ceramics? Ayacucho. Straw weaves, that’s Piura. We found a basket weaver from Chincha. Fabrics: Cajamarca. Wooden carvings: Trujillo.“

Trama
_(Photo: Anya VerKamp/Peru this Week)_

The shop works with artisans across the country, with Fernando encouraging them, “to have their own style and that it be different from anyone else’s. It helps the client to have more choices.” Fernando keeps digital correspondence with artisans that brings to fruit unique designs. “That happened with Ayacuchan altarpieces that tend to have very southern designs. But we wanted one with marinera dancers, so now we have an Ayacuchan altarpiece but with marinera!”

The fusions come together to weave in the visual traditions of a country of Amazonian, Andean, colonial, and pre-Columbian civilizations. Even the name “Trama” is the word in Spanish for the weft, the long thread in a weave that holds all shorter threads together. Past and present also come together in Trama’s pieces, particularly in the exclusive lines they carry. They’re the only distributor in Trujillo of the popular Cuy Arts brand, who produce mugs, stationery, laptop and phone cases and other modern accessories with funny cartoons of Incans, guinea pigs, llamas and conquistadors. They’ve also picked up with t-shirt designers Looch, who draw sensational graphic illustrations inspired from Peruvian legends to be worn as an urban remembrance of the old stories.

Trama
_(Photo: Anya VerKamp/Peru this Week)_

It’s not all about the money though. Trama has collaborated with two NGOs from Trujillo: Skip and Mujeres Organizadas Caminando hacia la Esperanza. Both of these work with groups of women in Trujillo’s impoverished neighboring communities, taking the goods they knit and stitch to stores in the center of Trujillo to aid the financial advancement of the women. These NGO’s have their own dedicated shelves in Trama where products from the most humble of artisans can reach high-end clients.

“The idea is for Trujillo to have an artisanal store that is at the level of our visitors,” said Briones. “We’ve even received diplomats at the store!” They’ve come far from where they started as a mall kiosk back in 2008 to the three Trama stores of today, with another in Trujillo’s Plaza de Armas and the third in Cajamarca.

Trama
_(Photo: Anya VerKamp/Peru this Week)_

There’s a sense of dissatisfaction though, with the reception and the clientele. Trama was not intended to be a souvenir shop, after all. Fernando had hoped for, “the Trujillan public to see us as a gift shop with a Peruvian edge.” Accordingly, items in the shop are given their own careful space and lighting, “so that the client can imagine what items would look like in their home. The difficulty is that it’s still seen as an artisanal store that is only for foreigners. People (here) don’t think to decorate their homes with this stuff. There’s that tendency in Lima and foreigners have space in their homes specifically for Peruvian products. We will get there.”

Trama
_(Photo: Anya VerKamp/Peru this Week)_

The next move would be another shop in Lima, into the height of competition among so many other vendors, “people are asking for it, if we’re in Lima,” despite the demand for now it is just a projection on the horizon. But in those Andean kicks, the minds at Trama could dance Marinera into the capital, where they might find the society more receptive to their steps.

Trama’s website is still under construction at the time of writing, but you can find out more about them on their facebook page Trujillo’s Trama: Not your typical souvenir shop, insists its owner.

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