The Fashioning of Lima, Peru: Global Fashion and Local Conundrums

By Brandon E. Rouleau.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The contemporary world is one in which capital, material culture, ideas, and people are continuously in movement, stimulating heated academic debate over the implications of these flows. Drawing from multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the summer of 2006, this paper addresses how one such flow, namely global fashion trends, is refracted within the city of Lima, Peru. I will approach clothing as a sign system, focusing specifically on the impact that the marketing strategies of multinational department stores and the global fashion industry have on local small and micro textile producers/entrepreneurs within a textile production complex called Gamarra. On the surface, it appears that these small-scale producers merely reproduce what global fashion dictates at a cheaper price for lower income consumers, however this explanation fails to account for processes of translation that are clearly at work within Gamarra. To further complicate matters, attention to the symbolic associations of clothing and discursive formations existent in Lima, which deride clothing produced in the complex as copies or less affluent producers as garish in their tastes, suggest a system of distinction is at work within Lima. Ultimately, this paper argues that understanding how global forces shape local realities requires a rethinking of hybridity, cultural imperialism, and other fixtures in our theoretical toolkit.

Keywords: Hybridity, Symbolic Economy, Gamarra, Global Fashion, Globalization, Informal Economy

Global Studies Journal, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.131-142. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.495MB).

Brandon E. Rouleau

Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

For my master’s research I focused on the internalization of global fashion trends in Lima, Peru and the simultaneous globalization of local fashion trends, especially ethnic dress. My current interests are in studying the co-construction of identities within Lima, focusing on the spaces of interaction where different social actors come into contact. I hope to understand how these interactions reinforce social dissonances, or create pressures for social conformity.


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