April 29, 2010 Labor Day in May?

That’s right, for the majority of the world, May 1st is a day to pay homage to those who ardently struggled for the worker’s rights we now have. Although Labor Day in America (celebrated in September) involves cook-outs and swimming pools, May Day around the world involves organized street demonstrations and marches.

The Labor Movement first began in the early 19th century during the Industrial Revolution in Britain, when large factories imposed dauntingly long hours and poor working conditions. Without labor protection rights, even the youngest children were subject to working 10 to 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. In 1817 Robert Owen had formulated the demand for "Eight hours labor, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest" which became a popular slogan as workers across the globe fought for better working conditions. It was not until 1866 that the International Workingmen’s Association took up this order for an eight-hour day at its convention in Geneva, stating, "the legal limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition without which all further attempts at improvements and emancipation of the working class must prove abortive." However, these conditions were not guaranteed to most workers for decades to come.

The International Worker’s Day (or Labor Day) was formally recognized beginning in late 19th century when international demonstrators were called upon to strike and protest against poor working conditions. This call for protests and strikes was born as a commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago. On May 1st, 1886, workers had organized a strike in the streets of Chicago, demanding an 8-hour work day. During the strike, Chicago police opened fire, killing several demonstrators. In 1890, at the Second International meeting in Paris, Raymond Lavigne called for international demonstrations on the anniversary of the Chicago protests. This riot was so successful that May Day was subsequently declared an annual event. Then in 1904 the International Socialist Conference called on "all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace." Although rights were not guaranteed all at once across the world, countries slowly realized they had no choice but to meet these demands.

Ever since these formidable events, May Day has been a focal point for demonstrations and protests. Today, May 1st is recognized as an International Holiday to celebrate the social and economic achievements of the international labor movement. Out of their struggles, the 8 hour work day has become standard, child labor laws have been enacted and basic workers rights have been upheld. This May Day workers in countries such as Peru, France, Brazil, Japan, Germany and many, many more will march through the streets in solidarity for the great achievements of years passed.

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April 21, 2010 Think Green!

Earth Day is Thursday, April 22nd… and we can think of no better time to start doing what we can to protect the environment and make the world a better place for future generations. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of eco-friendly tips for better health and sustainable living. We’d love to hear more ideas from you, so please share!

• Instead of driving everywhere, consider walking, biking or using public transit when you can.

• Carpool whenever possible.

• Keep your tires inflated. It saves fuel and tires, and it lowers emissions.

• Doing lots of traveling and commuting? Offset your carbon footprint at www.carbonfund.org.

• Plant a tree! They absorb carbon dioxide, provide shade, help control water run off and are a natural habitat for animals.

• Let your grass grow longer. Don’t over-water your lawn. Plant native or drought-tolerant plants.

• When gardening, use natural predators instead of pesticides, which are harmful to the environment.

• Get a push mower for your lawn. Traditional gas mowers are terrible for air quality and the environment. If a push mower isn’t a feasible option for you, consider purchasing a plug-in electric model.

• When you’re done mowing, keep your clippings. They make great mulch.

• Get rid of your leaf blower. These too are awful for the environment. Try a broom, or a rake, instead. (Plus, it’s great exercise!)

• Be particular about the fish that you eat. Many species are over-fished, which can have a devastating impact on the ecosystem. Visit www.seafoodwatch.org to learn about sustainably harvested fish. Also, learn more about high mercury content in some seafood species.

• Buy shade-grown coffee to protect bird habitats.

• Think globally, shop locally. Try to buy organic, locally grown food rather than food that has been transported across long distances.

• Shut your blinds or curtains during the day to keep your house cool, reducing the use of air conditioning

• Lower your thermostat in winter; raise it in the summer.

• Turn the lights off when you leave a room.

• Replace your light bulbs with LEDs. They have a much higher lifespan than ordinary bulbs and reduce energy consumption

• Conserve water. Don’t let your faucets run. Run the dishwasher only when it’s full. Collect rain water in barrels and use it for your plants.

• Switch from disposable to reusable products: cups, plates, shopping bags, storage containers.

• Switch from paper napkins to cloth napkins.

• Donate, barter or re-sell items that you no longer use.

• Use environmentally friendly cleansers in your home.

• Reduce, reuse, recycle!

• Avoid buying products that are packaged for single use—such as drinks, candy, etc). Buy in bulk and keep things in reusable containers.

• When purchasing new appliances, make sure that they are Energy Star efficient.

• At the office, use bleach-free, recycled paper and environmentally friendly soy-based ink.

• Volunteer for the environment. Work locally and globally to save natural spaces, reduce pollution and prevent urban sprawl.

• Buy clothes that utilize natural, sustainable and earth-friendly resources.

• Hand wash rather than dry clean whenever possible. If you must dry clean your clothes, go to a dry cleaner that uses nontoxic chemicals and cleaning techniques.

• Do laundry only when you have a full load. Washing requires lots of water and energy, so only do it when necessary. Use the lowest possible temperature possible. Choose phosphate-free and biodegradable detergents. And line-dry as much as possible.

• Teach your children to love and care for the planet.

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April 19, 2010 Clothes that Work


You don’t have to limit yourself to a wardrobe of conservative suits in order to look like you mean business. Give your working wardrobe a modern makeover with pieces that are chic without being stuffy… taking you from Monday morning meetings to Friday après-office cocktails in effortless style. Here are a few working points to get you started, sprinkled with some seasonal suggestions from our latest spring collection:

1. Knit one, purl two. Consider adding knits to your working repertoire: They’re versatile as all get-out, excellent for travel (business or otherwise) and can be instantly dressed up or down with a change of accessories.

PC Spring 2010 suggestions

These are a few of our favorite knits: the Gathered Waist Dress, the Pacifica Cardigan and Skirt, the Banda Ikat Dress, and the Wisteria Tank Dress topped with the Madeira Lace Cardigan. And we can’t leave out the Sabrina Jacket and Tank Dress—Audrey Hepburn–chic meets endless styling potential.

2. And speaking of accessories….

The right jewelry, belt or bag can energize a look and inject your own personal style to an otherwise basic outfit. Go ahead and get creative; change out your accessories according to moment and mood, whether it’s artsy, feminine or a little fierce. But be careful; accessorizing correctly means straddling the line between bold and restrained. When in doubt, remove one piece. Oh, and don’t forget scarves… they’ve worked for generations of über-chic Parisians, and they’ll work for you, too!

PC Spring 2010 suggestions

Feeling a little flowery and fanciful? Make a feminine splash with the Chintz Ruffle Scarf. In a more boho frame of mind? Go for accessories with an artisan touch, like chunky beaded jewelry, colorful belts and bags (we love the Andean Braided Belt, the Bohemian Bracelets, the Sunburst Beaded Earrings and the Andean Manta Bag, for starters). Opt for the Gunmetal Chainmail Lariat to add an edgy, downtown vibe. And a Hand-Dyed Silk Scarf—offered in a host of heavenly hues—adds instant panache to virtually any ensemble, whether tied at the neck or knotted around a ponytail.

3. Think outside the cubicle:

Try substituting a drapey wrap or lacy cardigan for the predictable button-down suit jacket. The look is still professional, but softer and less structured. For something a bit more edgy, try a fitted jacket in an unexpected material, like luxe leather or waxed cotton.

PC Spring 2010 suggestions:

The Monterey Cardigan fuses the polish of a jacket with the ease of a knit—a perfect combination. The Catoga Kimono and Bandar Cardigan are fabulous toppers—we adore them over the black Karina Tank Dress. Another favorite is the Chintz Knit Coat… belted or left open. The Chloé Cardigan and Lace Wrap are lovely, light layers to wear over virtually anything—from dresses to tops to tanks. For a more contemporary take on the structured jacket, we recommend the Tivoli Jacket and the Dolce Leather Jacket—both fitted and fabulous.

4. The pencil skirt.

It’s the skirt of all skirts—retro-chic, super-flattering and shaped to pair beautifully (and professionally) with a myriad of top options—from lacy knits to a you-mean-business tailored jacket. 

PC Spring 2010 suggestions:

Kitted out with menswear herringbone stripes, we love the Savile Pencil Skirt topped with a super-femme shirt, like the Brontë Ruffled Blouse.

5. The new suit.

This season, suits embrace the hot trend of military styling (think slim lines, sharp tailoring and epaulets) combined with a more feminine twist (puffed shoulders, lighter and brighter hues). The look is sleek, polished and undeniably modern.

PC Spring 2010 suggestions:

Our must-have suit for spring:  the Alabaster Jacket, Pants and Pencil Skirt—a versatile, interchangeable collection in stonewashed stretch cotton.

These quick and easy updates will have you looking polished, professional and contemporary, on and off the clock.

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March 29, 2010 The Art & History of the Kimono

Although originally from Japan, the world has fallen in love with the kimono thanks to its long, graceful lines, gorgeous colors and stunning patterns. The word "kimono" literally means "thing to wear." The term was first adopted in the mid-19th century; before that it was known as a kosode, which means "small sleeve."

Kimono are T-shaped, straight-lined robes that fall to the ankle when sashed, with attached collars and 399px-TokioShibuya-Kimono long, wide sleeves. They’re always wrapped around the body with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial), and secured by a sash called an obi, which is tied at the back. Usually, kimono are worn with traditional footwear, especially zōri or geta, and split-toe socks called tabi. Kimono can be made of silk, cotton, wool, linen or synthetic materials.

Etiquette plays an important role in choosing a kimono. The wearer must take several aspects into consideration, including age, marital status, season and taste. Traditionally, unmarried women wear a style of kimono called furisode, with long, swinging (sometimes almost floor-length) sleeves, vibrant colors and complex patterns. The younger the woman, the higher the pattern would reach on her kimono. Married women wear tomesode, which have short sleeves, fewer patterns and more subdued colors.

Kimono Symbolism

Kimono designs often come from the natural world and have great significance and complex meanings. The crane, for example, is one of the most revered and auspicious animals in Japanese art, representing longevity and good fortune. The crane kimono below, for example, is a wedding kimono created during the Showa period between 1926-1989 (photo courtesy of the Textile Museum). The phoenix represents benevolence, Crane kimono wisdom and feminine energies, while the koi symbolizes vigor and endurance. Some motifs, like certain flowers and plants, have seasonal significance. Bamboo, pine and plum blossoms—some of Japan’s most popular winter motifs—are known as the "three friends of winter" when combined together in a single design, symbolizing longevity, resilience and renewal.

Colors also have strong connotations and often correspond to the characteristics of the specific plant dyes themselves. For example, purple—which represents undying love—was traditionally created from the gromwell plant, which has very long roots. Red, which symbolizes glamour, passion and transient love, is derived from the safflower plant, a dye that easily fades over time.

Kimono in History

Kimono as we know them came into existence during the Heian period (794 – 1192 AD). At this time a new garment-making technique was developed, known as the straight-line-cut method. This involved cutting pieces of fabric in long straight lines and sewing them together to create a long robe, or kimono. Kimono makers liked them because they didn’t have to worry about the shape of the wearer’s body. In addition, these straight-lined garments were suitable for all weather: They could be layered in winter for warmth and made of lightweight fabrics, like linen, in summer.

Kimono were originally worn by commoners, or as undergarments by the aristocracy. During the 16th century, the kimono became the principal garment for all classes and both sexes. By the end of the 17th century, during the Edo period (1615–1868), differences became more pronounced; patterns on women’s kimonos were more intricate and vividly colored. At this time, the kimono became an important indicator of class and wealth. Despite the sumptuary laws put in place by the ruling samurai class (which restricted use of certain fabrics and colors), wives of wealthy merchants would try to outdo each other with lavish displays of kimono design, each one more stunning, vibrant and complex than the next.

By the Meiji period (1868–1912), Japan was opened to the West, and for the first time, kimono were exported to Europe. Also at this time, Japan’s textile industry began to adopt western technology; new techniques and the end of sumptuary laws made silk kimono affordable and thus more available for popular use.

During the prosperity of the Taishō period (1912-1926), western-style clothes gained popularity among women, though the kimono continued to be worn. Motifs inspired by western designs—such as Art Deco and Art Nouveau, began to appear—while chemical dyes allowed for the production of even more vibrant colors. The development of innovative machinery, like power-operated spinning machines and jacquard looms, sped up production and continued to lower costs, making high-fashion kimono more readily available than ever.

Since the end of World War II, western-style clothes have become the norm in modern Japan. Some older Kimono3 women and even fewer men still wear kimono on a daily basis, as well as geisha or people engaged in traditional activities, like tea ceremony. But most often they are worn on special occasions, like weddings or celebrating the New Year. Interestingly enough, the 21st century has seen a sort of rebirth of the kimono, and beautiful contemporary designs as well as vintage kimono are being seen again on younger people, who wear them in more modern ways.

At Peruvian Connection, we continue to find inspiration in the artistry and design of traditional kimono silhouettes. Our interpretations often merge Eastern and Western themes: Japanese florals grow lush on skirts and sweaters, while Turkish geometrics, Indian paisleys or even Andean manta stripes grace contemporary kimono shapes. This season, our newest designs include the Parisian Kimono (adorned with Art Nouveau scrolls) and the Catoga Kimono (patterned with graphic paisleys). And don’t forget our luxurious Leather Obi Sash… a versatile, seasonless standby that no wardrobe should be without.

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March 17, 2010 Through the Grapevine

March is a time for dusting out closets and heralding the first glimpses of spring sunshine. In Peru, it’s the time of the annual grape harvest. Every year, the southern Peruvian city of Ica hosts the traditional International Vintage Festival (Fiesta de la Vendimia), celebrating an important agricultural gem, the grapevine. The abundance of grapes in Ica is especially celebratory because the greenery of local vineyards stretches across hundreds of acres of once desolate desert. The first vines were brought by the Stills_05_116 Spanish centuries ago and has turned a bone-dry desert into fertile land. The whole city participates in the festivities along with an estimated 200,000 tourists who flock to Ica for the majestic celebration.

The Vintage Festival is kicked off with a colorful parade, where folk dancers and traditional music invigorate the merriment. During the parade, the people of Ica crown their Queen of the Vintage Festival. The Queen will then ceremoniously tread through a grape-filled vat to extract the sweet juice, which will eventually be fermented into either wine or pisco. Pisco is a clear distilled grape brandy made from the quebranta grapes grown in the fertile Ica valley. To partake in the festivities at your home, try serving up the national drink of Peru, the  
Pisco sour Pisco Sour (see recipe in our Fiestas Patrias blog). Made from simple sugar syrup, lime juice, pisco and frothy egg whites, the tangy Pisco Sour is sure to brighten any day.

During the week-long Vintage Festival, the streets of Ica are filled with fairs, floats, competitions and mouth-watering local sweets. Tejas, a delicious confection made from pecans or candied fruits, filled with caramel and then coated with sugary icing, are a traditional favorite during this time. Locals are also known to host parties where guests dance the traditional Afro-Peruvian festejo, which celebrates Peruvian Independence. Although the celebration formally ends March 15th, these festive vines will continue to inspire remarkable pieces such as our Vendage Cardigan and Grapevine Skirt, as well as out Tendrils Pima T-Shirt.

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