Lucia Cuba, the renowned Peruvian/Bolivian fashion designer and social activist, dedicated her genius to fashion design that beautifully promotes social awareness. Don’t be fooled by her doll-like beauty, this girl’s brilliance and human rights advocacy are inspiring.
The uniqueness of her style and the passion evident in all her pieces attracted me to her work. I was honored to wear her designs for NYC Fashion Week.
Le report meets Lucia in her Brooklyn studio where we drank expresso, talked about designers, avant-garde movements, photography and her beloved Peru.
Tell me about your heritage and your family? / Growing up, what interested you the most?
I was born in Lima, Peru — where I’ve lived all my life —, but I am also half Bolivian.
I had the opportunity to travel around both countries and the chance to be in contact with very different realities within my family, the communities I lived in and learnt from (friends, school, universities, neighborhoods, etc.). This diversity has provided me with a foundation from where to conceive and understand my self and my practice.
I was lucky to always have the support of my family to explore and create different art forms (painting murals, doing sculptures, designing my garments, or signing in a band).
I was very interested in the arts in general, but social sciences always managed to appear in my creative interests.
What did you study in college? When did go decide to pursue a career as a fashion designer? Tell me about your first experience with fashion and how this influenced your fashion career?
I Studied Fashion Design at Centro de Altos Estudios de la Moda (CEAM- Peru), a BSc in Social Psychology, an MSc in Educational Psychology and a PhD in Public Health from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH), and, most recently, an MFA in Fashion Design and Society at Parsons, The New School for Design.
I used to design my own garments and accessories, almost as a hobby. This was something that my close friends and family knew, and during my last year completing a Masters in Psychology I had the opportunity to travel to Bolivia, and to “explore” a new role as a fashion designer, while presenting my work in an alternative Fashion Show in La Paz.
This experience opened a new door in what I always consider to be something I liked but wasn’t that curios about. I decided that I wanted to learn more about fashion design, and almost immediately I started to study in a local school and to participate in different local activities of independent fashion design in Peru.
Over the past 9 years I managed to develop and work through my independent brand LUCCO (www.lucco.pe) and by doing research and teaching both in Design and Psychology, as well as developing new platforms such as Proyecto Gamarra (www.proyectogamarra.pe)– an activist design project that aims to rethink Lima’s garment/textile center as a creative hub -, Procesos Peruanos (www.procesosperuanos.pe) – a platform for curating, researching and promoting the creative Peruvian design processes- and more recently, ARTICULO 6 (www.articulo6.pe) – an activist design project that aims to inform and raise awareness about the unsolved case of forced sterilizations that took place in Peru between 1996-2000.
Through these platforms I try to explore the agency of clothes and the interactions between social sciences and fashion design in diverse forms.
You received a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Parsons in 2010. Tell me about this experience.
After being awarded with the Fulbright scholarship in 2009 I applied for different MFA programs in New York, and it was a coincidence to find out about a new masters program that Parsons was launching just at the time that I was thinking of studying in the US. I applied for 3 different programs and -after a lengthy application process- I was invited to join this new MFA program. In August 2010 I moved to New York, and after two years of the program, in May
2012 I graduated with an MFA “Fashion Design and Society” from Parsons.
Who is your favorite designer and why?
I don’t have a favorite one, but I appreciate designers that can create works that question and open new spaces for analytical and critical thinking. I could name Rei Kawakubo, Walter Van Beirendonck, Herik Viskov, Otto Von Busch, David Delfín, Pascal Gatzen, Timo Risannen, Liz Collins, Miguel Adrover, Vivienne Westwood, among many others.
You chose something called Article 6 (forced sterilizations implemented during the government of Alberto Fujimori in Peru) as your thesis topic, what was your inspiration?
“ARTICULO 6: narratives of gender, strength and politics” is an activist design project that aims to raise awareness about the forced sterilizations implemented during the government of Alberto Fujimori in Peru. The name of the project refers to the Sixth Article of the Second Chapter in the General Health Law of Peru, which establishes that “all persons have the right to choose freely the contraceptive method they prefer, and to receive appropriate information on the methods available and the risks”. The project explores different narratives related to the case of forced sterilizations, and uses the testimonies of the victims, fragments of political speeches, research documents and laws, as well as other textual and visual content, as raw materials for the project.
ARTICULO 6 consists of a collection of 34 pieces of clothing and 12 actions.
The clothing collection is made through mixed media, using embroidery and prints on cotton twill and cotton canvas. The collection is inspired in the Andean “polleras” or skirts, and is the result of a process of deconstruction and reinterpretation -the blouses and suits that complement these pieces reference the uniformization and militarization of a public policy, aiming to evoke the strength and capacity of victims to defend themselves and overcome the irreversible while the images and symbols printed in the fabrics comment on the universe of institutions, activists, press and characters related to the case.
After your notable successes, including Lady Gaga wearing one of your pieces to an MTV interview, what is next for Lucia Cuba?
The challenge of working with garments as mediums, building garments/spaces to create new narratives, and exploring different ways of communicating social issues to engage people, contexts, and experiences through “garment activism”.
How do you feel about living between Lima and New York? Is it difficult to straddle both worlds?
It’s challenging, always, but I really appreciate how it has taught me how one can appreciate and notice certain things when you are not so close to them.
What projects are you working on currently? Tell me about them.
My work is very much engaged with design from a practice and theory based perspective. Currently, I am working on different projects:
“Articulo 6” is still an ongoing project (the remaining 5 actions are still to be developed and performed; two of them will be developed next month). The project will finalize with an exhibition about the project’s development, and its impacts through its 12 actions.
I am also working on a new collaboration for Project Gamarra, which will allow the project to grow, be more connected collaborative processes and to create a platform for the exchange of knowledge, information and representations about Gamarra.
I am teaching a class at Pratt Institute’s Fashion Department, and I am a research assistant at Parsons, where I am co-organizing a lecture and network on Latin American Fashion Design.
I am also an Artist in Residence at the Textile Arts Center, where I am working on a meta-collection from ARTICULO 6 that will be presented in September of this year in New York. As part of the Residency I am also organizing a series of workshops and lectures around the agency of clothes, fashion design and activism (they will take place in April 2013 in New York). I will also be launching a design project for the Textile Arts Center’s store.
A lot of things, but specially knowing that the people I love are well and happy.
Photographs by: Jose Miguel Compres
Thank you Lucia for your kindness and your creativity.
Some of the press from Fashion Week New York Fall/Winter 2013 wearing Lucia Cuba