Fashion in Bolivia’s cultural economy.

Special Issue of International Journal of Cultural Studies: De-Westernising creative labour studies: the informality of creative work from an ex-centric vantage – edited by Ana Alacovska, Ros Gill and Andy Pratt

In 2016, New York fashion week featured, for the first time, a designer from Bolivia. Eliana Paco Paredes produces avant garde, and high quality, variations on the distinctive ‘pollera’ outfit – the pleated skirt, bowler hat, shawl and striking jewellery that have been definitive of indigenous identity in La Paz for centuries. This article explores the development of pollera fashion, and its entry into the ‘creative-hub’ of New York Fashion Week. I trace the social and political lineage of Aymaran fashion, which has historically been a statement of Aymaran identity, and is becoming a symbol of their consumer power. Bolivian GDP has tripled in the last ten years, and this wealth has accumulated in the vast urban informal markets which are dominated by people of indigenous and mestizo descent. It is predictable that such a rise in consumption power should enable a burgeoning fashion industry. However, the femininities represented by the designs, the models and the designers problematize assumptions about gendered economic agency and identity. This example challenges the way that the relationship between culture and economy, and the role of creativity within that has configured in scholarly work on creative labour which has been predominantly based on the experience of developed, Western cities.

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