An international clothing brand brings Peruvian styles to the prairie | Gas
Brightly colored clothing was placed against a backdrop of large bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass and others found in the tallgrass prairie, as a film crew completed a catalog shoot in the county of Chase last week.
The group was working on the Fall 2022 collection for Peruvian Connection – an internationally acclaimed high-end womenswear line based in Tonganoxie.
Peruvian Connection founder Annie Hurlbut Zander said Flint Hills provided the perfect setting to showcase Peruvian Connection’s brand new clothing line. Inspired by Lawrence-based artist Bob Sudlow, Hurlbut Zander said the color of the meadow before new growth appears in spring evokes the season of fall.
“You have these fall colors here,” she said, overlooking the shooting at Lower Fox Creek School in Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. “Very earthy and beautiful colors; just perfect fall. These gorgeous tones are just perfect for the collection. Many people don’t realize how beautiful Kansas is. … We are very lucky to be able to use Tallgrass; it’s an amazing place.”
Hurlbut Zander founded Peruvian Connection 46 years ago in 1976 with his mother, Biddy. Hurlbut said his previous life as an anthropologist researching Peru sparked the founding of the company.
“I was living there and had no intention of starting a business,” she said. “I had bought a present for my mother and the people at her birthday party loved the present. They said, ‘You should start importing them.’ »
The gift was a sweater with a collar lined with alpaca fur. After speaking with her mother, Hurlbut Zander finally showed the sweater to a local buyer.
“He wanted to sell 45 more,” she said. “The very first person who placed an order was George Terbovich.”
Terbovich is an interior designer who owns George Terbovich Designs in Kansas City, Mo.
“We started very briefly in the wholesale business with very few accounts, but some very good ones,” said Hurlbut Zander. “Then we had an article in the New York Times in 1979 and it was overnight. In three months we had 5,000 catalog requests, unheard of today.
The New York Times article highlighted Hurlbut Zander’s Peruvian alpaca styles.
“Alpacas are such amazing creatures,” she said. “The main reason we love them is that the fiber they produce is super soft – it’s a high quality fiber.”
Peruvian Connection uses premium fibers, approximately 18 to 20 microns in diameter.
“Generally, the longer and narrower it is, the smoother and softer it makes the fabric,” Hurlbut Zander said. “Cashmere is about 16 microns.”
She said the fiber’s insulating properties make it ideal for the climate alpacas are native to. And, for clothes.
“We work with this textile tradition which is beautiful,” she said. “I love culture; I love Peru. I would gladly live there but, at the time, you couldn’t be an expatriate and live in Peru. You could be there for about six months, but you would have to be gone for three months. I liked it from the start.”
Hurlbut Zander said traditional Peruvian textiles are an inspiration for Peruvian Connection’s clothing lines, including colors and weaving patterns.
“I’m just fascinated by this one’s craft,” she said. “There really is a Peruvian connection and it is certainly textiles from all over the world.”
Hurlbut Zander said the business grew steadily through the 1980s as she and her mother opened outlet stores to sell excess inventory. Peruvian Connection now has retail stores in Kansas City, Mo., New York, Washington, DC, Santa Fe, NM, Aspen, Colorado, Boston, Mass., Chicago, Illinois and London.
Even through expansions around the world, she said maintaining her connection to Kansas is an important aspect of the business.
Biddy Hurlbut died in 2007 and Hurlbut Zander said it was important to her to make Peruvian Connection a family business. His daughter now works alongside him in the business.
“I want this brand to last,” said Hurlbut Zander. “I want it around. … It really is a giant art project. It’s about beauty and the preservation of an Andean textile tradition.
Photos from the Chase County shoot will be featured in the Fall 2022 catalog which is expected to print in July. To subscribe to the mailing list, visit www. connectionperuvienne.com.