With a brand that has been in the market for almost 15 years, José Clemente is a national benchmark in terms of men's fashion. His works are exported to Mexico, Brazil and Chile. In the recent edition of Peru Moda, our designer presented his latest collection, 'Mestizo', which represents a balance between traditional, craftsmanship and modern, and includes garments made from alpaca and polyester derived from recycled plastic bottles.
From a very young age, José Clemente knew that his calling was in the design of men's clothing. Born in Limeño, he traveled to Spain, where he studied Fashion Design and Management at the renowned LCI Barcelona school.
"My inclination has always been drawn towards aesthetics; ever since I was a child I liked design, even though I'm not very good at drawing. I like the theme of proportions and colors, and how to reinterpret things and bring them into their own point of view," says Clemente, who was represented at Peru Moda for the third time.
What inspires you when designing?
In my case, when I work on a collection I always blend it with various factors because I think the final result is then considerably more appealing. It's not just that you like something, there are many factors contributing to a professional collection, it starts with the aesthetic theme, but then you have to work through the market segment, evaluate materials, costs and cuts.
It is a challenge to be able to see something through that is born merely as an idea; an idea in which you believe and give your time, transforming it into a marketable, functioning product. It's a very interesting process.
Are you driven by trends?
Trends are an extremely important resource, but when you start to sift and process the collection you drive it towards a more commercial term. But inspiration always comes from what provokes you or from what you see as important for communicating and for what you want to work. You observe things that inspire you to work, a diverse range of themes, from social issues to movies.
What does your brand want to communicate?
We are further strengthening our philosophy of reinterpreting craftsmanship, and we seek processes that are industrial whilst being environmentally friendly and allowing craftsmanship to be taken to potential commercial levels. The collection we are presenting at Peru Moda speaks very well of that, it strikes an important balance between traditional, craftsmanship and modern. We always try to combine these.
The collection is called Mestizo and addresses the clash of two worlds: the modern world that is fast and sophisticated; and the artisanal world, of the person who cares about things that are made by hand and that have a tradition; we fuse these, we use elements and raw materials such as our alpaca and pima cotton, we take hold of the artisanal fabric and take it to silhouettes.
Photography: Kike Sanchez
What do you think is lacking in Peruvian fashion before it can take off?
Cotton and alpaca are our passport to the world, what we do with that depends on each one. There is something I always say: we have to be a country that not only has the raw materials, but one that also has a brand, that can put its own label on the product, because that is the link in the chain that has much more value, the link that others can grasp in order to become more lucrative. It's like what we do in gastronomy, we have all the ingredients and recipes; it would be impossible for us then not to have the restaurant brands and for others to have them too.
Part of the proposals offered by José in his collections are the use of not only cotton and alpaca, but also recycled materials and natural components that help to take care of the planet. "We always find a way to contribute to this process in order to take care of our environment," he notes.
"We work a lot with pima cotton, in both flat and knitted fabrics; we also work with alpaca, but with different blends or innovations such as baby alpaca with silk, which is very much in demand. In this collection (Mestizo) we have crafted alpaca with polyester derived from recycled plastic bottles," he adds.
Interesting proposal, is there any other sustainability initiative in your collections?
In our brand we carry out a lot of research on the material before taking it to the garment. For example, we do this with Itessa both in cotton and alpaca, mixing them with recycled polyester made with plastic bottles. The summer collection is based on eco print, an ecological print that works with dry leaves placed on top of the fabric and dyed with natural dyes such as turmeric and cochineal extract.
For the collection before this one that I'm telling you about, we worked with manual felt, which consists of all the remains from wool: instead of throwing the remains away they are picked up, blended and dyed again, and you can make a fabric that produces an interesting result. We sell it abroad and it works very well for us.
Photography: Kike Sanchez
Which markets do you export to?
The brand is four years old and we are starting to grow in Mexico, Sao Paulo - which is a very large fashion consumer market but one which is difficult because it is nationalistic - also Santiago de Chile, which is working very well for us because alpaca is popular there.
What are your plans for the future?
To continue expansion to other markets and to strengthen our position in those where we already have a presence. We are very keen to enter the United States market, and we would also like to enter Europe.