Andes Dandies

Mario Testino celebrates the high fashion of his native Peru


Chanel Iman, Mario Testino, and Heidy de la Rosa   
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The Queen of Spain toured Alta Moda last night, taking in Mario Testino's vivid depictions of the traditional costumes of Cusco, Peru. The exhibition opened in her namesake institute on Park Avenue, where there were square-shouldered bodyguards pushing through and even the waiters were snapping surreptitious photos—but all that was for Kim Kardashian, who showed up after Her Majesty. In more ways than one, Testino's latest project is bridging worlds old and new.

The exhibition is the crowning piece of his six-year project to document the indigenous garb of his native country. Testino grew up in Lima, far from the colorfully attired Andeans in his portraits. "I would see people dressed like this in the mountains, but I didn't really know the extent of the variety," he said, adding that the timelessness of the plumed hats and hand-embroidered pollera dresses he shot was as appealing as their theatricality. "In fashion, where everything changes every season, I'm actually quite obsessed by things that don't." On that same wavelength, the next show of his at MATE, Testino's cultural nonprofit in Lima, will focus on royal families.

If Alta Moda represents a change of pace for Testino, the opening may have also been one for the likes of Constance Jablonski, Chanel Iman, and Candice Swanepoel. A museum guard instructed the latter to refrain from taking photos in the gallery. Testino's turn toward Peru was making Alek Wek think of her birthplace, too. "You can take me out of South Sudan, but you can never take South Sudan out of me," she said. Wek was doing her best to help others around her reorient. "I was talking to a friend who was like, 'Great styling.' I said, 'Darling, that is not styling. That's how they dress.'"

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