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Peruvian Connection was launched in 1976 by mother and daughter team Biddy and Annie Hurlbut, after inspiration took hold halfway across the globe. Whilst researching anthropology in Peru, Annie, a 19-year-old Yale student, fell in love with extraordinary hand woven mantas and ponchos she discovered in the markets of Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Incas.
"Back then, wandering around the market, you could find these incredible pieces," Annie said. In Cuzco’s market is also where she first encountered the luxury fibre of alpaca "I was immediately drawn to it; it’s softer than cashmere and more durable," she says.
Fascinated by these ethnographic textiles, she began collecting them, learning everything she could about the spinning and dyeing of the alpaca fibres, the warp-faced weaving techniques and the ancient textile traditions of the Andes.
Along the way, Annie encountered some rather simple but extraordinarily soft and luxurious sweaters, all knit of the same alpaca fibres. One sweater in particular caught her eye—a soft alpaca sweater coat, trimmed with long fur—and she bought it for her mother’s upcoming 50th birthday.
Once home in Kansas, Annie presented the gift and her mother Biddy and friends were fascinated with the sweater. Soon after, Annie and Biddy began importing a small range of sweater styles, which Annie designed and produced in Peru and Biddy sold from her home in Kansas. And with that, Peruvian Connection was born.
Annie and Biddy sold their artisan-made alpaca sweaters to a handful of high-end specialty stores, like Henri Bendel in New York and Halls in Kansas City. They also created a small catalogue— Annie photographed, styled and wrote it, whilst Biddy managed the packaging and delivery of orders.
By 1979, Annie was showing the line at a New York boutique show when a writer with the New York Times took note. The feature that followed— a quarter page article on the front of the paper’s Style section—generated 5,000 catalogue requests within three months.
Peruvian Connection now releases five internationally renowned collections per year, full of exquisite art knit garments which are offered in quarterly catalogues, online and in the brand’s retail stores across the US and in the UK.
Although the company has grown since that first sweater changed hands, the original goal remains the same: to offer artisan made, original designs in native Andean luxury fibres. Today, Peruvian Connection’s collections are created by a group of extraordinarily talented designers. Each piece is a celebration of ethnographic textiles from around the world, made by skilled Andean artisans whose time-honoured textile tradition remains an art form.