Brooklyn-based designer Lauren Manoogian remembers the first time she visited Peru. It was 12 years ago, and she went there to meet everyone in the factory of the independent brand she was working for at the time. The first person she met became a close friend and collaborator, and now manages parts of her eponymous brand that she launched in 2008. “It laid the foundation for my entire business,” Manoogian explains of her eye-opening journey over a decade ago. The majority of her buttery soft earth-toned knits are currently all handmade in Peru, in and around Lima and Puno, using natural, locally-sourced alpaca, as are some of her sculptural knit accessories. Peru has certainly provided Manoogian with a sense of discovery over the last decade or so, not just related to her ready-to-wear designs, but also in her love and appreciation for handmade objects. It was during her second trip to Peru that she purchased her first artisanal totem from a woman who operated a small gallery out of her house in Barranco. It was a large pot made with natural red clay, featuring abstract lines of pigment on its surface, and it was the first item in what has now grown to be a full collection of ceramics that Manoogian has kept and cherished throughout the years.
After reinterpreting their surfaces and textures into some of her beautifully organic, textural knitwear designs, Manoogian decided that it was time to share her collection with the world. “Showcasing these craft objects on the site or in a physical environment was an intention for some time,” the designer explains. Beginning today, she is selling a 12-piece capsule of her collection on her website under the new section “Object,” with everything priced between $60 and $600. 20% of the proceeds will go to Juguete Pendiente, a Lima-based NGO that manages social projects for individuals and communities in a state of vulnerability. When the coronavirus pandemic began unraveling New York, Manoogian immediately thought of Peru. The country's highways have begun to fill with people fleeing the cities due to mass unemployment and death tolls have doubled over the last week. Juguete Pendiente is working to provide food and hygiene products to the most vulnerable communities, as well as medical supplies to those working on the front lines in Peru.
“I like the idea of using our platform to highlight the work of other people that I love and feel inspired by,” she notes. “Ultimately, we decided to launch this now in part to stay inspired, collaborative, and, with these pieces in particular, to feel connected to Peru even though we are separated from the place and to give back in some small way,” Manoogian explains. This is the first in what the designer is planning to be a series of ongoing projects in which she and her team will highlight a group or groups of makers on their site. They’d originally planned to work with a friend who is a glassblower in France, but due to COVID-19, Manoogian decided to share her personal collection for the launch instead, while also giving back to a place and people she loves dearly.
She was also excited to expand the conversation around her brand and its Peruvian roots to craft and object, rather than just the knitwear. “I think when people think Peru, they think textiles,” Manoogian says. “I’ve learned over time that there are many interesting ceramic traditions throughout different regions in Peru.” The designer adds, “each piece has a real spirit in its uniqueness and imperfection that I find so beautiful and human. I think now more than ever, as we are pushed further into digital mediums, it feels very vital to have that sense of wonder and emotional connection to objects.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue