Peruvian Imports sells handmade knitwear at Museum of Natural History
Featuring handmade knitted belts, intricately designed pillows, vibrant ornaments and colorful sweaters, Peruvian Imports made its debut in the form of a pop up at the courtyard of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on Saturday.
The pop up is a family-owned company that produces luxurious Peruvian Alpaca knitwear for people of all ages.
Seventeen Peruvian families complete all the work by hand, only using machines 10% of the time.
Each unique design displays richly detailed shapes and scenes, and the alpaca fleece is hypoallergenic, softer than cashmere and more durable than wool.
The company has been around for 20 years, and Peruvian native Gisella Carroll hatched the idea for it after marrying her husband from the United States.
Better known as “Gigi” by those who know her, she saw the differences between the U.S. and Peru firsthand.
“I wanted to marry the two countries,” she told the News-Press. “I don’t come from a very wealthy family, so I decided to support the women that work directly with their hands.
“The main goal is to help my people from there because they worked with their hands for so many years,” she said. “I don’t want the kids to work in that business — I want them to go to school.”
The founder said that she realized she was doing something right when one of the boys from a family village became the first one to go to college.
“I told myself the day I left the country that I would bring something back,” Ms. Carroll said. “It’s a big deal, because all their lives, they get up, they go to work…they come home, they cook, they repeat. That is very sad.”
The shop’s most popular product is its ruanas, which are poncho-like outer garments, some of which are reversible. There are products for all members of the family, including purses, wallets, stuffed animals, Christmas stockings, baby clothes and socks.
Products range in price from $10 to $400, but many items lie in the $25 to $50 range.
Peruvian Imports offers its products wholesale to anyone, and products are available on its website.
Ms. Carroll is one of the museum’s top vendors according to staff members, and many locals inquired about her arrival, asking, “Is the Alpaca lady going to be there?”
“She did very well last year. She has a loyal following,” Flora Arguilla, a museum guest services associate, told the News-Press.
Customers even traveled from Los Angeles and the Bay Area to see her, according to Ms. Arguilla.
“It’s really good to have our local vendors be able to come out and share with us their beautiful supplies,” she said. “It’s really enriching, especially to have the little bit of normalcy that she can bring.”
While Ms. Carroll’s shop was only a pop up for Saturday and Sunday, she’s leaving behind some products that will be sold in the museum store and on its website for the month of December.
“I’ve had customers for over 20 years since the beginning,” Ms. Carroll said. “I’m very appreciative they know the quality and they know we put our heart and soul into these.
“You never forget where you come from.”