Krissa explores Gamarra, Lima’s fabric district
Krissa Henderson | Date posted: March 30th, 2012
I’m sure that all of you have experienced that overwhelming feeling when you step into a fabric store: so many fabrics you never knew even existed! When I see the endless possibilities, whatever fabric I previously had in mind for a project goes out the window. The next problem is, how much? I always fear that I’m going to be short just a little tiny bit of fabric and have to go out and buy a whole new piece! Well, in November I was lucky enough to land a job doing design and production in Peru, and on my way back to the States in December, I had to stop in Lima to become familiar with all of the fabric stores I would be working with the following year.
Gamarra is the name of Lima’s fabric district and it is known as one of the more dangerous parts of the city. It’s a very small, extremely crowded area with tons of discount shops and a large market that feels like NYC’s Chinatown on steroids. After assuring my friends that it was essential I go to this sketchy neighborhood, they gave me a few pieces of advice: don’t carry anything with you and do not under any circumstances get into a cab that is from a company you don’t recognize.
I arrived in Gamarra armed with a printed google map, my cell phone, and about 30 soles (the local currency) in my shirt. The streets were swarming with people as I tried to find the three specific fabric stores I needed without looking like a lost tourist. As it turns out, you can’t always trust Google maps, and my map had directed me to Lima’s food market, a huge, busy area with small passageways filled with chicken heads next to chocolate bars and bananas that’s easy to get lost in. In the humid air, the market smelled of blood and sour sweat and there were flies buzzing everywhere.
I bought a banana and then quickly found my way out of the fray. I spotted a policeman and asked him if he was familiar with the address I was searching for. It turns out I was on the right street, just a few blocks in the wrong direction. I started walking over and decided to do a bit of exploring along the way. Things were a little more modern off of the market street. There were discount clothing and shoes on sale, cell phone stores, a bank, and a few restaurants. I ran into a lady selling quail eggs and couldn’t help myself; they’re delicious! Finally I found the fabric street. The stores were divided up by type of fabric. Suiting was in one store, denim in another, and only one store for closures. I had arrived!
After finishing my business with the stores, it was time to go meet my friend in the financial district know as San Isidro where there is a Starbucks and a Westin Hotel. I called the cab company I had been using, but they apparently didn’t send drivers to Gamarra. I looked around and the streets were jammed with cabs; it was like being dehydrated while at sea. I saw a policeman and asked him to help me find a safe cab, but I rejected the first two he called over. Finally I found one I felt safe with and we got onto the expressway—I felt like I had survived my excursion! I was sweaty and thirsty, but it really had not been that bad. Plus, I didn’t even get food poisoning from the quail eggs, which is always a bonus.