Across Chile there is a great tradition of weaving and knitting dating before the Incas. The indigenous populations and traditions span in other countries too, unrestrained by the modern political boundaries between Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and the Patagonia. Like many of us, María Eugenia Ibarra learned her craft from the women in her family, so that the tradition became embedded in her psyche–although she herself is not afraid to cross boundaries and conventions. 'I’ve always been used to creating with my hands, deconstructing and then again constructing; I knitted, unknit and joined joints of different materials from different origins, sweeping away everything I found on my way.'
Ropa de Género, or ‘gendered clothing’ is Ibarra’s Chilean label. Forget everything you think you know about South American knitting–or even knitting in general. This is a designer who thrives on breaking old rules and making new ones. The first thing that strikes you is her irreverent approach to knitting with clashing colour combinations, and many different techniques and yarn thicknesses in one garment. Ibarra is not afraid of challenging conventions. She explains, 'My creations manage to rescue techniques of generations and traditions in classic knitting, which when worn in the present, work.'
Having studied as a textile designer in Chile and worked in the industry for three years, Maria travelled to Europe, studying for a diploma in Fashion Marketing and Communication in Barcelona, Spain. It was contact with an Italian trend forcasting company, Future Concept Lab, that motivated her to return to Chile to immerse herself in what was happening at that time in the city of Santiago. 'I realised that there was a huge shortage in the local fashion design industry and that they were losing the textile traditions and everything handmade, which helped me to make the decision to follow my own path and create my brand Ropa de Género (RDG) in 2006.'
To follow the story of Ropa De Género, find them on social media here.