By Claudie Benjamin
By some subtle magic, everything at the Peruvian Connection at 341 Columbus Avenue looks desirable. The beautifully hued flower patterned or woven geometric fabrics that look slightly bleached by the sun suggest that the wearer is a sophisticated traveler with an eye for a special find that’s wearable in any setting.
Many goods such as the women’s garments and the sheets and other bedding pieces are printed with Peruvian Connection signature patterns. The women’s styles are evergreen in wearability and comfort, notably fashioned from Pima cotton, silk and alpaca. This is a look that appeals whether you are 25 or 75 if you resonate to the brand’s refrain for “nomads and romantics.”
Retail Visual Merchandising Manager Raymond Guzman is responsible for the visual impact of all Peruvian Connection stores. He oversees the complex task of enticement, drawing customers to look in the windows, come into the store and to keep them shopping. Overall window display themes are changed seasonally. The summer theme suggests the rustic simplicity of a day in the country: swings with grass seats hang from ropes to draw your eye to natural-colored straw hats and fringed scarves. The mannequins in the store’s windows wear simple clothes with touches of embroidery, all conveying the message that the hard Covid months are ending, so feel lighter hearted and freer. Adhering to the theme, these highlighted clothes are changed weekly. This is a major undertaking that ensures fresh looks and attracts customers looking to expand their wardrobe with more from Peruvian Connection.
In addition to the UWS and London, there are Peruvian Connection has retail stores in Kansas City, Aspen, Washington, DC, Santa Fe, and Chicago. It also has a robust online business.
Raymond and his siblings were brought up in NYC’s Spanish Harlem. His parents immigrated from Puerto Rico to the neighborhood where his mother worked for a nonprofit that provided food to the homeless.
Never having been to Peru, the wonderful atmosphere Raymond evokes at Peruvian Connection is all linked to his creative imagination and the confidence the store’s leaders have in him. While a student at Junior H.S. 99 he discovered his love for drawing. Later, he became immersed in fashion design as a student at the High School of Fashion Industries, and through continued coursework at FIT. After a decade working in visual design for Hugo Boss, Raymond came to work at Peruvian Connection.
Discovery and travel fluidly transposed to the United States are an integral part of Peruvian Connection. 45 years ago, Annie Hurlbut, a Yale student, went to Peru on a visit to study archeology in Cuzco. She was awed by the handcrafted clothing made by the local Andeans and bought one unusual sweater coat home as a 50th birthday present for her mother Biddy.
The gift led the mother and daughter to begin a small mail order company of sweaters designed in the US and made in Peru. The story of their enterprise was covered by a 1979 Style Section article in The NY Times – a turn of events that propelled the business into decades of continuing success. Incidentally, the “Biddy Sweater” is often included in Peruvian Connection’s winter collections.
Raymond’s multi-faceted design activity is in his office in the basement of the Columbus Avenue store. Once seasonal concepts have been approved by the company’s senior leadership, guidelines are sent out to be implemented at the various stores.
Generally, the look of the store emphasizes subtle lighting. Brick walls, gently worn antique tables, elegant chairs, couches, and Persian rugs that look as if they’ve seen better days – knowing just how to make the customer want a bit of this setting and feel part of its romance is Raymond’s remarkable talent.
Having made it through the pandemic all at Peruvian Connection support and celebrate resilience. In this spirit, Peruvian Connection is participating as a pop-up partner of the Shop the Village campaign. Organized by the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, the goal of this initiative is to promote businesses along Bleecker Street during the month of June 2021.