Mario Testino’s Alta Moda and the Traditional Dress of Cusco

Mario Testino Alta Moda

Traditional women’s dress. Province of Espinar; Cusco, Peru 2007; © Mario Testino (Queen Sofia Spanish Institute poster)

It’s not every day that a kid from Lima, Peru, heads to London to ultimately find fame and fortune photographing royalty and the international stars of stage and screen. It’s probably safe to say that such a story has happened only once.

And who is the protagonist in this particular tale? It could only be Mario Testino, a Peruvian-born fashion photographer of international acclaim. His photos have appeared, and continue to appear, in magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. His subjects have included Princess Diana, Prince William, Julia Roberts, Madonna, Lady Gaga and countless other celebrities.

Cusco’s High Fashion

Mario Testino’s latest project sees a return to Peru, not to Lima but to the mountainous region of Cusco. This is high fashion — alta moda — in every sense of the term.

Testino’s new series of photographic portraits is something of a departure from his high fashion, celebrity-centric photography. Alta Moda focuses squarely and directly on the traditional and festive dress of Cusco, being as much about Peruvian history and culture as it is about fashion:

“To create Alta Moda, Testino made several trips to Cusco city over a five-year period after discovering an archive of costumes from the region. He was equally inspired by the history of Peruvian photography, and in particular by the work of Martin Chambi, one of the first indigenous Latin American photographers. Testino worked closely with Chambi’s grandchildren and used recreated backdrops from the archive of the late Peruvian photographer.” — press release from the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, New York

The Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York is the first American venue to present Alta Moda, where the exhibition will run from November 20, 2013 to March 29, 2014.

For more about Mario Testino and the Alta Moda collection, read Mario Testino’s interview with and head over to But before you go, here are some more beautiful images from the Alta Moda series…

Mario Testino, traditional dress of Cusco, Peru

Costumes for the Carnival of Ccatcca. District of Ccatcca, province of Quispicanchi, Cusco, Peru 2007; © Mario Testino

Qhapaq qolla dance costume, Cusco

Qhapaq qolla dance costume. District and province of Paucartambo, Cusco, Peru 2010 © Mario Testino

Female traditional dress of Cusco, Peru

Mestiza women’s traditional dress. Province of Paruro, Cusco, Peru 2012 © Mario Testino

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