An Interview with Maria Bravo by Stephanie Pope
...Maria Herlinda Bravo is the President of Quintessence & Co located in Callicoon, New York.She
is a gifted fashion creator and an experienced alpaca breeder.Her
creative abilities may have never been discovered if it were not for her
unlikely initiation into the alpaca industry.Her
story is one of destiny, determination, wonder and sheer courage.Maria's introduction to the alpaca world was a whirlwind of discovery.Commencing a career in the grocery industry Maria began as an Administrative Assistant for Charles Fitzmorris, Jr, the owner of Star Traders.
enjoyed Charlie's utmost confidence and was specially selected to administrate the three-month project of moving his
beloved alpacas into the northern hemisphere.
Zig-zag shawl with long dressThe serene and breathtaking beauty of the Andean mountains combined with the extreme conditions to which she
body and mind changed Maria forever.Encountering the simplistic, yet rugged lifestyle of the Quechua and Aymara Indians, she
learned that they were the keepers and owners of all the camelids inhabiting the altiplano.These elegant aristocrats carrying the "fibre of the gods" had been the foundation of their culture for over 5,000 years and they were an inspiration to Maria
.Alone and in a foreign country, this solitary woman was forced to dig deep inside herself and draw from a well of inner strength to make an unlikely project succeed.Plunging headlong into this imaginative adventure, she
team successfully imported 330 alpacas and their cria into the US. (Charlie's original 12 alpacas had certainly multiplied over the course of a decade!!) However, three months eventually became 13 months and problems plagued the project.
remarkable optimism and entrepreneurial gifts live on in Maria
enduring dedication to the alpaca and the world surrounding these fascinating animals.To her
has continued on and created her
own dream where others would have retired.Inca Cross long sweater vest and long dress in solid colour.
own alpaca business, Quintessence & Co.
It incorporates Quintessence Alpacas International, which breeds animals for fine fibre and advanced fleece types, with her
design and manufacturing company that creates elegant and sophisticated finished products.The need for fibre instilled a desire to import alpacas into the United States.Using her
own breeding program Maria
is able to breed quality alpacas carrying the fibre that meets the strict criteria for her
philosophy is to "breed fine fibred alpacas for fashion design and production."The North American breeding program is carefully orchestrated at her
new ranch in Callicoon, New York.Quintessence animals are chosen for their perfect conformation and advanced fleece types.A heavy bone is important for breeding solid, well-conformed alpacas.These types of animals are well equipped to carry a tremendously dense fleece with superb coverage that extends from their nose to their toes.Their fine, heavy-cutting fleece full of character and definition will be the basis for producing Maria's magnificent garments.Each one of her
300+ suris and huacayas were chosen because they matched her
high standard for breeding quality animals.Maria conducts a complimentary breeding program at her farm in Chile where her passion for the finest alpacas attracted the attention of Derek Michell of Michell & Cia in Arequipa, Peru.
They have now formed an on-going joint venture with Maria
to purchase and sell exceptional alpacas around the globe.In an effort to construct an avenue for her
creative abilities, Maria
design and manufacturing company, Quintessence
, Int'l in the fall of 1997.Maria
enthuses, "I love to design and it comes easily to me.Maybe it is because I love women's fashion and everything related to beauty and finesse."Memories of the soft, comfortable alpaca shawls common to her
childhood in Mexico and the luxurious geometric pelts that adorned her
home instilled a hidden love for the fibre that was finally discovered when she
embarked upon Charlie's project.The absence of alpaca yarn in the specialty-and-expensive yarn shops helped to convince Maria
that something needed to be done to upgrade the recognition of alpaca in North America as a luxurious, rich, soft and durable fibre.
embraces this new versatile woman as a reflection of herself and it is clearly visible in her
point, "It is important to me that a woman is able to wear a garment under different circumstances or places.I love to produce coordinates that we can travel, work and live in." The fabulous fashions in all her
collections are simple, yet elegant and versatile.
and I found common ground not only in our love of fashion, but also in our zest for the magnificent suri fleece.She
believes it to be the most sensual and luxurious fibre in the world.I quite agree!!Her
goal is to breed suris, suris, and more suris ...
The scarcity of suri mandates that it be used in special heavy fabrics that will last forever.Maria
observes that suri fibre is best used in the traditional way ... Maria
has two collections of alpaca fashion.Her
original Quintessence collection of designs is for everyday wear.The coordinating outfits include a selection of five to seven pieces: a set of pants, short and long skirt, a tunic, blouse and a short coat or jacket.The "mix -and -match" effect adds versatility and functionality to an otherwise glamorous range of garments.For these designs, the colour palette moves from neutrals in ivory, tweed and ebony to softly elegant pastels such as arctic frost and dusty rose and is completed with vibrant shades of scarlet, tangerine and cobalt.We had the privilege of viewing this collection at our 1998 National Show and Sale.The new Millennium collection is a daring and sophisticated initiative.Inspired by the antique textiles of the millenarium cultures, Maria
is demonstrating to the world that our ancestors had impeccable taste for geometric design and could work wonders with colour.Her
objective is to reproduce the antique textiles in each of the prominent cultures of our predecessors.The designs are carefully selected and moulded to capture the essence of the society they are derived from.These fashions are for those who would make a statement with their style and sophistication!Incan civilization has been commemorated with a geometric study of brilliant colours incorporating a variety of garments.Currently, "Africa in Colour" celebrates the tenacity of African wildlife in the warm, alluring summer tones of desert gold, oasis blue and palm green.For Maria
, alpacas are elegant, aristocratic animals that produce the raw material for her
luxury products that are in high demand.She
summarizes, "I love the alpaca and everything we obtain from them; I consider them to be the animals of the future."