The king of Peru holding court with, from left, Edita Vilkeviciute, Lily Donaldson, Isabeli Fontana, Iazbel Goulart, Karlie Kloss and Constance Joblanski
Quick question: Who’s the most famous person you know from Peru? For me, the best thing to come out of the South American nation (apart from an inspiring Incan culture, which we’ll get to later) is the photographer Mario Testino. The man is an artist, an icon, a man who makes dreams come true in the pages of fashion magazines around the world. Literally. His contract with Conde Nast has his glamorous pictures of models and actress seen on all four corners of the globe. This is why, when he organized the opening of his own foundation (called M.A.T.E.) in Peru’s capital, Lima, I jumped at the chance to see the home country with the king of the land. I wasn’t alone: Many of the faces he helped make famous, like Karlie Kloss, Lily Donaldson, Constance Jablonski, Isabeli Fontana and Izabel Goulart all made the pilgrimage too.
His opening was as fantastic as one would expect: His foundation is housed in a historic space and the first show, appropriately of some of his own iconic images, was a story of a woman getting undressed. In the first rooms we saw models and debutantes in couture and as we snaked through the clothes came off, and we ended with some of the world’s most famous beauties (Gwyneth, Sienna, Kate) in their birthday suits.
Mario takes his role as an unofficial (for the time being, anyway) ambassador very seriously. So in the days that followed his opening, he insisted that we see what other marvels lay in his country and we made our way further south in Peru and climbed Machu Picchu. It being Mario, the experience was divine and decadent: We took the Orient Express, a train that stands as one of the last beacons of Old World civilized travel, to the mountains. The air there is so thin that you have to chew coca leaves and drink coca tea to keep your metabolism up. I wonder if that will affect me if I’m ever drug tested. But I digress. When I was a young boy I always dreamed of seeing the Incan ruins, a historic site that still beats with the spirituality of a culture conquered and lost. And it’s only appropriate that Mario, a man used to making dreams come true, would take me there.
I wasn’t kidding when I said he was the famous man from Peru
If Mario is the king, then his mother, the adorable lady with the white hair and the grey Chanel jacket, must be the queen, right? Proud Momma!
Lily Donaldson showed me how to work a buffet. With a blowout and a twirl, of course
That Anthony vaccarello dress has legs. (Literally and figuratively.) Karlie wore in the show and to Carine Roitfeld’s Vampire ball in Paris, Gwyneth Paltrow wore it on the cover of Bazaar, and now Izabel worked it all over Lima
The ultra lovely Jasmine Guinness with Charlotte Trillbury. Let me tell you: Charlotte knows her way around a dance floor. She was a blur of ginger hair and silver sequins for much of the night
The strap to Constance’s Versace dress kept getting unhooked at the party, which Karlie valiantly tried to repair. But guess who actually spent half the night fixing it? Me. Never trust a supermodel to do a gay’s job
The legendary Carlyne de Cerf (fun fact: She styled Anna Wintour’s first cover of American Vogue) with V’s Stephen Gan
Mario’s secret weapon: The formidable Jamima Hobson
Karlie with Vogue’s Tonne Goodman
The streets of Lima were guarded by these super chic female cops, which, a guide, who was female, told me was a good thing because the male cops weren’t always so honest. South American feminism at it’s best!
It wasn’t all fashion and fabulous on this trip. We got our culture on too. Here’s me and Karlie outside the Museo Larco in Lima. (You can take them out of America, but you can take the America out of them)
The museum had the most amazing gold pieces, many of which would be hooked into the nose or shoved into the stretched out ear lobes of Incan royalty. (Mind you, I thought it was very Givenchy)
The library at the Convent Santo Domingo was breathtaking, and had that fabulous smell of old, important books. (I asked if they had mine in their collection of 250,000 books, but they didn’t. So I’ll be sure to send them one when I get back to New York)
Francesca Versace and Karlie doing what they can to keep the troops’ morale up!
After Mario’s opening it was up to Machu Picchu. We took the most glamorous and fabulous mode of transportation I’ve yet experienced: the Orient Express. Three hours in gilded decadence, and all the Pisco Sours we could drink!
The artist Grillo Demo, who’s fabulous falling jasmine paintings my friend Margherita Missoni introduced me to (she has a portrait in her apartment in Milan), with Naty Abascal, a former Avedon muse, in the caboose
And then there was Machu Picchu, the historic site and remnants of an almost forgotten Inca empire. It was breathtaking, and truly inspiring. They built this bad boy in 90 years without so much as, umm, a wheel
Karlie and me atop Machu Picchu. We are very amused by our T-shirts in this photo: She is wearing a T-shirt from my high school in Missouri, when I went to (get this) football camp as a teenager, and I’m wearing a shirt from my town’s historical society. We’re a long way from St. Louis now, sis!
Tonne and Hamish Bowles, who is just the most divine travel companion, atop Machu Picchu
Sunset in Machu Picchu. How marvelous
I was constantly inspired by the local people’s traditional looks, and not always the most ornate ones. In the village of Cusco, I loved this woman’s layers and volume, which Hamish and I agreed was very Rei Kawakubo. Not that she liked to have her having her picture taken one bit
In Cusco, Karlie and I toured the Sacsayhuaman Fort, another marvel of the Incan people, and tried to adopt a few baby llamas. (But no dice)
Thank you, Mario Testino. You are a king among kings. Viva Inca Testino!