June 15, 2021

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In Buenos Aires, Shops Where Sophistication and Tradition Meet

4 min read


Buenos Aires is a capital fashionable enough to rival Paris or Tokyo. But what makes it a real draw for shoppers is its blend of sophistication, tradition and innovative design.

“We’re a mix of European and Indigenous cultures, and this fusion is reflected in the heritage of craftsmanship and handicrafts in Argentina,” said Maita Barrenechea, owner of Mai10, a travel company that creates personalized shopping experiences for travelers. “Silver, leather and wool are our main staples.”

While many designers in Buenos Aires began selling their wares online and shipping internationally during the coronavirus pandemic, half the fun is exploring the city in search of hidden showrooms and open-door locales. (Just make sure to take all necessary precautions.)

A good place to start is Monte in the hip, tree-lined neighborhood of Palermo Soho. The beautified warehouse space is both a gallery exploring national identity through local crafts and a store selling antique and contemporary wood furniture, textiles and rural objects. For 30 years, Ricardo Paz and Belen Carballo have been collecting handmade Quichua blankets, chairs, decorative objects and boleadoras (a hunting tool) that underscore Argentina’s criollo and mestizo (Spanish and Indigenous) influences.

“The soul of Monte is a love for this land,” said Mr. Paz, whose on-site carpentry studio is where he hews statement dining and coffee tables from fallen algarrobo trees found in the dry forest of Santiago del Estero. Commissions take around 90 days and cost $1,800 to $2,700 per square meter and shipping. (U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Argentina, because the dollar is more stable than the peso.) For a budget-friendly memento, pick up a hand-carved wooden box or tray starting at $90.

Next, head to the up-and-coming barrio of Chacarita to shop at Facón, where Martín Bustamante offers a mix of Argentine goods handcrafted by local designers and rural artisans. Visitors are treated to a glass of malbec while browsing stylish backpacks, lamps and handmade yerba mate gourds, as well as an eclectic assemblage of crafts that Mr. Bustamante cherry-picks on his frequent travels.

“Each item has its own heritage and culture, and I transmit those stories to people when they shop here,” he said.

Support Native communities with a wooden animal mask carved by Indigenous Chané people in Gran Chaco (from $10), a ceramic Pachamama figurine from the Andes ($10) or a lamb’s-wool rug handwoven in Salta ($300).

A sixth-generation silversmith, Juan Carlos Pallarols, has spent a lifetime chiseling masterpieces for the likes of Diana, Princess of Wales; Pope Francis; Bill Clinton; and Frank Sinatra. But you don’t have to be a celebrity to procure one of Mr. Pallarols’s designs: His silver shop in the antiques-filled neighborhood of San Telmo is a treasure trove of pens, mate vessels, steak knives and finely-wrought trays (from $100).

Or make an appointment for a personal tour of Mr. Pallarols’ atelier and museum (reserve by phone or in person at the silver shop) in his home across the street to see thousands of tools, his oil paintings and museum-quality works that have stayed in the family. He also takes commissions: Popular requests include his signature roses, iPhone covers and wedding rings.

“Everything I make is one-of-a-kind,” he said. “No one leaves disappointed.”

At Altapuna’s elegant showroom, tucked inside a belle epoque building in the Retiro neighborhood, Fernando Pusso is taking gaucho chic to the next level with a high-fashion line of sustainably produced llama wool ruanas, wraps, travel blankets and accessories. The wool is hand-sheared by groups of Indigenous female artisans in the foothills of Catamarca, spun into delicate fibers, then woven into cozy, contemporary garments (from $70 to $500).

Altapuna’s latest capsule collection is a collaboration with the designer Sybilla Sorondo Myelzwinska. The knitwear line features body-hugging designs from coats and sweaters to socks and mittens made from dye-free natural fibers in brown, beige and cream.

“We believe in slow fashion,” Mr. Pusso said. “Our designs are classic and timeless. They’re an investment for life.”

Keep an eye out for Altapuna’s forthcoming collection of handwoven vicuña scarves and shawls; the wool is heralded as the softest in the world.

The British may have introduced polo to Argentina, but Casa Fagliano, a fifth-generation atelier in the suburb of Hurlingham, is revered for its leather polo boots. Kings, princes and athletes from across the globe are known to have their riding boots handcrafted here. To design your own pair (from $2,500), reserve an appointment well in advance.

“People often come to our workshop to ‘taste and see,’” said Germán Fagliano, brand manager at Casa Fagliano. “They can actually touch the leather that will become part of their boots.”

After deciding on color, style, leather and hardware, clients are precisely measured for fit. The boots take around six months to produce and ship, so grab a pair of traditional suede alpargatas (like espadrilles; $395) from the showroom and you won’t leave empty-handed.



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