MELISSA BLOCK, host:
It's high time we took note on this program of an international fashion phenomenon. A phenomenon that's given rise to this song written by folks at a radio station in Mexico
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MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The truth is it's not so pretty. The song says buy him another sweater. We're talking about the boldly-striped sweater that's become to the new Bolivian President Evo Morales what the Nehru jacket was to Jawaharlal Nehru. President Morales has been wearing his trademark sweater, with horizontal red, blue, gray and beige stripes, just about everywhere. And in doing so he's raised some diplomatic eyebrows. He wore it to Zarzuela Palace in Madrid when he met with King Juan Carlos. The sweater has also had face time with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, with South African President Thabo Mbeki and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Evo Morales is a socialist, he's also a Aymara Indian, a former labor activist, and the sweater is being read, or deconstructed if you will, as a symbol of his indigenous roots. The Morales sweater has also quickly spawned imitations and Sergio Valda, for one, is hoping the sweater craze continues. He is chief financial officer with the knitwear manufacturer Textiles Punto Blanco in La Paz. Thanks for joining us.
SERGIO VALDA (Chief Financial Officer, Textiles Punto Blanco): Hi, hi everybody in the United States. I'm very happy to speak to you.
BLOCK: Mr. Valda, when did your company start making Morales knockoffs?
Mr. VALDA: Well everything came up just a week ago. Customers here in La Paz began to ask for the product. They wanted something similar to Evo Morales' sweater so we started the project with our designers.
BLOCK: And how many have you turned out so far?
Mr. VALDA: Well we are beginning with first dispatch of 1,000 garments.
BLOCK: How many have you sold?
Mr. VALDA: There's no one left.
BLOCK: Oh, you've sold out.
Mr. VALDA: Yes, that's right, and every dispatch we are sending to our stores in La Paz it's being sold before it arrives to the boutique.
BLOCK: Well if I wanted to buy a Morales sweater, if I could find one, how much would that set me back?
Mr. VALDA: Well it costs around $10.00 in La Paz.
BLOCK: $10.00, that's not a bad deal. What's it made of?
Mr. VALDA: It's made from an acrylic fabric made at here in our plant.
BLOCK: I guess there is some question about whether the sweater that the President wears is actually alpaca or acrylic itself. Do you have any idea?
Mr. VALDA: Well, I will say that Evo Morales' original sweater was knitted by a native community especially for him and made with babe alpaca wool, but none of this were true. The truth is that Evo Morales bought a simple acrylic Bolivian-made sweater, and I think that there lies the strength of the symbol. It's nothing special, it's nothing exclusive, it's just a simple acrylic sweater.
BLOCK: Is it at the point yet where you can walk around La Paz and see Morales sweaters at every turn?
Mr. VALDA: Well we are beginning to see these blue, red and white stripes sweater especially in the La Paz downtown and you may see some people with the sweater already.
BLOCK: Mr. Valda, do you have a Morales sweater yourself?
Mr. VALDA: Sure, sure, I have one. I have the first one.
BLOCK: Are you wearing it now?
Mr. VALDA: Yes, right now.
BLOCK: How do you look?
Mr. VALDA: Very good, very well. It's a very good-looking sweater I think.
BLOCK: Well Mr. Valda we appreciate you talking with us. Best of luck.
Mr. VALDA: Okay, bye-bye.
BLOCK: Sergio Valda is the Chief Financial Officer of the Bolivian knit wear manufacturer Texitiles Punto Blanco. He spoke with us from La Paz where they just can't seem to make enough Evo Morales sweaters.
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