Bent over the counter, a fifty-something lady, is looking carefully at the colors of two foundation compact powders.
“You should pick the darkest one, it will suit you better”, is advising her with confidence Sonia.
The client approaches one of the compact powders close to her face and starts sniffing it to be sure that the products smells good, sign of it freshness. The product is a simple turquoise blue plastic box which cap is carved with half erased golden letters that let guessing the brand Pond’s. She takes 6 soles (2,20 USD) from her wallet while muttering that the product doesn’t last much.
Another woman, a little bit younger, comes close to the counter and asks Sonia for advice about which tone of hair coloration she should use.
Doña Sonia is the owner of Kapricho, a variation of the word “whim” in Spanish, the only beauty shop of Chachapoyas, that she opened four years ago. Capital of the Amazonas region located in the north east of Peru in the Andean piedmont, Chachapoyas is a small and isolated city, counting less than 20 000 inhabitants, which can be reached after a 22 hours bus trip from Lima.
The shop is wedged between a bakery and a locksmith, in a small rustic shopping center adjoining to the city market. The sidewalk is clog up with wandering dogs and old food trashes. There is no door. To open and close the shop, you just need to raise or to lower the grey-green iron curtain. And yet, the crowd of teenagers confirms us that we arrived in the kingdom of glamour.
Doña Sonia is a kind of beauty oracle which role is to guide, to advice and sometime to teach her customers how to use beauty products. Which eyes shadows are suitable for brown eyes? How to clean the skin? Which shampoo helps grooming spongy hairs? How to hide white hairs?
“I receive some peasant women living in the small villages around who are complaining because their skin is becoming rough and dry. They don’t know how to take care of their skin. They wash with an abrasive soap, dedicated usually to clean clothes. I advice them to rather use a soap made of glycerin and to wash with a chamomile infusion.”
All day long, women of all ages are taking over in front of the glass counter looking for good pieces of advices and cheap little whim.
« The women who are working in office are the one who are taking better care of themselves. They follow each steps of the beauty ritual. They know how to clean, moisturize and use make-up. Housewife aren’t buying and using a lot of creams. The products I sell the most are deodorants, shampoos and hair colorations. Everybody dyes their hairs, even men who aren’t big fans of white hairs. Very young girls are dying their hairs in blond to follow the trend. Mature women are more eager to use natural tones. »
In a window display, make-up palettes with various shades are opened to arouse the desire. This Ali Baba cave offers all that you need and dream of to groom, and at all prices. We can find pell-mell fake Chinese eyelashes, nails polish for 1 soles (0,37 USD), perfumes with suggestive names such as “Momentos vibrantes” (vibrating times) or “Incitante Deseo”(arousing desire) along with shower gels made with Amazonian plants.
Today, Doña Sonia has decided to paint her lips with a pearly pink lipstick. She doesn’t wear make-up every day. As a mother of a young child, she doesn’t always have the time to fall for what she calls a small whim. At 40 years old, she has no white hairs.
She learned how to put make-up and how to take care of her skin while assisting to beauty training organized by the different brands she is distributing: Unique, Esika, Avon, Oriflame et Natura. Then she shares all her precious tips with her clients.
« Taking time to groom and to be beautiful is a little whim you can treat yourself with. To me, only inner beauty is important. Physical beauty doesn’t last while having good personal values remain forever!”
At Kapricho, beauty isn’t limited to cosmetic products. Half of the store is dedicated to jewelry. A group of teenage girls enter and gather while chuckling around a small window display where are presented all the variation of the heart shape: pendant, ear rings, bracelet and rings. They are dreaming of the day when their boyfriend will offer them such a lovely sparkling present as a proof of his love.
The whim seller also turns into a dream dealer!
Sonia, 40 years old, Chachapoyas, Peru.