The Fashion Trail | Madrid Rising

Rising Office Towers in Madrid's Financial District | Source: urbemadrid.es

MADRID, Spain — Stately and full of world-class art at any time of the year, Madrid is particularly appealing in the fall, when the city welcomes buyers, journalists and other industry observers from around the world for the year’s second Pasarela Cibeles, in which Spanish designers and brands present their new collections during a week of runway shows. Having recently wrapped up its 52nd edition, Cibeles has grown into a reliable, professional trend and design showcase without losing the independent, even zany spirit that is an advantage of its outsider status.

While it would be easy to dismiss Madrid as a provincial side note on the ever more packed global fashion week schedule, attending the city’s latest round of collections, BoF found that valuable intelligence can be gleaned from the over forty shows, and that the event’s importance beyond Spain can only be expected to increase in future years.

Most of Cibeles’ offerings do emphasise commercial viability over design innovation, but how original is it to fault an industry event for being practical and business-oriented? Nonetheless, a good share of fresh ideas and competitive design do stand out amid more regular fare. In a way, Cibeles serves as both a mirror and complement to the major platforms of Paris, Milan and New York, permitting us to gauge which trends resonate beyond the insider-y editorial circuit of those cities and also to find interesting propositions that might get lost in a more established forum. There is a reason the leading trend forecaster WGSN regularly send scouts to Cibeles.

For Spring 2011, it was undoubtedly the use of bold colours that jumped out among various running themes. It was at its brashest display in the show of veteran designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, who presented a stunning riot of colours and shapes, but also in the bright orange skirts seen at Juanjo Oliva, among many other shows. Apart from placing Cibeles on the same wavelength as more influential creative capitals (see Raf Simons’ season-defining Jil Sander collection at Pitti Uomo in June), the unabashed use of vibrant hues also relates to another, more homegrown aspect of Cibeles fashion week — the frequent appearance of local, some would say folkloric, elements in many collections.

At first, the fact that several designers incorporated or referenced familiar Spanish motifs seemed a bold, but unusual choice. After all, this is in many respects a decidedly modern country (its architects and chefs have for some time been at the global vanguard of their fields, for instance). Still, it was impossible to miss the recurrence throughout the week of a distinctly Spanish shade of red, to give just one example. Talking to fellow editors and market experts, we learned that it’s not just proud costumbrism that informs the happy appropriation of local design elements, but also commercial pragmatism: in stores, the Spanish consumer likes to see and buy clothes with subtle nods to Spain’s rich tradition, whether it’s a flounce or said red.

Sometimes borrowing from the domestic trove of crafts proved aesthetically smart as well as cost-efficient, as in the case of several menswear looks shown with espadrilles, a simple footwear choice that is staunchly Spanish, but also looked great with the contemporary clothes. A more questionable case of Iberic pride was the show of Francis Montesinos, a postcard from flamenco-land that would have been awesome in its unembarrassed embrace of kitsch, had it not tested the audience’s patience at a good 30 minutes in duration.

David Delfin’s final-day presentation was at the other end of the spectrum, a testament that directional design can also be found at Cibeles. Here you had use of bold colour — in Delfin’s case, electric yellow, orange and green, as well as a gorgeous deep ultramarine — but also stripped-down, experimental design that one could imagine on a runway in London or New York. And, indeed, one would not be too far off: before his show here, Delfin showed the same collection in New York. Surely a sign of Madrid’s emerging new garde and of exciting things to come.

Suleman Anaya is a contributing editor at The Business of Fashion.