The Beginning of Something New in Madrid

Another edition of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Madrid has just wrapped up, proving that the Spanish capital means business. 

Backstage at the María Escoté show in Madrid. Photo credit: Getty Images.

In an effort to give a more international outlook to the event, organizers (with sophomore fashion week director Charo Izquierdo at the helm) premiered new dates – following menswear and couture in Paris – to better suit foreign press and buyers. And if this and other changes in the way the Spanish fashion industry operates have ruffled the feathers of some of the most conservative players in the establishment – whose brands sometimes rely more on subventions than on actual business – they have no doubt payed off: magazines like Dazed & Confused and e-tailers like Net-a-Porter visited Madrid this week, for the first time, to check out some of the up-and-coming brands as well as the household names with the most commercial potential since, for the first time, MBFW launched a buyers’ showroom this season akin to what the BFC does with its Designer Showrooms. 

Backstage at the Ailanto Spring/Summer 2019 show in Madrid. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Among the latter is Ailanto, the brand created by Bilbao-born brothers Iñaki and Aitor Muñoz in 1995 that caters to the kind of woman who would be attracted to the style of, say, Dries Van Noten. This season, the duo presented a collection inspired by René Lalique’s version of Art Nouveau, including custom-made flower prints in earthy tones spread over long statuesque chiffon dresses (although the most interesting part of the show came with the theatrical linen trench coats, worn with tulled, wide-brimmed hats). With prices that have recently shifted towards the contemporary range, they are sure to find a clientele. 

Meanwhile, María Escoté – who first garnered global attention almost a decade ago for being one of Lady Gaga’s go-to designers – showed a Moschino-esque, candy-coloured collection of streetwear viewed through a kitsch 80s-style power dressing lens (and a recurring Powerpuffs print). All very Madrid, from the models’ strict fringed bobs to the ruffled tracksuits. 

Juan Vidal Spring/Summer 2019 show in Madrid. Photo credit: Getty Images.

But for those who were looking for the delicate balance between commerciality and originality, Juan Vidal delivered. The young designer, former winner of Vogue’s Who’s on Next contest, presented his most mature collection yet. Vidal knows how to make covetable clothes, and this time he did it through a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the clichés of femininity, including new look-inspired satin skirts and digital motifs of lingerie printed as trompe-l’œil over plain white dresses. 

Juan Carlos Pajares at the end of his Spring/Summer 2019 show in Madrid. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Juan Vidal is part of a new generation of Spanish designers with global ambitions and, often, an international education, who have chosen to establish themselves in an increasingly vibrant Madrid, where the spirit of La Removida (a revival of the early 80s Movida, which at the time saw the rise of Pedro Almodóvar, in the cultural and creative industries) has been heavily influencing fashion these last few seasons. One of its key designers is Juan Carlos Pajares, a Central Saint Martins graduate who held a public show in Colón, one of the city’s most centric squares. Graphic-layered suits and tropical motif dresses worn over black full body tights and tiny sunglasses gave an edge to an otherwise commercially-oriented collection. It was the same idea, executed in a completely different style for Shoop, the brand created by Madrilenian Miriam Sanz and Tokyo native Yohei Oki. One of the ones to watch, Shoop is becoming known for its savvy mix of streetwear (never too heavy-handed, especially in their latest outing, thanks in part to the team’s new show stylist Alicia Padrón) and simple, modern, wearable tailoring. Their collection was an ode to activewear in a bit of a cynical way – inspired by a Google search of the words “sport,” “stress,” and “office job” typed together – and was wittily staged in a gym, where models – a diverse street casting of some of the duo’s friends, including key names of Madrid’s removida like Soraya Rosales – strolled to R&B music wearing gender neutral suits paired with sleeveless hoodies and T-shirts. 

Maria ke Fisherman Spring/Summer 2019 show in Madrid. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Shoop are one of Pelonio Press’s clients, a PR agency representing some of Madrid’s most exciting new talent: Palomo Spain is also part of their portfolio, as is Maria ke Fisherman, a trendy label best known for being one of influencer Sita Abellan’s favorites. After a notorious absence during the last MBFWMadrid, the brand created by Maria Lemus and Víctor Alonso was back on the catwalk, this time at a construction site in the burgeoning business district in the Northern Madrid neighborhood of Chamartín. Guests arriving to the space were ushered to an underground set by van, where a catwalk was built on trucks. Techno-inspired music, clunky cyberpunk shoes, and a collection in acid tones did the rest. If it felt a little derivative, it also had some intriguing points, namely the interesting knitwear, which ultimately set the collection apart from the dozens of similarly positioned brands we know globally, from Alyx to Sankuanz to Ferrari Concept to GMBH. 

Palomo Spain Spring/Summer 2019 show in Madrid. Photo credit: Getty Images.

But the undisputed star of this edition of MBFWMadrid was, without a shadow of a doubt, Palomo Spain. The London-educated, Andalusia-based designer has spent the last six months not only becoming a celebrity in Spain – as one of the judges of the national version of Project Runway – but also getting his brand to the next level, which became clear during the show he staged at the capital’s Natural History museum. Palomo’s shows in Madrid are always a sight: friends and fans, including Pedro Almodóvar and Rossy de Palma, come enthusiastically dressed in his designs, often in full makeup, heels, feathered, sequined dresses and oversized hats. It was no different this time, and the theatrical effect was heightened by the presents guests found on their seats, including eight vials’ worth of samples of the designer’s 0+ blood displayed on individual slides. Alejandro Gómez Palomo is literally bleeding for us. BaptisedWunderkammer, the collection took its inspiration from the cabinets of curiosities of the 18th and 19th centuries, which gave the designer the perfect excuse to explore the most obscurely unusual aspects of menswear. The result was an astounding mix of Saharienne-inspired suits, beyond luxurious silk trench coats, 18th-century cut jackets, chinoiserie ensembles, fringed dresses, and corset tops. Two feathered canary yellow ensembles were particularly stunning, as was the show’s opening look, an ivory ensemble with a Fellini-esque feathered hat. And yet, individually, the clothes showed a certain commercial potential. It is now easy to identity a Palomo trouser by its cut; the jackets and coats being the stuff of dreams to any chic man and the bags were not only gorgeous, but also best-selling material. But the most remarkable aspect of the show was the pure emotion it managed to transmit. When, in the middle of the proceedings, a power failure caused the venue to go dark, guests had the simultaneous idea of illuminating the runway with their phones, and at the end of the show a standing ovation was a no-brainer. After all, it had been years since a designer had offered us a collection so raw, emotional, personal, and original, and, in this reporter’s opinion, it was easily the best show of the season, and a true antidote to all the lazy fashion we have been witnessing of late. Alejandro Gómez Palomo is the kind of newness fashion has been waiting for for years, and should he be, say, Parisian, he would be a seriously big deal internationally. For now, let’s rejoice for the genuinely enthusiastic, never blasé crowd he attracts in the Spanish capital, which gives his shows a lot of their uncomplicated charm. And for the fact that he brings absolute top-notch quality and design to Madrid Fashion Week.