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Madrid's most artistic fashion designers


The designers who show at Madrid Fashion Week are drawing on increasingly eclectic creative sources, resulting in an exciting fusion of artistic inspiration and style, as Beth Druce discovers

Beth Druce portrait
Beth Druce,

The designers showcasing their collections at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid are leaving their mark on the city, increasingly forgoing the predictable and conservative in favour of an innovative, conceptual approach that rivals that of the world’s most creative talents.

Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada is one example. This season, the designer, who heads her own eponymous label, took inspiration from the Post-it note for her spring/summer 2015 collection. Ruiz de la Prada used fluorescent Post-its to inject a pop of luminous colour into the fashion landscape. A multitude of these adhesive tabs were applied to create the mosaic backdrop for her collection, while the show’s finale was a spectacular pink Post-it ball gown with extended train. Ruiz de la Prada has long been a champion of colour and was one of the first designers to bring vibrant prints and bold tones to the event.

A sense of rebellion
‘Madrid Fashion Week serves as both a mirror and complement to the major platforms of Paris, Milan and New York,’ noted fashion commentator Suleman Anaya on the Business of Fashion website. Consequently, recent seasons have seen the same sense of quirky rebellion, that both Paris and London have enjoyed, take hold on the catwalks.

Elena Rial’s debut collection created an immediate buzz thanks to her use of different technical mediums, used to reference the Story of the Vivian Girls by American writer and artist Henry Darger. Rial’s models emerged wearing pieces that artfully fused history and modernity; national costume was juxtaposed with print and texture, referencing Darger’s status as an outsider artist. ‘I like his non-technical way of making artwork,’ Rial explained.

The result was short dresses dotted with cultural motifs, scarves adorned with patriotic stars and stripes, and pleated tunics in a heavy wool felt that evoked heritage uniforms. ‘I tried to make the collection have a particular focus on details and texture,’ said Rial. ‘That’s why I developed the different prints and I embroidered pieces. I took a lot of care in the selection of materials.’

Innovative techniques
David Delfin was working as a painter when he designed his first clothing collection and his background in the mixed mediums of paper, canvas and wood eased his transition between the two. Delfin has shown at both Madrid and New York fashion weeks and his work frequently references enduring historical artefacts, such as handwritten text. This season, grey-blue cotton skirts and suits printed with letters and symbols, in red, yellow, black and white, evoke footprints of the past in a thoroughly modern way.

Another designer who is part of this fashion-as-art movement is Eva Soto Conde. Conde, a fine arts graduate, is renowned for her signature architectural designs and distinctive, vivid colour palettes. For spring/summer 2015, Conde presented show-stopping sculpted dresses in saturated tones of scarlet, crimson and canary yellow – so architecturally rich that they looked as though they had emerged from a 3D printer.

All of these diverse designers share a common desire to document a concept using a variety of different mediums, rather than a single method – an approach that’s more commonly found in the art world. Enrique Yáñez is a Madrid-based designer whose use of mixed medium on canvas displays his reluctance to commit to a specific technique. ‘I feel a constant pull towards new ideas, processes and compositions; to physical colour strengths, techniques and materials,’ Yáñez explains. As a result, his works Geometry Destructive and Man Drinking Coffee are exploratory pieces that refrain from making any grandiose conclusions and, instead, are content to just be.

Finding common ground

While Yáñez represents the more abstract end of the scale, art and fashion are increasingly finding common ground on the high street. El Corte Inglés, the Spanish department store, now has a dedicated art gallery in its flagship store. Espacio de las Artes is invested in providing a platform to document the creative process, in addition to selling art itself. Watch and jewellery retailer Rabat has also broadened its remit to include jewellery of a much more directional quality. Coloured quartz collections that reflect the style of visionary jewellers like Tom Binns are one example.

Madrid’s fashion industry currently has a creative contingent sending a fresh ripple of invention through its heart; breaking down the walls of convention to reveal a city that now has fashion down to a fine art.

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