Madrid’s most revered brands are those which have endured for a century or more. From a department store that changed the face of retail to a historic leather brand that is at the forefront of fashion today, we step back in time via some of the Spanish capital’s oldest boutiques
One of the most exciting pursuits on a city break is discovering the brands that have come to define a destination. Exploring the stores which have become inextricably linked with a city over the decades helps us to understand the unique charm of a place; the fashion spirit of Paris, for example, is epitomised by its luxury couture powerhouses, that of London by its bespoke tailors.
An essential part of El Corte Inglés's appeal is its impressive product selection, with its branches offering shop-in-shops from the crème de la crème of luxury brands - Prada, Louis Vuitton and Cartier among them
In Madrid, time-honoured department stores and much-loved menswear brands sit side by side with affordable favourites that have come to be synonymous with Spanish fashion. While Zara and Mango are certainly enticing, make time for Madrid’s longstanding heritage brands and you’re sure to get the most out of your international shopping adventure.
El Corte Inglés is a department store chain which took its name in 1890 from a small tailor’s shop. The company as we know it today was incorporated in 1940, after El Corte Inglés purchased its first multistorey building, a concept that later defined the brand’s retail endeavours. Fast forward 75 years and El Corte Inglés has upmarket department stores across Spain and Portugal, as well as seven Gourmet Experience food concepts and over 50 restaurants, and it owes it all to Madrid, the city which nurtured its evolution. ‘Madrid is the home of El Corte Inglés’s conception, where it established the current “sales by departments” approach inside a department store,’ explains Javier Fernandez Andrino, international marketing and tourism director for the brand. ‘The business has grown and developed to become the group you see today.’
An essential part of El Corte Inglés’s appeal is its impressive product selection, with its branches offering shop-in-shops from the crème de la crème of luxury brands – Prada, Louis Vuitton and Cartier among them – as well as jewellery, watches and health and beauty offerings. Andrino continues, ‘If there is one thing that has characterised the department stores it’s the product variety, the chance for customers to find everything imaginable in the same store, from the best brands in Spanish and international fashion to the latest technology releases, and all with the highest quality support and personalised assistance.’
He adds that, though a stellar product mix is certainly one of the reasons for El Corte Inglés’s sucess, its endurance goes beyond the items it stocks. ‘El Corte Inglés has worked from the very beginning to position itself at the forefront of customer service, with the company able to foresee changes and needs in society and incorporate the latest technology into the business,’ he says. ‘Therefore, the range, specialisation, quality and guarantee, in addition to customer service and personalised assistance, are the beating heart of all its commercial activity.’
Casa Loewe is another must-visit on your trip to the Spanish capital. Leather specialist Loewe was founded in 1846 and today is one of the most renowned brands in the world. The stunning Casa Loewe flagship on Calle de Serrano offers an experience akin to a visit to an art gallery, with murals and sculpture set amid the stunning handbags and womenswear. Creative director Jonathan Anderson has brought the brand firmly into the 21st century during his tenure, and nowhere is that more apparent than at this captivating store. Miss the latest collection of ‘It’ bags here at your peril.
Like El Corte Inglés, historic brand Yusty also has its origins in tailoring. José Yusty Morales opened his menswear store on Calle de Campoamor in 1914 upon completion of his training. ‘Tailored garments – suits, jackets, shirts – were highly appreciated among the Madrilenian elite back in those days,’ explains Daniel Yusty, grandson of the founder. The store’s product selection remains as refined as it always was, with the suit still forming the backbone of the Yusty’s output. ‘Tailoring is in our DNA. It is from where we were born. We see the suit as a comfortable garment due to the evolution of fabrics, and a very personalised garment too, as nowadays each client can easily order his or her own jacket or suit with their particular measurements and style.’
Yet Yusty also recognises that the more traditional menswear staples have had to metamorphose to meet the needs of the modern customer. ‘We are in constant evolution and so is the way we dress – it is a reflection of ourselves,’ he says. ‘Menswear is now more comfortable and easy, with a wide range of options depending on your lifestyle, or your mood.’ These more wearable styles are executed with the utmost panache at the Yusty boutique. ‘Madrid has always been a very elegant city, and locals generally dress very well,’ observes Yusty. To take home a little Madrilenian elegance for yourself, be sure to visit the Yusty boutique.