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Madrid International Fashion Week

Millionaire ventures into this year’s most talked about fashion week in Madrid and discovers an artistic city that walks – and not just on the runway
text Shalini Seth

fashion tourist


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Botero sculpture at Plaza de Colón


hatever else fashion might profess, it never claimed that it would make you healthier in its pursuit … till September last year. “There is no such thing as a fashion victim,” says leonor Perez Pita, the director of Pasarela Cibeles, the madrid international Fashion Week, five minutes before she joins those at the front row. She is used to questions on the topic from most of international press this year after doctors at the fashion event turned down five models for being too thin. “We don’t want a teenager to think that arms hanging from their shoulders and ribs that you can see at the back is a standard of beauty,” says leonor, adding that other catwalks will follow if they have not done so already. it is easy to associate health with fashion as you walk down to the venue of the 57th Pasarela Cibeles at Parque del Buen retiro, one of the parks in madrid’s centre. models teetering on high heels are not as visible as matrons pedalling away furiously, dogs being walked, and joggers jogging. all around you, there is someone jogging or power-walking in madrid – on the sidewalks, on the periphery of the park – at all hours of the day. The models, when you do see them, are impossibly tall, on impossibly high heels, but within the probable limit of thinness, only 0.5 less than the WHo recommended 18.5 Bmi, or body mass index. leonor Perez Pita is sure that the world will follow madrid’s

It Is only when you walk a full cIrcle, comIng to the other sIde of the massIve legs, that you see the daIntIness of the lady holdIng a mIrror no larger than the sIde vIew mIrrors on the scooters that stIll zIp around the cIty
move. “at the beginning, in September [2006], other catwalks said that this was not a great step to take. now milano has started taking steps. london has started on age of the models. They want them to look beautiful. Probably they have not taken the step of measuring the body mass index yet, but they will eventually.”

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located in madrid’s most expensive area by cost per square metre is the vast Parque del Buen retiro, where the fashion week is viewed by more than six million people on television worldwide. You are reminded of just how big the park is when you spend a good half hour walking from one end to the other along the city’s most expensive shopping street right next to it. “This in the centre of madrid. it is more emblematic. People can walk in the retiro on a nice sunny day and at the same time watch the show,” says leonor. For a fashion tourist witnessing the world’s first “healthy” fashion week, there are plenty of emblems. a particularly chubby merchild sits pretty at the entrance. rubenesque is not a mere word in the city – madrid’s Prado museum boasts of some of the finest portraits of Pietro Pauolo rubens, including “The Three Graces” that also features the artist’s wife, Helena Fourment.

at the traffic light near the Plaza de Colón, you suddenly come across a reclining woman. When you are walking down from the Plaza, the first eye-level view is that of huge thighs and buttocks seen from behind. “She is so sensuous and beautiful – this fat lady,” Blanca Hernandez, who is taking us on a walking tour of the city, tells us. it is only when you walk a full circle, coming to the other side of the massive legs, that you see the daintiness of the lady holding a mirror no larger than the side view mirrors on the scooters that still zip around the city. Everyone is familiar with the artist Fernando Botero, who is known for paintings and sculptures noted for their exaggerated proportions and the corpulence of the human and animal figures. if you are unkind, you might say that no one in the fashion world had heard of madrid till they banned thin models. Be that as it may, it would be a comment on the fashion world’s shortsightedness that it has not noticed designers such as miriam ocariz, alma aguilar, andres Sarda, Carmen march, Juanjo olivia, Kina Fernandez, antonio alvardo, Carlos Diez and Jose miro. The clothes on the ramp make the cut – even in the state-sponsored fashion week, which leonor Perez Pita tells us costs the government >

Jesûs Del Pozo

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€3million. “The designers pay absolutely nothing. models, hairdo, make up and even their invites are paid for,” she says.

The designers have crossed Spanish shores to make it in markets as diverse as Kuwait and the United States. anke Schlöder sells not only in Germany, Belgium, France and England but also in Kuwait and Saudi arabia. alma aguilar’s three permanent showrooms include one in new York’s, the only Spaniard in that prestigious space. antonio alvarado, who settled in madrid in 1980 and has been a part of Pasarela Cibeles since its first edition back in 1984, is a much-talkedabout designer. art overlapped a bit when he presented an installation titled “Egomaniac” for the Campari alter Ego campaign last year in June. mirian ocariz retails from the US to Kuwait, Japan and Greece. Elio Berhanyer designs for Her majesty Queen Sofia and the royal, infanta Doña Pilar, amongst many others. agatha ruiz de la Prada, who has a showroom in Salamanca, rushed off to milan immediately from Cibeles. more importantly, Cibeles fulfils the prerequisite of a good
Miguel Marinero

The entrance to the show area

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movIng far, far ahead of the mandatory flamenco frIlls, the desIgns take on the asymmetrIc, hIgh-waIst versIons of the bolero and are routInely InspIred by spanIsh art and artIsts
fashion event – promoting a regional aesthetic. moving far, far ahead of the mandatory flamenco frills, the designs take on the asymmetric, high-waist versions of the bolero and are routinely inspired by Spanish art and artists. in this year’s designs, Carmen march looks for inspiration in the women represented in Spanish paintings by Velazquez, Goya, Zuloaga, El Greco, Soroya, Picasso and Fortuny.

in another take, amaya arzuaga brought horsehair on the ramp mixed with laminated wool, cashmere and plastic. Her models sashayed around with their own hair wrapped around the neck like collars, clad in jackets with backs or tassels of horsehair – blonde or black. Her show was marvellously well-attended with loud cheers and encouraging claps. in another deliciously Spanish take, far removed from the rising snoot-quotient in other similar events, are some mom-and-pop shows. as they clap vigorously when an outfit makes it to the ramp, in the brand emblems or colours, you can see the missed dinners that must have gone into the making of the outfit. But regardless of how new or established the designer, finding a seat on the front row never seemed to be an issue here. You could spot someone squatting or sitting cross-legged at someone else’s feet, and no devils in Prada. of course, each time a white-haired lady came to watch the shows, rumours went out that she had the most extensive collection of haute couture in all Europe. it is not only the fact that the enthusiasts on the front row don’t think enthusiasm is blasé. The city is happily fashionable. all over, pink and orange banners with the show’s logo of >

Salamanca, the luxury-shopping destination of Madrid

Walking stick figures demonstrate which way to go


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Elio Berhanyer

exclamatory heels announce the fashion week. There are as many varieties of jacket on the streets near the centre as there are on the catwalk. and hardly any are black. red, hues of brown, patchwork, buff, purple – we encountered them all. and even if someone is in regulation black, colour creeps in in the form of fluorescent green ballerina shoes, a bright red bag or blue hair.

Salamanca, the luxury-shopping destination of madrid, is just round the corner; a mere five-minute walk from the park that is hosting the fashion week, everyone says. if you need directions you only have to look at the signboards that underline the city’s determination of “we will, we will walk you”. instead of the usual arrows pointing in the right directions, walking stick figures demonstrate which way to go. Two hours and some time later, we turn back having witnessed the district’s commercial identity, especially in Calle de Serrano in the Salamanca, known as madrid’s Golden mile of shops. Fashion, jewellery, footwear – it is all there, with jewellery shops locked with shopkeepers inside, only opening when customers peer in. The district, formed by 50 streets and avenues, is arranged in the form of a grid in the style of Haussman’s Paris. You will find jewellers like Carrera y Carrera at Serrano that has been there since 1895, alongside Diesel, and Carolina Herrera who has a lovely, dark corner boutique. Farrutx (Serrano, 7) is famous in madrid for its hand-made shoes. Hoss has some beautiful feminine styles and is a must-see. amaya arzuaga, one of Spain’s top designers, with sexy, bold options for women, also retails there. alternative, younger and funky hippy styles are found in the barrio of Chueca. The main streets to visit are Fuencarral and Calle Hortaleza. They both start at Gran Via, and head up towards the Tribunal area. The further away from Gran Via you get, the more alternative the styles. We landed there one evening and found everything from the indian Ganesha to dosa being sold in the name of fusion.

Francis Montesinos

Elio Berhanyer

at plaza major artIsts pItch a canvas on the street and you can go InspIratIon-spottIng whIlst admIrIng theIr work. dIego velázquez’s “las menInas”, whIch depIcts the Infanta margarIta shows up on earrIngs, stamps, bags and more

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The centre between Gran Via and Puerta del Sol is bursting with more commercial shops like mango, Zara, Pimkie, Bershka, H&m (on Gran Via) and the department store El Corte ingles. You’ll also find Top Shop in the Puerta del Sol. Head down the Calle mayor and Calle arenal directly off Puerta del Sol and you’ll find several women’s shops. on the arenal, look for Blanco and at Calle mayor, 37 Custo Barcelona – the über trendy store that clothes stars such as Christina aguilera and Julia roberts.

a week in Spain can transform you from a mere fashion tourist into an aesthete. Every square or junction has a sculpture hoisted on it with periods overlapping each other. The Spaniards are proud of the city, with official and unofficial walking tours that familiarise you with everything from 20th century architecture to art and palaces in the city. “i have been doing this for 20 years. i love madrid; it’s the best city in the world,” Blanca tells us. The Centro de arte reina Sofia is one of the best venues in Europe for major exhibitions. its centrepiece is Picasso’s “Guernica” – undoubtedly the most famous painting of the 20th century. The rest of the permanent collection contains works by virtually every noted Spanish artist of this century, including

Dali and miro, along with many others by non-Spanish artists. Spanish masterpieces including Goya’s “la maja Desnuda” and “The Third of may 1808” and Velazquez’s “las meninas”, as well as many works from the italian, Flemish and Dutch schools make their way on to souvenirs such as T-shirts, watches and even aprons in areas such as Plaza major where artists pitch a canvas on the street and you can go inspiration-spotting whilst admiring their work. Diego Velázquez’s “las meninas”, which depicts the infanta margarita, is a particular favourite and shows up on earrings, stamps, bags and more. “i don’t like souvenirs,” Blanca says when we ask her about where to go hunting for them. What she recommends is better than any souvenir we could have found. it is the 74-proof local alcohol called anis de Chinchón, a kind of anisette liquer produced in the village of Chinchón, madrid. Blanca says that the secret of Chinchón is that it is sweet so you don’t realise quite how much you have consumed till its effects become visible. Chinchón is available at every supermarket. “it is very good for health. You should have a little after dinner,” the shopkeeper tells us, adding that the real Chinchón drinkers in Spain are older women, ladies who drink it just for its curative properties or as a digestive, and to stay young. We just knew there had to be a health connection somewhere, after all.

An artist’s work at Plaza Major

Park Retiro – the venue for the fashion week

Artist at work at Plaza Major

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