How do you define Spanish fashion?
Charo Izquierdo, current director of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Madrid and of various shows and events, has had a long and prestigious career—both in Spain and internationally—in the world of communication, fashion and beauty.
If this article were an Instagram Story, the answer would come in the form of a giant store on any significant shopping street around the world, with a neon caption and a single name: Zara. If this question were posed to international fashion design students, the answer would be a photograph of a haute couture design by Balenciaga. And yet, although both of these answers are fitting and accurate, the truth is that the stars of Spanish fashion can’t be easily condensed and summarised in one list, or even two—unlike the Ten Commandments. Spanish fashion is a collection of a great wealth of stories, many of them untold and unheard, that are full of creativity, passion and in many cases success.
The fashion industry currently accounts for nearly three per cent of the Spanish GDP. Today, Spain’s greatest fashion groups and companies are making the ‘Spanish brand’ known around the world—and in the fashion industry, they find the very best thread with which to weave their identity. This isn’t just a metaphor, a literary analogy or wishful thinking; it’s a fact. As is this statistic: the exports of the Spanish clothing sector were worth 12.182 billion euros in 2017, according to FEDECOM.
It’s also a fact that Spain is a creative country. A few days ago someone asked me what I thought was the best part of Spanish fashion, and that’s what I told them. However, when they asked me about the worst aspect of our country, I said it was the lack of self-esteem: a low sense of worth, which propagates the idea that anything good must come from beyond our borders. Fortunately, ‘Made in Spain’ products are now acquiring more value, or at least the value they deserve by virtue of their quality. At recent international footwear shows, for example, the ‘Made in Spain’ distinction has been strikingly visible at various stands. It’s an issue of sales being synonymous with quality, which is something that’s also relevant when it comes to bridal fashion, for instance. In this industry, our country is second in the world in terms of sales volume, but first in terms of quality. Not to mention the Spanish children’s fashion industry, which is famous for dressing the youngest generation of international royal families.
I’ve intentionally left this next part for last: Spanish creators—the past, present and future participants at IFEMA (the Trade Fair Institution of Madrid) fashion weeks. I’ve done so because I know that this aspect of the fashion industry is eclectic, and not easily defined. It has an invaluable variety and encompasses different business models, from those that are closely tied to the industry to the most independent, and those whose production is most similar to couture. If I were to stick to the ones that have presented on the runways over the past few years at IFEMA’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, I could say that they’re the manifestation of what I just explained—of quality and creativity. There are more and more creators with their own stores (some exclusively online) and many are increasingly experiencing a kind of business that’s linked to the licensing of various products, in which a designer name adds value. Our designers dress global celebrities and appear on the red carpet; they’re essential for certain members of the ‘it’ crowd and even our queen, who is our best ambassador. They’re objects of desire; they’re glamour and they’re business. Modaes.es and promoted by the Association of Spanish Fashion Designers (ACME). in 2016 the Association’s members contributed 442 million euros in sales and 5,800 jobs to the Spanish economy. IFEMA has spent years nurturing through its facilities and fashion shows. Today I can say that, as the director of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and other fashion and lifestyle events at IFEMA, my goal is to balance and synchronise (to avoid using the trite term ‘synergise’) the various subsectors of the huge industry that is Spanish fashion, in order to help promote business at the national and international level. That said, we need society at large—institutions, local and central governments and, of course, the media—to be conscious of the benefits of consuming Spanish fashion and footwear. I am certain that if we truly want to achieve this, we can.