Sure, there's a certain thrill in hunting down local designers in the labyrinth streets of Barcelona. But, more often than not, it's a scattered hit list with an uncertain outcome: Is the 12-block trek to visit that one home wares store worth all the time and effort? Very hit and miss.
Curated and quality-tested by FAD (Fostering Arts and Design) — Spain's longest standing institution devoted to identifying, supporting, and nurturing local talent — the Barcelona Designers' Collective pop-up store at La Roca Village is a fashion and design lover's paradise. Bringing together 62 of the region's best independent talents from fashion, art and craft, the Collective showcases over 300 products in one convenient location.
"This is the third edition of the Barcelona Designers' Collective," says Cristina Gosálvez of FAD. "This year, in addition to more designers on display in the pop-up, we have also introduced gastronomy to the line-up. Shoppers can now enjoy a selection of tapas made by a team of young chefs — training at the University College of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Hotel School Sant Pol de Mar — all created from locally sourced produce."
Yes, you heard right folks. You can get your fashion and food fix, all in the same spot. Talk about #fashionmeetsgastronomy.
But why the tie-up with La Roca Village? With 4.3 million guests passing through its gates in 2015, of which 60 per cent were tourists, the Barcelona Designers' Collective pop-up in La Roca offers local brands the exposure to a highly trafficked, and international, retail environment. An undeniably invaluable opportunity for any up-and-coming designer.
Having just visited the village last week (located 45 minutes from the city centre), I had the opportunity to speak to, and pick the brains of, three emerging talents represented in the pop-up. Here's a snapshot of what's on offer at the Barcelona Designers' Collective.
Category: Fashion and accessories
Designer: Pau Esteve Llagostera
Need-to-know: Sportswear inspired collection created for young, urban men and women that value style, but don't want to sacrifice on comfort and practicality.
What was the inspiration behind starting your label?
Pau Esteve: For me, it started with this question to myself: "Why is the fashion for women amazing, but for men, it's so boring and classic?" That question inspired the brand. We started four years ago when I was studying in Berlin.
Who are the people that buy and wear your clothes?
Men who take risks in wearing things that are different. I like to work with textiles that are normally used for women; like silk and lace. Things that have drape and with a soft hand, but offered in a masculine aesthetic. In general, my collection for women is quite masculine, and the clothes for men have a feminine touch. It is not transgender, no. It's for a man and it's for a woman. But the inspiration is the mix of masculine and feminine codes.
You are currently showing your fall/winter 2016 collection at the Barcelona Designers' Collective, entitled DUST. How did you come up with that idea?
It's the concept of archaeology — looking at old things, but presenting them in a new way. We created this print made out of bird bones, but played with it to make it more cyber punk. It's like something very old, the bones, but interpreted in a modern way through this collage digital print.
Do you use a lot of digital prints in your collection generally?
Yes. Two weeks ago we had the fashion show in Barcelona presenting the summer 2016 collection. We collaborated with an acrylic painter to create a new digital print for that collection too.
Fashion is a saturated industry. What do you think a designer needs to do in order to stand out and make their mark?
Nowadays, people don't really separate mass production with slow production. So, for me, it's really about the idea of working in a slow way that will cause people to really value the work of my designs.
Because, as I understand, everything is handmade by you?
Yes. I have an atelier and small showroom in Barcelona. That's the only way we can somehow be different from the rest of the big labels. We are trying to educate our clients of the value in this slow work.
What do you want your man or woman to feel when they put on your clothes?
Very comfortable, but at the same time, it is important that the pieces are timeless and worn for a long time. We try to use textiles that are really durable so that people can wear them in extreme situations — out for a party, enjoying life with their friends. Sporty and stylish clothes for you to live hard in.
Why did you decide to participate in the Barcelona Designers' Collective?
The people in Barcelona are really much more into the labels, you know, not so much into slow fashion or discovering new talents. In Berlin, the young people are really into slow fashion and they want to look different. So for us, the Barcelona Designers' Collective was an opportunity to get close to other local designers, exchange ideas, and help shape the design community in Spain.
Social media and digital have changed the way fashion is communicated globally. How much does digital play a part in your expansion or marketing plans?
Our target market is youngsters between 15 to 30. They're sporty, they like to party. That's our reference. And because these people are into social media, we really push our work on digital — showing behind-the-scenes at our atelier and the design process. But we also send customers, who buy our pieces online, pictures of us creating their clothes. So this is something that we can do to create a connection and to differentiate ourselves from others.
Category: Contemporary jewellery
Designers: Laia Adsuara and Pamela Pérez
Need-to-know: Bold, modern and two-dimensional jewellery handmade in Spain. Limited edition pieces crafted from locally sourced sterling silver and brass.
What was the inspiration behind starting your jewellery brand?
Laia Adsuara: When I was a child I was making things with my hands, and designing things too, so I decided to study jewellery. And from there, things started to grow slowly. My business partner Pamela Pérez and I started to make some items for the market, and then we started to make small collections, and then we decided on the name: Amalia Vermell. In September, the brand will be five years old.
Why the name 'Amalia Vermell'?
Our workshop is on a street called Ray Amalia, and Amalia is a name for a woman. And we just liked the way it sounds and felt that it represented us. Vermell is like colour; the colour red. So it has something very strong and powerful behind it. So in a way, the brand is for a bold and powerful woman.
Everything in your collection is made by hand?
So now that you're almost five, do you have other artisans helping you make jewellery or is it still you and your business partner Pamela?
Just the two of us. We work in a very small atelier. We're don't produce great quantities, so each piece is very special. There are not more than 60 pieces in each collection.
I notice that your work is quite linear; everything is relatively 2D and presented in block colours. What's the inspiration behind this design?
It's a rethinking of classical jewellery; we're trying to change it into another language. But our stating point is the diamond shape. Our first piece was an outline of the diamond in 2D. Normally when you think of a diamond, it's the material — the diamond itself — that is the precious substance. But for us, we are creating a 'diamond' piece of jewellery without the material; just the outline of the diamond shape. So we are always playing with the concept of jewellery from a contemporary point of view. It's simple and we're looking for the minimal.
And the materials you use? Is it sterling silver?
Yes, most of our work is in silver, but some of them are made from brass. We always work in different ways so we like to try and experiment with different materials. We've made a crown out of paper once.
How would you define your customer? Who do you design for?
We're designing for ourselves or for the things that we like. We don't really think about the consumer during the process to be honest, but our customer is someone who likes new things. They're fresh women or men because we are now making things for men too. Someone who likes to wear something different, but not ostentatious. It's something with a bit of detail, but that detail makes all the difference.
How many collections do you have each year?
One or two. We don't follow the seasons, but we go by our inspiration. Because it's jewellery, it is something that you can wear anywhere and anytime; so you don't have to change it every season.
What is your best seller? Is it the diamond shape you referred to earlier?
Yes, it's the diamond shape. That was our first collection and we have reworked that concept and design over the years. But we don't want to work just with this diamond shape. It's something that inspires us for the moment, but things can change.
Amalia Vermell is also available online. Have you noticed a particular region that tends to buy more of your products?
We sell the most of the pieces here in Spain, but we also have some loyal customers in Berlin and in Brussels.
What about Asia?
We haven't really opened our market to Asia, but we just had an exhibition in Singapore. A pop-up in the Singapore Museum that focused on Catalan designers.
Designers: Claudia Perez and Pablo Izquierdo
Need-to-know: A contemporary spin on the iconic Spanish espadrille, combining industrial design and architectural influences to create stylish artisanal footwear.
Tell us about the birth of your brand.
Claudia Perez: Actually, Pablo is an architect and I'm a product designer. So we didn't really study fashion design, but we found out that shoes are like objects with a really complex construction using different materials. So actually, shoes are also a lot like a small building. We started producing shoes by hand to learn about the detailed process in making espadrilles. Not in university, but in a small workshop in Barcelona. And then we decided to work together to create Naguisa.
Why this brand name?
'Naguisa' is actually a Japanese word that means 'waves' — in particular, the lines created by foam along the beach. So we discovered that name and just loved it. The concept of the beach and waves is very Mediterranean. And since we make espadrilles, we are mainly a summer brand, so we decided to call our brand 'Naguisa'.
Are your shoes all handmade here in Spain?
That's right. The soles are from braided jute. It's a natural fibre that allows you to hand-stitch the upper of the shoe to the sole; a very traditional Spanish skill.
You started in July 2012 and now you're in 20 different countries?
Yes, because we showed at the Paris Who's Next tradeshow and a lot of buyers liked our brand and product. We kept growing because our clients from the first year kept buying our shoes for the next season. The main success of our brand is that people see our shoes in the window, they like them, and then when they try it on, it is super comfortable. This combination of design and comfortability is our unique selling point. Most of our clients are actually from Asia — for example, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan.
When most people think of espadrilles, they think of Castañer. What is the difference between your brand and Castañer?
We have to say that the main difference is that Castañer works more with glue; their construction is more like a regular shoe where the upper part of the fabric is glued to the jute sole. It's not stitched. We believe that the hand-stitching in our espadrilles is what makes the shoe mould to your feet. When it's glued, your feet has to mould to the shoes, which is less comfortable.
How would you define your philosophy?
Combining old and new materials with handcrafted techniques. For example, our seven-ribbon espadrille uses traditional ribbons — inspired by a Spanish dancing shoe — but also incorporates innovation in the form of a sneaker-style sole. It's become a cult hit.
Where do you want to be in five years with your brand? What's next for you?
Actually, we want to keep Naguisa as a small brand. We started with two people; just Pablo and I. We did everything. Design, production, marketing. But now we have five in the team, and we think that's a good number. We want to keep our small culture, but still keep developing new products.
The Barcelona Designers' Collective pop-up is open from 22 June to 16 August 2016 at La Roca Village.
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