Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Retrospective of Barcelona Fashion

January saw the annual initiation of Barcelona’s twice annual fashion events, 080 Barcelona Fashion and The Brandery.

Barcelona is known for many things. However, for me, fashion was not one of these. The already established and dominated fashion market belongs within the powers of the ‘Top 4’, being New York, London, Milan and Paris, in their respective order of importance.

Whilst London and New York “Show” twice a year (“Ready to wear” Spring / Summer and Autumn / Winter), Paris and Milan get more bites of this couture laden cherry; showcasing four times a year for Paris, and a record nine times in a year for Milan with all its varying fashion categories.

Having attended 080 Barcelona Fashion, I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the event. Certainly it’s not as vast as Milan’s masterpieces, as opulent as Paris’ presentations or as commercial as London’s lineage. However snugly situated within the grand enclosure of Barcelona’s Placa Del Rei, this location was home to some thirty fashion shows over four days.

From my personal experience of working within the fashion industry for some sixteen years, Barcelona immediately seemed to lack the fundamental pre requisites of its high end competitors. Advertising, prestige and mass marketing did not appear high up on the list of objectives within this city, which was surprising.

Barcelona centre is a Mecca for shoppers. With high end boutiques from Gucci to Guess adorning Passeo De Gracia, through to the more popular Zara and H&M’s enticing high street shoppers at Placa Angel then filtering down to the quirky bespoke boutiques nestling within the narrow Carrer’s of Raval and Gotico.

The general feeling of the fashion events here were that of pride. This is a city willing to foster any sign of an up and coming talent within its apparel industry. This was evident from the fashion shows which presented plenty of unexpected runway moments, from the military influences that saw Manuel Bolano present a successful collection of jackets and dresses composed of raffia, chiffon, velvet and cashmere. Then, at the other end of the spectrum Der Metropol, paying homage to Barcelona’s rich gothic history by providing insect clad puffer jackets and primary coloured shorts, a pseudo retrospective of designer gothic meets athletic inspired pieces.

Overall, the fashion in Barcelona is as rich and diverse as its architecture, both sporting equally impressive servings from Classical and Romanesque to Gothic and Baroque.

The other aspect of the Barcelona fashion industry (within its wider context) that is apparent is the number of model agencies within the city. Twenty of these to be precise, and growing. From the high end offices of Elite Models and Uno, to the newly smaller established agencies. Could this be that Barcelona is hailed as one of “hippest” cities in the world, where it’s cool to see and be seen? According to American television network CBS; the city is one of the top ten in the world for having “The most beautiful people”. I do not know what the criterion for this accolade was, but on an average day walking through the city, I cannot dispute this fact.

It is not only Barcelona however that sports this course, which is evident in most other major capital cities of Europe. The increasing trend for teenagers to the “The Next Top Model” (Insert respective country name after...) within this, what is perceived to be the toughest, cruelest and most lucrative industry in the world? To quote veteran Supermodel Heidi Klum “One day you’re in, the next you’re out”.

Having been involved within the fashion industry in London, Paris and Milan with my company Episode Fashion Management Group, never a day goes by where a “new face” arrives at an office, or a call from a prospective model is taken. “I would like to become a model, what should I do”. We all know someone who has uttered this twenty first century mantra, especially in a time where the models receive such high exposure and salaries.

Increasing numbers of boys and girls are flooding into the market hoping to be the “Next big thing”. Gone are the days when you had to be a 1.80 metre size zero clone. (Think back to the Supermodels of the 1990’s. Cindy, Linda, Cristy et al).

Fashion modelling today has over twenty specific categories, from the typical runway model, to the character model and everything in between. Where as one time, girls would be seen leaving top agencies, having their heart ripped from their D&G sleeve as they did not fit the mark, they are now they are forging links with new ventures and re writing the rules (Remember a 1.68 metre waif Kate Moss spotted in JFK airport by Sarah Doukas of Storm Model Management fame?)

Part of my consultancy within the industry, began by making observations into the transformation of the model management industry. My research, which has now been transformed into a publication entitled “Intuition”, serves as a guide book to teach and train aspiring models about all aspects of the industry, and is due for publication in Summer 2012 in London. In addition to this, I also write a bi monthly blog called “Backstage” which reaches over 7700 readers within Europe. To me it is all about training, education and understanding. There is something for everyone within this industry. The common misconception of being young and classically beautiful is no longer the domain. Identify your niche, work towards it and have confidence.

It just goes to show, within this industry of instantly quantifiable success and sky high revenues that sometimes, all you need is to provide a little help and a lot of love. Something the fashion industry is now acknowledging, and Barcelona fashion is not afraid to do.