A Tale of Two Cities

BARCELONA — The talk of the ready-to-wear shows — both here and in Madrid — was the catfight raging between the two cities. The debacle began when the Spanish government announced its global plan for the fashion industry last year....

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BARCELONA — The talk of the ready-to-wear shows — both here and in Madrid — was the catfight raging between the two cities. The debacle began when the Spanish government announced its global plan for the fashion industry last year. The plan called for one “universal” runway show per season — not one runway show per city per season.

This story first appeared in the November 27, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

But which city would do the honors? Industry leaders said roughly 75 percent of the domestic apparel sector is produced here, so Barcelona is more deserving. Whatever the reason, the Catalan capital pulled out the stops recently in order to be el numero uno. For instance, the September show, which ran from the 3rd to the 9th at Montjuïc’s Palacio 1, changed its name — and concept — from Moda Barcelona to Semana Internacional de la Moda Barcelona, or Barcelona’s International Fashion Week. More than 40 designers and manufacturers participated in seven days of catwalk presentations side-by-side with a small trade fair — 152 exhibitors stretching more than 61,000 square feet. The week offered fashion-themed films and photo exhibitions and a lively cultural program. Jordi Pujol who is president of the regional government, La Generalitat, a major financial supporter of Barcelona’s fashion week, hosted a high-powered dinner in the presidential palau (palace in Catalan) to help boost Barcelona’s image as the fashion capital of Spain. (According to published reports, the Generalitat contributed three million euros to Barcelona’s fashion sector this year.) The dinner honored local designers Antonio Miro (for his 20-year career) and Josep Font (for his promising international trajectory). Pedro Almodóvar (in Armani) was rewarded for shooting his Oscar-winning film, “Todo Sobre Mi Madre,” in Barcelona. The director arrived on the arm of Madrid megaretailer Elena Benarroch, owner of Madrid’s chicest multibrand store, as well as a Walter Steiger store. Madrid’s fashion week, Semana Internacional de la Moda (or SIMM) continues to go it alone, with no government help, said Pola Iglesias, director.

“There is no external funding. IFEMA (Madrid’s trade fair organizer) has nothing to do with the government. It is an open company. The fairs pay for themselves from exhibitor and entrance fees; each fair has its own budget. Trade events are more important than ever,” she emphasized. “Personal contact and the chance to touch the product are fundamental to commercial success.”

According to published reports, IFEMA’s revenues last year totalled 103 million euros, with a profit of 17.6 million euros. For 2002, revenues are expected to reach 131 million euros, with an estimated profit of 22.7 million euros. Held at the Juan Carlos I fairgrounds, Madrid’s September fairs registered significant increases, according to fair organizers, who added there is no indication that trend won’t continue.

For example:

SIMM vendors increased 6 percent over September 2001, to 799 from 27 countries, and they spread over 15 percent more space or 234,000 square feet. The ready-to-wear fair ran Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.

Modacalzado, the Spanish shoe show, and IBERPIEL, a small leathergoods fair, held in tandem Sept. 27 to 29 totalled a 7.8 percent increase in visitors — to 23,251 — over fall 2001. Included in these figures were 2,367 buyers from other countries, meaning foreign attendance rose 25.2 percent.

Textilmoda, a textile fair for apparel manufacturers, held its third edition Sept. 3 to 5, with an attendance total of 3,759, up 5 percent over the previous year. Two-hundred and eighty-two foreigners, a 50 percent increase, came from Portugal, Ireland, Mexico and Chile. Coinciding with the ferias and to highlight Madrid’s preeminence in the world of international fashion, IFEMA blanketed the Spanish capital and foreign markets with cartels and banners proclaiming Madrid vive la moda (Madrid lives fashion) at a purported cost of 640,000 euros. The promotional campaign will continue next year, sources said.

In terms of Barcelona’s ability to draw crowds, according to figures provided by fair organizer Flaqué Int., upward of 25,000 attended the runway shows while Salon Gaudi Mujer, the trade event, drew 7,594 visitors, with 38 percent from the province of Cataluña; 32 percent from the rest of Spain; and 30 percent foreigners — a hike of 10 percent over the previous edition, organizers said. Buyers came from France, Belgium, Holland, the U.K. and Russia. In general, vendors said the trade fair was strictly a local event. They agreed the global economic downturn and confusion over the euro played a big part in keeping retailers away.

“The problem with the euro has affected consumers all over Europe. They are reluctant to buy because they’re afraid of how much they’re spending,” said one exhibitor. “It’s been a tough year; multibrand stores in Spain are really struggling,” said Anna Camprodon, export sales manager of Armand Basi, one of Barcelona’s heaviest hitters. Meanwhile, Basi is consolidating product and image.

“The most effective way to promote a total look, which is what we’re after, is through our own stores. With 13 retail outlets in Spain, we’re covered, more or less. Currently, we are concentrating on new markets in the U.K. [where Basi has two stores, in London and Birmingham] and Scotland. “In the U.S., both Macy’s West and Nordstrom picked up Basi’s winter 2003 line,” Camprodon said.

According to Alex Flaqué, the executive director of Barcelona’s fashion week, next year’s edition (Feb. 4 to 7 for the Gaudi runway shows and Feb. 7 to 9 for the trade fair) will have the same format and cultural offerings as September 2002, “only better, with more foreign participation — that, I guarantee.”

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