By  on November 7, 2006

MEXICO CITY — Fashion Week Mexico is fighting for the attention of global buyers and press, and this season did what many of its competitors have done: introduced awards.

At the inaugural Mexico Fashion Awards, sponsored by Lycra, Louis Verdad took the prize for best women's collection with his elegantly tailored grown-up girly looks. Verdad, who opened Los Angeles Fashion Week a week before, was a special invited guest. It was his first appearance at Fashion Week Mexico.

"I feel extremely flattered to return [to Mexico] triumphantly, as a leader," Verdad, who was born in the U.S. but raised in Mexico, said. "It's a huge compliment. I feel fulfilled as a person, as a designer and as a Latino."

The award for best runway show went to Julia y Renata, whose conceptual, irregularly cut line with cascading folds was inspired in part by the music of John Cage. "This season we're trying to re-create through cut and texture the surprise of an unexpected moment and the resolution of that moment through improvisation," explained Renata Franco, one-half of the designer sister team.

The Mexico fashion darlings, who have sold to Tracey Ross in Los Angeles and New York's Ash, will represent Mexico at the April 21 "world premiere" event for World Fashion Week, in Los Angeles. (World Fashion Week makes its debut in spring 2008.)

Clara González was named best new designer. The 21-year-old spent two years at Parsons School of Design (now Parsons The New School for Design) in New York and recently graduated from the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara. María Scheleske was named best accessories designer. The awards were decided by an independent jury of fashion judges including Toni Salamanca, editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar En Español; model-actress Martha Cristiana; fashion photographer Carlos Latapí, and designer Arturo Ramos.

The 16th edition of Fashion Week Mexico was held here Oct. 24 to 27 at the Camino Real Mexico hotel. With attendance nearing 16,000 for a total of 44 spring shows, organizers described it as the most successful edition to date.

"One of our biggest goals is to grow the concept of Mexican fashion," said José Andrés Patiño, director and executive producer of Fashion Week Mexico. "In terms of public interest, this was our most successful fashion week."The spring runway presentations ran the gamut from excellent (Verdad, Julia y Renata, Macario Jiménez, the Santo men's collection) to promising (the Goth-inspired Malafacha line, Peru's Jorge Luis Salinas, a host of designers making their debuts) to entertaining (Sergio Alcalá, Sweet & Dandy, Barbie by Viviana Parra).

Then there was the painful: Morgana's operatic Transylvania-inspired frocks and Maribel Gaytán's circus show complete with ballerinas, gymnasts, drummers and a guest model from Texas who looked like a cross between Morticia Addams and Jenna Jameson.

Indeed, avoiding such dichotomy is now a top priority for organizers.

"Over four days, we saw a great quantity and variety of runway shows in a single forum — from consecrated designers such as Louis Verdad or Macario Jiménez to totally new faces and children's collections," said Patiño. "Moving forward, we want to redefine that structure and offer different forums so that we can maintain the high-quality level of Fashion Week Mexico."

There was also one headline-grabbing last-minute cancellation. Veteran Mexican designer Armando Mafud, of hand-painted gown fame, showed up 40 minutes after his scheduled start time with his dresses still in suitcases. Upon arrival, the visibly agitated designer verbally and physically abused a backstage manager. When organizers decided to pull the plug on his show, Mafud became even more enraged. He tried to storm the runway area from the main entrance but was blocked by security. He then lodged accusations of foul play at show organizers and ultimately fled the complex, carrying on his tantrum with the national press in subsequent days.

"[Mafud] arrived late, unprepared and with a highly aggressive attitude," said Patiño. "I don't have the slightest doubt that we made the correct decision [in canceling his show]."

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