By  on September 2, 2014

Spanish fashion is taking the approach that bigger is better.

It’s all coming together for the industry, which for the first time is combining editions of five major trade events — Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid, Momad Metropolis (ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories), Intergift, Bisutex and MadridJoya (gifts, jewelry and watches) — to be held Sept. 11 to 16 in 12 halls of the Juan Carlos I fairgrounds.

IFEMA, the Madrid Trade Fair Institute, a self-financed public consortium and organizer of Madrid’s fashion-focused trade events, calls the multicategory bonanza “the largest global showcase for fashion and trends in southern Europe.”

“The coming season is an all-in-one event with 1,800 brands and every Spain-made, fashion-related item under one roof,” said Luis Eduardo Cortés, IFEMA’s executive president. “Our mission is to sell image and fashion —– especially to international markets. If we don’t defend the Spanish product, who will?”

IFEMA director general Fermín Lucas said 110,000 visitors are expected during the six-day run, including 55 percent foreigners from about 70 countries.

He cited a Foreign Buyers Program IFEMA will host in conjunction with Momad, targeting specific retailers from France, Italy, Mexico, the U.S., Russia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

“What’s wonderful this season, our 60th edition, is the togetherness,” said Leonor Pérez-Pita, director of Madrid Fashion Week. There will be 40 designers, including 30 established veterans and a group of 10 newcomers under the Ego banner.

“It’s the most complete edition in our history,” she added, ticking off major new participants such as Desigual.

It’s the first time a purveyor of fast fashion will take to the Madrid runway — for women’s only, because the colorful Barcelona brand recently unveiled men’s wear at the Catalan capital’s biannual 080 June-July edition. Desigual will open MBFWM on Sept. 11 at 8 p.m.

Sixty-five percent of MBFWM is underwritten by 16 weighty sponsors, she said. Besides Mercedes-Benz, L’Oréal and, for the fifth season, Inditex, owner of the Spanish retail chain Zara, are sponsors, which she called “fundamental support.” An additional 30 percent is put up by IFEMA and roughly 5 percent is generated through an entrance fee of 4,000 euros (or $5,414 at current exchange) per designer.

“We get no help from the regional government — and haven’t for the past six years,” continued Pérez-Pita, who has headed the runway event since its 1985 inception. “IFEMA pays for everything: lighting, music, hair, seamstresses, models’ board and transportation, we guarantee it all. Tell me what other fashion week does that.”

Other designers scheduled to make their debuts at MBFWM this season include the Madrid-based brand Alvarno by co-creative directors Arnaud Maillard and Alvaro Castejón. The duo is also in its third season with Azzaro in Paris. “If you want to get your message across in Spain,” said Maillard, “you have to be with Madrid Fashion Week.” In the past, the designers have been vocal about the event’s lack of international attention, but “fashion is evolutionary and we have to be the same,” said Maillard.

Echoing other designers here, it’s the only game in town, he said, “It’s what there is [in Spain].”

Generally speaking, younger designers are “more open-minded; they know the business problems involved with establishing a brand,” said Pérez-Pita, who said newer faces at fashion week will also include Ulises Mérida, who trained under established locals such as Jesús del Pozo and Agatha Ruiz de la Prada. Mérida is one of eight newcomers who, over the years, started in the Samsung-financed Ego, a platform for emerging talents established by IFEMA in February 2006, and have moved up to the general catwalk, she said. He’ll share the runway with Rabaneda (by 27-year-old Daniel Rabaneda), whose Madrid debut last year showed some spunk with asymmetric cuts and graphic material mixes, such as Neoprene and waterproof fabrics. Mérida and Rabaneda will open MBFWM’s fourth day, Sept. 14, at 11 a.m.

September dropouts include Seville-based Victorio & Lucchino and Madrid’s Maria Barros, but Pérez-Pita was quick to add, “Ninety-nine percent [of the dropouts] return within a season or two.”

On the other hand, some of Spain’s top catwalk alums, such as Josep Font, creative director of Delpozo, and Carmen March of Pedro del Hierro Madrid, no longer show at fashion week since being acquired by major companies, Grupo Perfumes & Diseño and Cortefiel, respectively.

To draw a wider audience, MBFWM will live-stream the shows at two downtown venues, the just-opened gastronomic-leisure multiuse space Espacio Platea Madrid in Plaza Colon and the Conde Duque Cultural Center.

“It’s the first time all of Spain’s fashion sectors and categories are together,” reiterated Momad director Francesco Malatesta. “It looks to be a major fashion event, and it’s very motivating for exhibitors and buyers — and that’s the idea.”

He confirmed the multifair format is on the drawing board for another three or four seasons “to build our identity and define our made-in-Spain position and to attract brands to the Spanish market. We want to be local and international at the same time.”

Momad Metropolis runs Sept. 12 to 14.

“Key markets, and where we are targeting our budget, are Latin America, Russia, the Middle East and Asian countries, especially China,” Malatesta said.

Exhibitors range from the Danish fashion group Bestseller, which is bringing in seven of its brands, and Argentinean sports producer La Martina to such upscale ready-to-wear labels as Barcelona-based Javier Simorra and first-timer Roberto Verino, who will feature tropical florals and linen separates, said Linda Heras, international development director. She said the northern-Spain-based Verino is scouting international contacts and franchising options. The brand sells throughout the domestic market, at 13 in-store shops in Mexico’s Liverpool department store chain, and El Corte Inglés in Lisbon and Porto, Portugal.

Portugal is this season’s guest country for all five fairs because, as Spain’s Iberian neighbor, it accounts for the largest number of foreign visitors and vendors annually to IFEMA’s fashion-related events — 5.6 percent (visitors) and 13.5 percent (vendors).

“In the future, we’ll see many more activities integrating the city,” said Malatesta. “We’re going forward, but you can’t do everything at once. We’ll be sticking to the concept of a very big fashion week — and we’ll be doing it step-by-step.”

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