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MADRID — Spain has been at a political standstill since last October when Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy failed to claim a majority vote, and now, after two general elections, nothing has changed.

With few exceptions, Spanish fashion is in the same boat as the government — fragmented and stagnant.

At the recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid, held in the fairgrounds here, the players made news more for who didn’t show than for who did. Key dropouts included Roberto Etxeberría, whose stylish men’s wear has long been a staple on the Spanish capital’s runway. The Barcelona-based designer said he doesn’t sell in Spain so he’s going where his markets are – Singapore and Lima, Peru.

Other no-shows were David Delfin, who is battling a serious illness, and Angel Schlesser. His namesake company was recently purchased by El Corte Inglés executive Oscar Areces and the brand showed but, for the first time in 26 years, without the creative input of its founder.

For the second season, veteran participant Roberto Verino bypassed the fashion week. The designer from the northern region of Galicia is a proponent of the instant fashion phenomenon in order to better serve the consumer, he said.

“What difference does the next season mean to customers when he or she is looking to buy now? These are different times that require new ways of doing business. There is a need for immediacy,” Verino said.

With dates once again overlapping with the London shows, overseas buyers were in short supply at fashion week, confirmed a spokeswoman for IFEMA, a self-financed public consortium that organizes Madrid’s fashion events. Provisional figures for the five-day event came in at roughly 50,000 visitors — or a 10 percent drop compared with the previous edition.

According to Francesco Malatesta, an independent fashion consultant and former IFEMA director: “Madrid is much too long. It’s more like a fashion season than a fashion week, which makes it difficult for buyers and customers to get the necessary information from different platforms, ongoing trade events, showrooms and web sites. There is no fashion council here and no precise product definition. Nobody knows what they are going to see, winter or summer, ready-to-wear or couture or what the distribution options are. Tighter organization is a must for the future if we are to capture the attention of international retailers,” he concluded.

Still, there were highlights, including:

  • Spain’s multifaceted designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, who reportedly helms upward of 50 licensees — from washing machines to house paint — launched a  line of beachwear including one-piece swimsuits, bikinis, spunky cover-ups and boxer robes, oversized totes and sky-high spongy mules in signature brights like berry/orange, turquoise, red and white with traditional heart motifs. Fresh from New York where Spain’s so-called “Queen of Color” was the international guest for Uptown Fashion Week, she said she was “born for fashion weeks,” and by way of confirmation, ticked off the brand’s recent participation in Miami, Bolivia, Honduras, Peru, Mexico and Poland, among others.
    • Heading an artisanal company with a bespoke product range, Teresa Helbig is celebrating her 20th year in business. The Catalan designer sent out a collection of what local media dubbed “cabaret chic.” Dance-themed silhouettes included girlish minidresses and tap shorts (both staples of the house), tutus, rompers and a little swimwear in luxury, one-of-a-kind hand-worked fabrics and metallics with allover sequins, feathers and intricate beading. Her first fragrance line, made up of three women’s scents by Carner Barcelona, launched in August and is distributed in Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Helbig sells by appointment only from her showroom/atelier housed in a 1905 Modernist building in Barcelona’s retail-heavy Eixample neighborhood.
  • The Muñoz twins, Aitor and Iñaki, co-owners of Ailanto, a Barcelona-based women’s label with international accounts in Germany, the U.K., Japan, Taiwan, Australia and the U.S., where the Anthropologie chain is a key customer, took inspiration from the Impressionist paintings of Claude Monet. A controlled take on boho femininity, the collection in silk, crepe and cotton featured exclusive floral and botanical prints for a series of long summer dresses and caftan styles, pattern-mixed separates and shorts. The brand is celebrating its 15th year.
  • Once again, Madrid-based label Alvarno, by co-creative directors Arnaud Maillard and Alvaro Castejón, took to the runway with high theatrics and plenty of attitude. For next summer, the duo took over the parking lot (replete with eight Smart Fortwo cars) of nightclub Alvarno, which translated into the week’s briefest show (less than 10 minutes) packed with party dresses, mini-lengths or floor-sweepers, animal prints, bi-color jacquards and contrasting material combos like Neoprene and lace, and a slew of abstract floral overlays and cascading Baroque embroideries. The newest silhouette was an updated cargo pant with oversized pockets. Key colors included fuchsia, cobalt blue, tangerine, yellow, black and white. Founded in 2009, the Alvarno brand opened its first store last year on Madrid’s tony Calle de Hermosilla.
  • Ana Locking never plays by the books, agreed creator/designer Ana González. For the coming season, her “The Thinker” collection is based on “the search for a certain harmony in imperfection,” she said, or military discipline versus artistic chaos. There were minidresses and knee-hovering lengths, a few pants and pretty florals in cotton voile. A camouflage print, ruffles (a favorite of the Madrid-based designer) and allover sequins were tossed into the same mix. The color palette featured a range of greens, lapis lazuli, cherry and Sangria red. In addition to the U.S., González’s principal markets abroad are China, Indonesia, the Czech Republic and Kuwait. The label will show for the third consecutive season at the Intercontinental Hotel during Paris Fashion Week.
  • Felipe Varela, 48-year-old Madrid-based dressmaker to Queen Letizia of Spain for more than a decade, was back again after last February’s show — his second appearance at Madrid Fashion Week since 2002. He sent out a straightforward evening/special-occasion message based on a ladylike grouping of minidresses and skirts; a few longer lengths (best was a shapely white column with a little sheer and cutouts); jackets and shorts, with lace, sequins, metallic leathers and trims, and the occasional mink stole – all in white, black, red and blue.
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