MODA BARCELONA: COLORFUL AND UNDERSTATED

Byline: Barbara Barker

BARCELONA — High-voltage colors and techno fabrics marked Moda Barcelona, a three-day ready-to-wear and swimwear trade fair here and a marathon two days of fashion shows.
Upscale makers offered razor-sharp knits, soft feminine dressing, relaxed activewear references and in swimwear, a no-frills approach and a range of coverups. Prints were limited to pretty florals and quiet geometrics.
The event, which ran through Sept. 19, pulled in a trickle of international retailers from Great Britain, Germany, Belgium and Russia. Attendance, according to show officials, dropped 0.7 percent from last year’s edition, to 31,125. Still, vendors said they were generally pleased with traffic and activity.
Moda Barcelona’s apparel salon, held at the Montjuic 2 fairgrounds, featured 98 exhibitors, and the Intibano swimwear-lingerie section, about 30.
While understatement is not what Spaniards do best, Barcelona fashion resources gave it a try — and in many cases, it worked. Here are some highlights from the five-day event.
David Valls showed outdoors in a gothic museum patio in Barcelona’s old quarter. The setting was terrific and so were his knits — long shapely dresses with sheer nylon jackets and dusters and waistless halter styles with ribbed necklines. There were also dropped-sleeve sweaters with long skirts and shrunken baby tops with contrasting stitch patterns. Like other Spanish designers, Valls favored a variety of greens, from sage to celadon, and khaki, gray and white.
He worked well with a waxed-paper-like finish, a linen and polyurethane mix, for long dresses with a drawstring waist or apron effect.
Spain is Valls’s number-one market with roughly 250 points of sale. He has stores — one each — in Barcelona and Valencia and international accounts in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Great Britain, according to a spokeswoman. She added that Valls was about to ink a distribution agreement in Japan, effective summer 2000.
To generate international business, Valls, a division of local textile conglomerate Navia C. Grup, exhibits at major trade events in Tokyo and Paris.
Armand Basi’s runway show, alongside Richard Meier’s bleached contemporary Art Museum, featured clean styling with a young fashion slant and sporty looks in myriad natural fabrics with innovative finishes incorporating stainless steel and titanium yarns.
Additional themes by design director Luis Juste de Nin were leather, loads of it; sexy indigo shorts and bra tops; stove-pipe pants and long dresses with vests and shirt-jackets, and a soothing palette of pale sky blue, white, beige and grass green.
Sixty-five percent of Basi products is shipped abroad, and Great Britain is its principal market, followed by Scandinavia, Germany, the U.S. and Canada. Export manager Anna Camprodon said Basi was moving its London store from the Covent Garden area to Conduit Street, to open in December, and its corner in Harrods was”working well.” Basi launched eponymous men’s and women’s fragrances on the British market last July.
In the U.S., where Basi is represented in a New York showroom, accounts for his women’s and men’s lines total about 40 specialty stores. Stanley Korshak in Dallas carries his men’s wear and plans to look at the women’s line, according to a store official there.
“There is a very positive reaction to the brand in the U.S. For summer 2000, we should double our sales,” Camprodon predicted.
Basi, which targets a 25-to-35-year-old customer, has seven stores in Spain. Last year’s volume totaled about $12 million.
Recovering from a knee operation, Antonio Miro said he was not up to to staging a catwalk show this season. Instead, he opted for a diminutive still-life exhibition in an 1886 carriage house designed by Barcelona modernist Antonio Gaudi. Miro’s narrow, slender shapes reflected his impeccable tailoring, especially in a backless dress in midnight blue, done in a cotton, linen and nylon blend; pantsuits and shifts in what here is called “matador red,” and knit separates the color of heavy cream with geometric ribbon trim in ochre, turquoise and military green.
Lengths were below the knee, and accessories included Lilliputian bags the shape and size of an ice cube — or a credit card — in primary colors.
Miro said he was experimenting with rubberized fabrics and paper-like textures made of natural silk and a special high tech treatment. Then there was what he called “the battle of the button.” There were none, no adornments or hardware, only a simple clear-plastic closure.
With four stores carrying women’s and men’s apparel and accessories in Barcelona and Madrid, Miro is said to be scouting franchise partners in Bilbao and Andorra. According to commercial director Nacho Malet, the U.S. currently imports men’s wear, “but in small quantities.”
Backdropped by a dramatic bonfire in the bullring here, Josep Font showed his own brand of special occasion dresses, feminine and floor-length in silk organza, chiffon and tulles with beading, oversized paillettes, lace, ruffles, trains and longer-than-fingertip sleeves in black and virginal white.
Young novelty knits and embellished sweaters in all shapes and sizes were paired with long double-layer skirts.
Apart from his Barcelona store, Font has opened 35 retail units in Japan through his licensing partner Itokin.
Lydia Delgado, a popular 40-year-old designer who has a shop here, showed a collection of mixed effectiveness, with black patent leather, embroidered boleros, sporty cropped tops, slim above-the-ankle pants and one Hollywood diva number, a slit black floor-length with a horizontal striped pattern and funnel neck.
In swimwear, a small but strong category in Barcelona, veteran Andres Sarda shone — in more ways than one. A grouping of bandeau and triangle bikinis, one-piece tanks and coverups like long hipster skirts and shorter wrap styles were featured in shimmery metallics, including copper and silver, in Lycra spandex blends.
Other key ideas were denim mixed with white leather, a few sophisticated florals, piping treatments, a basketweave texture and sexy go-anywhere coverups in sheer fabrics. Some of the best were feather-light spacy pareos of natural silk in blinding pinks and pistachio.
In general, Sarda’s swimsuits offered mix/match options and a choice of construction, some or none, in coordinated colors such as traditional white and navy, together and separately; red; black; celeste blue, and burgundy.
There were some tankinis, but producers here said the style was a tough sell on the domestic retail market.
Average wholesale price for a Sarda swimsuit is $70. Sixty percent of production — 20,000 units yearly — is slated for export markets, principally Germany and France (where Paris retailer Sabbia Rossa is a customer). In the U.S., Sarda said, he was looking to expand his limited number of accounts. “Our moment in the U.S. is coming,” he said.
Guillermina Baeza, the swimwear designer whose business was taken over last December by Pulligan, a large Barcelona knitwear company, went to trendy colors for summer 2000. Among the picks were citrus orange and lemon, green, lilac, lipstick red and pink, There were also such fairly mainstream details as cutouts and plastic insets.
On the other hand, new this season was a demi-structure technique, deceptively smooth bodices that conceal inner bra support; shiny sequin-like materials; white cable-knit cropped tops, and pretty floor-sweeping caftans. Baeza offered more bikinis than usual, she said, and used sprinkled embroideries and black and white colorblocking.
She sells through 350 domestic points of sale, including El Corte Ingles and major department store chains in France. In the U.S., “we are concentrating our efforts on Saks Fifth Avenue,” said export manager Manuel Ildefonso. (Saks carried Baeza last season, and the line is on order for next season for February delivery.) U.S. retail prices range from $100 to $120.