LARGER TURNOUT, SOFTER BUSINESS SEEN AT MADRID FASHION WEEK

Byline: Barbara Barker

MADRID — There was a little bit more and a little bit less at last month’s SIMM, Madrid’s fashion week.
On one hand, some exhibitors found a healthier climate for buying, with spikes in international visitors, but others said the retailers who came were tentative about opening their wallets, more often than not buying smaller quantities. And some retailers said the cautious buying attitude was matched by toned-down, more conservative styling.
The four-day trade event, held last month, set new attendance records. Director Pola Iglesias ticked off the facts: 500 more visitors, including a 7.9 percent increase in foreigners and 10 percent more vendors, compared to the February 2001 edition. Attendance totaled 28,200, including major buying groups from Portugal, Mexico, Brazil and Russia.
Iglesias said the global downturn had little effect on commercial results and, although official sales figures were unavailable, “crisis always gets to Spain later than other European countries; we didn’t see any evidence of it here.”
Aitor Munoz, commercial director of Ailanto, a junior vendor from Barcelona, said he was pleased with the fair because of a healthier buying climate and an increased international turnout from Italy and Hong Kong, for example. In addition, he reported interest from the German and Finish press.
Munoz, whose twin brother, Inaki, designs the line, said hot items were geometric-patterned skirts in black, yellow and white combinations and retro-styled knitwear with a cashmere base.-In Spain, the brand is distributed through 50 points-of-sale and foreign accounts include American Rag in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tokyo. Ailanto is exhibiting at the Tranoi show, which started last week in Paris.
SIMM is the second-largest ready-to-wear fair in Europe, after Germany’s IGEDO, with 827 exhibitors stretched over 327,000 square feet of the Juan Carlos I fairgrounds.
Sounding a cautious note, Sonia Ruiz, owner of The Deli Room, a trendy shop in central Madrid, said SIMM vendors had toned down styling.
“They’re afraid to take chances, and I don’t blame them.-I’m afraid, too. Christmas was a difficult season here — very quiet, very few sales.-I’m buying smaller quantities, even though the store is doing OK under the circumstances.”
Heidi Martinez Laas, Barcelona-based commercial director of Animale, a second-time SIMM exhibitor, agreed.
“It’s a bad time for the Spanish textile industry….Retailers, especially intermediates, are afraid. Shoppers are staying away from the stores. Better producers did alright at the fair, but Spain’s fashion industry is suffering…Stores aren’t selling…The war, the euro, warm weather until November, Spain’s January sales — it’s a little of everything. And it’s a trend that is contagious.”
Still, she added, “There is money in Spain. You go out at night and the restaurants are packed….Hopefully, summer will improve….I think consumers will want to buy again.”
For the first time in 35 editions, Pasarela Cibeles, or the SIMM-sponsored runway shows featuring 28 designers over five days, did not run concurrently with the trade fair. Instead, Cibeles ran a week later. The delayed dates had no significant effect on either event, Iglesias explained.
“We postponed the Pasarela by a week so as not to coincide with the New York shows….We wanted the Spanish press, and we wanted our girls, too,” she said referring to Spain’s current batch of international top models, like…Eleonora Bose, Eugenia Silva, Esther Canadas and Nieves Alvarez — and they were all here.
“The SIMM and Cibeles buyer is not necessarily the same,” Iglesias continued, noting Cibeles gets more press and the upscale specialty store crowd, while SIMM is more midmarket.
Or as an industry source put it, “Cibeles and the SIMM fair make up a kind of Spanish collage with different levels of creativity for different markets.”
Innovative styling from the runway included coats with versatile collar treatments; skirts over pants; sexy see-through fabrics; short, provocative lengths; split sleeves and lots of knitwear and leather. Also, black was everywhere.
Among the highlights:
Roberto Verino, whose rabbit-lined Siberian coats, jackets and Melton capes over great knits and gauzy silk dresses and skirts couldn’t have looked better.
Jesus del Pozo, with what his press notes described as “diabolical” asymmetrics, both cuts and hemlines, but his winner was a frothy wedding confection worn with suede knee-high boots by Madrid’s own Eleonora (called Bimba) Bose….Del Pozo is making quite a name for himself here in the wedding category.
Roberto Torretta, who struck a balance between signature slick leathers and printed chiffon dresses.
Spastor, a Catalan duo with an austere collection everyone loves to hate.
Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, who had more control this season, or so it seemed, over her planetary motifs and exuberant color mixes…She plans a second freestanding store this fall on Madrid’s shop-heavy Calle Serrano….The first unit opened two years ago on Paris’ Left Bank.
Duyos, whose 18th-century Peruvian folklore theme with head-covering burkhas and religious symbols overshadowed imaginative, tufted knitwear over eyelet lace, vintage layers and hippie accessories.

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