The season ahead is looking dark. Autumn and winter fast approaching, Argentina is gearing up to face the chill in heavy fabrics, a monochromatic palette and with die-hard allegiance to punk-inspired fashion.
The three days of the 2010 autumn/winter edition of Buenos Aires Fashion Week showcased collections which are testament to the city’s rising recognition and status amongst the world’s style capitals. In keeping with the calibre of pieces featured on the runways of London, Paris, New York and Milan this year, the forerunners in Argentine design exhibited cutting-edge trends, as well as some truly unique garments.
A Growing Industry
Of course, as the runways of the northern hemisphere celebrated the fashions set to take off in autumn and winter of 2010/11, Argentina inevitably remains a season behind (even the most devoted porteña fashionista is unlikely to opt for stylish, yet thick, cable knits in the face of the December to February heat). However, ‘behind’ was not a word apt to describe the offerings which emerged at La Rural – home of the event – on 24th-26th February, when BAF Week hit the capital.
Streams of attendees put their best fashion foot forward as thousands flocked to the main showroom of La Rural. Carolina Lascano, the event’s institutional spokeswoman, commented: “The large assembly that this event has had at its most recent editions (on average 35,000 people) and the growing attendance of journalists and international specialists confirms BAF Week as a platform for creativity which gives a real boost to the Argentine clothing industry.”
Content spokeswoman, Kika Tarelli, explained: “Argentina is a country with a rich history of design, and this is reflected on our runways.” Indeed, some of the collections were spectacular, and are bound to turn international fashion industry heads. On the catwalk, standout collections included Juana de Arco’s flashy neon sequins and voluminous woollen knits; Cora Groppo’s body-hugging cuts and contrasting rigid geometric pieces; Vicki Otero’s dramatic, structured layers of heavy fabrics; and Kostüme’s optical-illusory, asymmetric, black leather garments.
Showing clothing and styles which ranged from the outlandish to the austere, these design houses are set to take the fashion world by storm over the coming seasons. Designer, Mariana Da Piano, explained how the local industry is growing, as world-class designers emerge from Argentina, propelling their work onto the national and international scene: “Each season we are improving. More designers and brands are joining the fashion week and each of us is producing better material as we mature.”
Future Faces of Fashion
Many agree that one of the most important parts of BAF Week is the ‘Semillero (Seedbed) UBA’ runway: A platform awarded to two promising Universidad de Buenos Aires designers (or design teams) to stage a full catwalk production of their collections. Complete with professional hair, makeup, set, lighting and – above all – an audience of influential industry experts, the Semillero promotes the constant cultivation of fresh design talent. It gives a golden opportunity to young, innovative creators, who could become the key international representatives of Argentine fashion in the near future. This year’s winning student designers: Nadia Stuer and Ichaso-Walmsley (Catalina Ichaso and Lucinda Walmsley) are definitely names to watch out for, after causing a huge stir with their high-fashion, high-impact garments and shows.
In an industry precariously balanced on the fine line between uniqueness and standardisation, the search for the next new thing is a constant. The originality and individuality of the artist’s design constitutes a welcome distinguishing factor which must work alongside current trends and the fast-moving global market. One such quaint and distinctive touch is the creative manipulation of national and regional identities: a key player in the success of some Argentine brands.
Giving a Local Touch to International Trends
Two of the most talked-about collections presented at the autumn/winter edition of BAF Week belonged to well-established brands, Prüne and Rapsodia. Although worlds apart, both were perfectly in line with international high-fashion, yet simultaneously inherently (inexplicably, even) ‘Argentine’.
Perhaps it was the prevalence of quality leather garments in each line: Prüne models stomped down the runway in full-length, gothic, black leather jackets, chunky boots and patent stilettos, brandishing distressed tote bags. Meanwhile, Rapsodia’s signature tan, soft leather jackets and fringed ankle boots were more cowgirl than rocker…Or perhaps it was the theatricality of each collection to which we may attribute their impact and exhibition of cultural tendencies: In true Argentine fashion, just as BA boliches are not complete without a visual spectacle to accompany the DJ, neither runway was a mere clothing exhibit; but rather, the audiences were given fully fledged shows. The Prüne catwalk was strewn with red velvet and gold-embossed ballroom chairs, as though the pile-up scene in the aftermath of a Renaissance-style furniture collision. The models interacted with the staging, showing off the garments and accessories to a choreographed sequence; all of which was set to a dramatic medley of Gwen Stefani songs, played by a full string ensemble. The formidable walks, heavy eye makeup and icy skin were a sharp contrast to the sun-kissed glow sported by the Rapsodia models, who glided down a psychedelic, multi-coloured catwalk, dotted with six-foot fabric cacti.
The Moda Market
The feminine florals, sexy animal prints, gaucho-esque denim and sparkly yet grungy evening wear which line the rails of Rapsodia’s stores are wearable. They appeal to a wide demographic, helping the brand fast become one of the best-known clothing ranges to emerge from Argentina. The profile of the country’s fashion industry was also given a huge boost last September, when three local designers (Benito Fernández, Min Agostini and Fabián Zitta) and two brands (Cardon and Eufemia) were invited to present their creations on the runways of New York Fashion Week, as part of a collective display of Argentine sartorial talent.
Alongside well-established high-fashion design houses and boutique ranges, such as Maria Vasquez and Ona Saez, brands like Prüne, Rapsodia and Wanama (also showcased at BAF Week) are exemplary forces in the Argentine industry’s bid for international standing, and the commercial possibilities with which this goes hand-in-hand.
Haute Couture in Wonderland
However, international trade potential aside, one of the most stunning exhibitions of Argentine fashion creation to surface this year is a collection of utterly un-wearable pieces, courtesy of an interdisciplinary group of designers and artists: ‘LAB’. Pablo Ramírez, Vero Ivaldi, Marcelo Cantón, Luciana Val, and Franco Musso united their talents in the production of six spectacular haute couture garments, which premiered at BAF Week. Through the huge keyhole of their ‘Alice in Wonderland’ installation, their ornate, avant-garde designs wowed attendees, featuring top-hats and tails, layers of effervescent tulle, oversized silk bows and reams of sumptuous, puffy white lace and ruffles. Inspired by – and coinciding with the release of – Tim Burton’s dark and magical adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic, the collection incorporates timeless cuts, immaculate tailoring, vintage accoutrements, beautiful fabrics and incredibly eccentric details.
This set of unique designs and impressive artistry are some of 2010’s prime players in showcasing the breadth and depth of talent and creativity manifest in the Argentine fashion industry. Eight years after its first edition, BAF Week continues to articulate the concept of national fashions. It’s organisers work to strengthen the textile-clothing industry, promote exports and commercial alliances with international buyers, and let the world know about the growth of regional design. It serves as an insight into the quality and innovative merit of the products the country has to offer. The event consolidates Buenos Aires’ status as one of the most important design capitals in the region, and as the industry here rapidly aligns itself with global urban trends, home-grown brands and design houses are cementing themselves within the international circuit.
The Spring/Summer 2010/11 edition of BAF Week will be held in… Information will be published in the coming months on the event’s website: www.bafweek.com
The Alice in Wonderland installation will be moved to the Alvear Palace Hotel on 22nd March, where it will be open for public view. Contributions will be welcome, and will go towards the ‘Make a Wish’ foundation