Argentine designers enjoy their annual fashion week, coined BAF, every February. Inevitably a season behind, it fails to receive much international attention. But the reputation of South American fashion is on the rise, with people such as the Brazilian Francisco Costa, who currently heads Calvin Klein’s womenswear collection, leading the way.
Argentine presence specifically has become more common in some of the most prestigious fashion weeks round the world. The fashion industry is also increasingly turning its attention to the new emerging economies, Prada’s decision to debut its Spring/Summer collection in Beijing in January of this year, just one indication of this shift.
When discussing designers here it is important to think of them in a different context to the fashion houses of Paris, London and Milan. These are designers who may well be on first name terms with their shop assistants, who design couture dresses for a realistic price and whose creations are of course beautiful and exciting, as well as intelligent at being fundamentally Argentine and therefore different. What’s more, if you are earning in pounds, dollars or euros, these pieces are affordable, whilst retaining that same air of desirability and remaining quite simply special.
Argentina’s Top 5 designers are most definitely a force to be reckoned with. Whether you have the opportunity to saunter downtown to one of their stores or you want to order a piece from a far-away part of the world, you will find that typical Argentine accommodating character trait present in your dealings with the designers as well as the quality that you expect from their European counterparts.
Someone once said that the number of buttons you wear on your sleeve determines how important you are. Some shirts by this man have six – a grand number indeed. ‘The grandfather of Argentine fashion’, ‘the Argentine Valentino’, Pablo Ramírez can certainly get away with six buttons. He is the foundation of fashion design in Argentina. His pieces are simple and beautiful – reminiscent of the timeless beauty of vintage Balenciaga. Rarely deviating from his black and white pallet, the beauty of his pieces is in the cut, the drape and the sheer quality of the design. Also a costume designer for plays, ballets, operas and concerts, his extravagance for design is evident in the flared sleeve of a chequered suit jacket or in the pointed collar of a crisp white shirt. Buying an item from one of Ramírez’s collections is buying an item you will treasure through the changing seasons and trends. Always classic and always stylish this is the designer to go to for that piece you have always wanted.
Arguably Ramírez also has the strongest reputation in foreign lands. If you’re looking to impress with your labels he will sit confidently among better known European brands in your wardrobe. A regular at both Madrid and Berlin he is on the cusp of the established circuit.
Situated in San Telmo, apart from his peers in chic Recoleta, his store holds it own in this barrio. Here it is also possible to have a dress designed to your requirements, a service which some celebrities have taken advantage of to attend events such as Cannes and MTV. So whether you’re looking for the couture experience, but seem to have misplaced Valentino’s number, or you want to invest in some classic, romantic pieces, Pablo Ramírez is a designer whose clothes you will stay in love with for a lifetime.
2. Jessica Trosman
I can imagine that when Trosman was younger she was the kind of child who would draw on walls and cut things up. Her clothes are a delightful mixture of fabrics and cuts. Whether a classic, cosy woollen jumper mixed with pearls and silk, a slinky jersey maxi skirt with wool and leather or a hard leather jacket softened with wisps of silk, her pieces are interesting and they work. There are the slightly predictable t-shirts with silk panelling, and then there is the rest of the collection which is fascinating and unique. Indeed the desired affect is not that the pieces look sewn together, but that they are an ensemble, always destined to exist together. There is never a theme to her collections, just the natural result of her vision and passion – evident in the individual nature of each piece. Her collections are displayed in colours, with rows of black punctuated stylishly with a vibrant orange top or a golden cream skirt.
It is always dangerous to make comparisons, but Alexander Wang springs to mind when looking at the hang of the clothes and feeling the soft jersey and shiny leather. However, Trosman is much more about the energy of Buenos Aires rather than the grunge of New York.
In the glitzy Patio Bullrich shopping centre in Recoleta, Trosman’s store takes pride of place at the front entrance. With competition inside from fellow fashion labels such as Max Mara and Christian Lacroix she most certainly holds her own. This is also reflected in her rising reputation abroad. From her first collection in 2002 she has enjoyed, along with the Argentine economy in general, consistent growth. There has been worldwide reception of her designs, not a surprise as they manage to be the magic three of beautiful, cool and feminine all at the same time.
3. Martín Churba
If Argentina wants to strengthen its ties with Japan then it should most definitely use Martín Churba as an ambassador. With a store in Tokyo, the Japanese are amongst his biggest fans. A quick peruse through his store makes it obvious why. Cool, modern and futuristic designs and strong materials catch the eye and keep you wanting to see more. The cut on his trousers are especially edgy and contemporary. His collections are always photographed against a plane white wall – it helps one envisage how these clothes will stand out in real life.
Churba’s background is in textile design and he started in this field over 15 years ago. This helps to explain the delightfully colourful nature of many of his designs. It is the pattern and feel of the clothes more than anything else which really makes them stand out. His brand ‘Tramando’ was started in 2002, and as an exciting new development in Argentine design, it really did change how the Argentines approached fashion.
His dresses especially really stand out. Is it acceptable to admit that you are slightly intimidated by an item of clothing? The criss-crossing, draping bands of material in various shades of metallic instantly catch your attention, but it is doubtful how flattering they would be. Churba doesn’t appear to design his clothes with female insecurities in mind however. His pieces are fun and cool, for people whose first priority is not how they look in the clothes, but how the clothes look themselves. His skill is the ability to make all his items of clothing so aesthetically interesting and desirable that you just want them no matter how they look on you. Ultimately it is because we all want to be the kind of person who can wear Churba’s collections. Attractive and feminine of course, but above all, cool.
4. Min Agostini
Another giant of the Argentine scene, Agostini is a highly respected regular at BAF week. In recent years her accolades from abroad have been plentiful – a runway at Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week, selected by Harrods to display her work in their main window to represent Argentine fashion design, named by the Independent Newspaper in the UK in 2009 as the most prominent Argentine designer – are just a few examples of her flourishing reputation.
With designs made uniquely out of one piece of material, twisted and folded in such a way as to a create stand-out item of clothing, once you start inspecting her work you realise just how special they are. This season’s collection sees rich colours of blue and red amongst deep shades of black; they are reminiscent of the physical landscape of a dark Nordic winter. The volume and cut of some of the pieces further echo the volume trend we see promoted in Spring/Summer 2011 collections in the northern hemisphere led by designers such as Jill Sanders. What’s more, her background in architecture helps explain the exciting structures of some pieces in her collections.
Agostini’s strength lies in the power of an individual piece to make an outfit powerful and unique. The quality of the cut of the pieces and Agostini’s respect for the female form means that it’s not only the dresses which drape beautifully, but also the waterfall waistcoasts, the shawls and the jackets.
At her store too it is possible to buy one off pieces.
A simply stunning silver pleated dress stood out in the rails. Recommended as a good dress for a wedding, perhaps the mother of the bride, if the bride did not want to wear white it would actually be beautiful enough for her position centre stage. And that is the point of Agostini’s clothes – to take centre stage – and this attention they most certainly deserve.
5. Benito Fernández
Benito Fernández’ clothes photograph incredibly well. A look into any of his campaigns or catwalks shows show colourful and creative his pieces are. His experience in selling clothes, which began in 1994 with haute couture creations in bridal and night gowns, is also evident in his more relaxed ‘Jeans’ brand. Both his couture and Jeans pieces exude colour, sparkle and yet remain stylish.
Originally a law student, Fernández decided to transfer to Flego, an Argentine academy of fashion, and then moved onto the Paris American Academy. Joining Min Agostini at fashion week in New York in 2009, as well as showing in Chicago, his international training has developed into international success.
Entering his boutique one is first confronted with what can only be described as a garish collection of colours, feathers and sequins. On closer inspection however the individual quality of the colour combinations and cuts of the clothes comes across. The couture dresses are unique and although you won’t like them all, you will fall in love with some – surely the sign of real couture fashion. Two stand out pieces were a dress of deep green feathers with a beaded bandeau top, and a sheer neon splattered dress which could be worn to a day time garden party or dressed up for a night time excursion. Fernandez is popular with many of the heavyweight celebrities in Argentina, unsurprising due to the quality and hang of many of his dresses, if not also the attention his dresses demand and the fun they exude.
His Jeans collections are also a good place to go. Pretty tweed jackets in fun green and blue, with a pleated dress cut at the hem would go well with the printed leggings. He is also able to make paint splatter ‘jeggins’ cool and desirable – surely the sign of a top designer.