Vanessa Bell is a freelance writer and trend hunter, running a bespoke personal shopping service called Creme de la Creme, as well as writing as a lifestyle, food, and fashion insider for Wallpaper*, Monocle, and other international publications. She’s lived in Buenos Aires since 2010, having visited all her life as her mother is Argentine.
Many would argue that Argentina has become increasingly expensive over the last couple of years and even tourists are starting to feel the sting, including those savvy enough to change their dollars at the blue rate. Blue, official, whichever way you look at it, Buenos Aires is no longer the bargain haven it once was however, and when it comes to clothes shopping, there is a swathe of designers who are charging through the nose for pieces that wouldn’t look out of place hanging on the racks of a high street store, cheap knock-offs of labels from Europe and the US, made from crappy fabrics with shoddy confeccion. Seasonal rent hikes and inordinate overheads in the shopping malls and coveted real estate areas such as Palermo and Recoleta have left retailers with little choice: recoup the spiralling costs in the retail price of the garments or go under. Yet this shouldn’t be a cause for despair, it just means it’s important to be informed.
Now more than ever, it’s vital to shop smart in Buenos Aires. This isn’t always easy as many Argentine designers only have a local market, making it difficult for visitors to gauge quality through trial and error. Argentina produces some of the most sought after wools and alpaca in the world, premium quality cotton and sublime leather, much of it for export. At a time when there is little variation between the costs of clothing from one label or designer to another, it’s preferable to put an emphasis on those using these natural materials, and not be seduced purely by the design. I’ve adopted the policy of buying sparingly, and being selective. Personally, I would rather purchase one incredible piece a month that I know will stand the test of time. Below are a list of promising designers with a conscience, producing artisan, handcrafted pieces that don’t scrimp on materials and look amazing. World class design comes at a cost, but the good news is that with these designers you get what you pay for.
This young Argentine is already a veteran of the international fashion scene, having earnt his sartorial stripes working for Dries Van Noten and Raf Simons after studying fashion design at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
Hernandez Daels has been selling his collections in Paris since 2009, and along with his business partner and fellow designer Paula Selba Avellaneda run hip local multi-brand Panorama (BA’s take on Opening Ceremony).
He inaugurated his much-awaited debut boutique two weeks ago, in one of the chicest locations in Recoleta. His latest collection and the decor of the store radiate an understated refinement, a rarity in Argentine’s fashion scene.
Although a fan of monochrome, this collection includes flashes of royal blues and dusky pinks, pieces with detailing and exquisite fabrics that wouldn’t look out of place alongside Margiela or McQueen.
Paula Selby Avellaneda is also a former student of the illustrious Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Upon graduating, she rented a small space in London and began contacting musicians, asking if they’d be willing for her to design pieces for them.
Her original signature customised leather jackets let to her becoming a regular fixture at Paris Fashion Week and establishing her label. She was stocked at Opening Ceremony, with her pieces worn by the likes of Chloe Sevigny and was even commissioned to design a garment for a Beyoncé music video.
She recently completed her showroom in the Botanical Gardens area having taken the decision to sell to the local market, as well as offering made to order bespoke wedding dresses. Her space is a delightful sneak peek into her eccentric and fantastical world, where ethereal dresses with exquisite rainbowbrite hand embroidery detailing hang casually alongside her bold leather jackets.
Magically, it just works.
By appointment only.
I’ve been a fan of Maydi since I first met her, a diminutive Argentine from Corrientes with a Parisian inflection to her Spanish after working for 12 years in fashion marketing in France.
For the last two years she has been spearheading the movement to honour and promote the use of noble local materials and traditional artisan production and techniques in high fashion and conceptual garments. Where she has pioneered, other young designers have quickly followed by example.
She produces accessories with her label Maydi, such as hats and gloves, as well as dresses, jumpers and snoods and avant garde scarves, the latter being her forte. The pieces are all hand knitted or produced on traditional looms, using only natural dyes.
Sourcing only the finest materials, the current collection uses 100% organic merino wool from the same provider who supplies Stella McCartney.
By appointment only, or on sale at Tupa – Lafinur 3132.
Sol Pardo, the young designer behind Pardo hats started out collaborating with Lena Martorello, providing the accessories for their first campaign. This launched her career as a milliner, spanning little over two years. She works outside the traditional conventions of millinery, and in her latest collection experiments with atypical materials, including acrylic into her designs.
She produces on a small scale, often on a made to order basis for magazine editorials, and individual clients. She recently won Argentina’s Harper’s Bazaar’s annual award for best accessory designer for 2015. The local fashion scene is still relatively conservative and few wear hats so the exposure and favourable press she is garnering will hopefully help challenge local prejudices.
By appointment only.
This experimental label is the creation of two young graduates from the University of Buenos Aires.
The debut collection has already caused a stir, with an original aesthetic rooted in geometry.
The pieces are characterised by tessellating triangular patterns, from repeated cut out designs to structured sleeves which produce a trompe d’oeil effect of circular movement.
Their pieces experiment with the contrasts between gravity and weightlessness in relation to the body, drawing on inspirations from interior design and architecture, creating structured pieces in light fabrics.
Their recent show at Fashion Edition BA was received favourably as was their appearance at the seasonal editions of the pop up design sales ROOMIE.
By appointment only.
Jessica has been honing and refining her aesthetic and brand for several years now, having sold from a closed-door showroom in her flat until a few weeks ago when she opened her first store in the heart of San Telmo.
Her parents are antique dealers, something that is reflected in her great taste and eye for detail, indeed the furniture in her store are period pieces loaned to her, to die for mid-century decor she innovatively uses to display her beautiful shoes.
The latest collection is her most accomplished to date, autumnal palettes with contrasting heels and uppers, metallic details and boyish lace ups with feminine colourways.
Lead image L-R – Jessica Kessel, Fractal, Juan Hernandez Daels.
All images courtesy of designers, unless otherwise stated.