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.
There has been a marked shift in influences in Buenos Aires fashion trends over the last couple of seasons, especially among the new crop of young designers whose modus operandi is to stand apart from the monotonous offerings pedalled by commercial brands on the high street and in the shopping malls. Whereas perhaps a few years ago young creative eyes were glued to what was going on overseas with budding designers referencing Margiela, Cos, and JW Anderson -as well as the usual Japanese heavyweights in their minimalist designs- the tides seem to be turning.
Although I’m the first to swoon at a simple, dressed-down Belgian aesthetic and monochromatic colour palette, there’s something magical about Argentina, with its artisanal craft heritage, and plentiful supply of prime materials. It’s not just the leather you need to get excited about. As is often the case, for it to be embraced locally, it takes for something Argentine to get recognised abroad. Stella McCartney sourced Patagonian wool for several of her collections, which no doubt contributed to the shift in influences being sought on home turf, and to give the traditional techniques and Argentina’s knitwear identity a new lease of life.
I’ve selected designers who all draw on Argentina’s artisanal heritage in one way or another, working with craftsmen using traditional methods of production, working with premium local materials to create fashion forward pieces that bring these autochthonous traditions right up to date.
Maydi has been at the forefront of the movement to champion the use of premium locally-sourced materials, focusing on hand-dyed alpaca and organic merino wool to produce a line of knitwear that has evolved and become increasingly versatile and sophisticated with each new season. Undeterred by the hot Buenos Aires summers, she uses lightweight materials to produce her summer collections, from sleeveless ponchos to loose-knit, strappy tops, always adhering to her founding principles of using traditional techniques to produce her exquisite hand-crafted garments.
Nido’s founder, Julieta Racket, is a former graphic designer and her approach to her label differs in that her focus isn’t purely on the design but rather the materials and the processes involved to create her sustainable collections. Her hand-knitted garments are made using sheep’s wool, and undyed goat and llama wool. Julieta is actively involved in overseeing the whole process, from selecting the natural dyes and textures to the final crafted result. The wool used is sheared then hand-spun with a treadle and wheel to create the wool she uses, all of which is produced by Argentine artisans. Her collection is therefore not only beautiful but also has a social conscience.
Sold at Reunión
The UBA fashion design graduate has been carving out a solid reputation locally for innovative design as well as a love for natural fabrics, with knitwear a prominent feature of recent collections -now in her 5th. Her forte is producing high fashion garments which bear a tangible artisanal identity, while experimenting with an androgynous form, giving hand-knitted jumpers a twist with an oversize fit or with asymmetrical lines, and pairing coarse sheep wool snoods (a personal favourite of the current collection) paired with linen dresses with raw hems.
On sale via her showroom.
This wonderful Argentine label has a clearly defined Argentine identity, producing versatile and on trend knitwear pieces with a proud back-story. The label oversees production at every stage, using prime materials sourced in Patagonia and the Andes from wild llamas to local species such as vicuña and guanaco, as well as organic cotton and raw silk. The label supports local communities who make the crafted items using ancestral production techniques, using natural plant extracts to dye the fibres, and creating garments that are biodegradable and non-toxic as well as soft to the touch and low allergy. Animamá also produces babywear, accessories, and offers a made-to-measure personalised service.
Sold at showroom, by appointment.
Manuela’s handmade pieces can take anything up to a hundred hours to produce, as she makes each of her garments one by one – and by hand. The Catamarcan artist learnt her trade through investigative trips through the Andean border to source information on hand-dying techniques using natural plant extracts, and pestering the elderly ladies of the valle to share their secrets with her. She relishes the process of trial and error, producing unique pieces which cannot be replicated. Manuela’s designs also challenge the conventions of the use of earthy, nude colours in traditional textiles, using brilliant reds, blues, and purples in her collections, all produced from natural pigments.
Sold at showroom, by appointment.