One of the toughest things about being a Spanish kid growing up in the US during the 80s was that it seemed like nobody knew a thing about Spain. In grade school classmates asked me if there were donkeys on the streets. In high school a friend asked me if it was common for women to wear roses in their hair. In general, the perception of Spain among an astonishing number of people was that Spain was a developing country, devoted to bull fighting, flamenco dancing and sangria – nothing more nothing less. The Spain that I knew in the 80s was a modern country… with a keen sense of fashion. And it still is.
Fashion? In Spain? Yes, fashion. Shocking? No.
“La Moda” has always played a vital role in the culture of Spain. If you were “out of style” in Spain, you heard about it. From everyone. Even old ladies dressed “de luto” would let you know if your attire was outdated. And each summer when my sister and I arrived in Spain we were made keenly aware of the fact that our American clothing was somewhat, er, lacking. We would high tail it into Madrid and do some lightning fast shopping at the stores/boutiques of the moment. Nudos, Don Algodón, Massimo Duti, Cimarrón and Zara (yes, Zara) are names that hearken back to those days. Only then could we hold our heads up high after our third daily change of clothes (customarily in our little vacation town we had four changes of clothing a day) and stroll to the bar or ice cream parlor. Living in Spain and keeping up with the very fashionable Jonses was no joke.
Today I’m happy to say that Spanish designers are now quite recognizable outside of Europe, specifically in the US. It wasn’t so long ago that designers such as Balenciaga and Roberto Verino were mistaken as being from other countries. Today their names and others, such as Adolfo Domínguez, Victorio & Lucchino, Jesús del Pozo and Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, are respected in New York as well as Madrid. And the Pasarela Cibeles (now known as Cibeles Fashion Week Madrid) joins the ranks of the top fashion weeks in the world.
This is why I was especially jazzed about the 7th annual Spanish Soho Mile, which took place this past May 30, 2012. Soho has long been a haven for all things fashion forward – from couture to cuisine. And Soho is a great place to find many things Spanish, including three of my personal favorites on the cuisine front – Despaña, La Churrería and Papa Bubble. To these culinary masterpieces, many Spanish designers and brands have added their hat. And on May 30 FITers, fashionistas and foodies were brought together with the venerable help of the Spain – U.S. Chamber of Commerce to walk the cobbled streets of, no not Madrid but New York, in search of some of Spain’s finest and funnest fashion.
So who participated? Those brands participating in the big day were Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Camper, Custo Barcelona, Mango, Mascaro – Pretty Ballerinas, Pikolinos, Tierra, and my favorite teddy bear, Tous. Those wishing to walk this camino were given a map which they could have stamped at each store. And if they received enough stamps, or spent enough money (there were discounts for the evening), they could attend a very fashionable party at the Hotel Mondrian.
You don’t have to wait until the 8th Annual Spanish Soho Mile to visit these wonderful stores. Put on your most fashionable and comfortable shoes and hit the pavement. La Moda awaits you in New York.