Fashion Week designers cut their cloth in the teeth of a financial gale

David Delfín among top names at Cibeles runway seeking spark of optimism in harsh climate

You very likely don't need fashion designers to come and tell you that things are bad. Whether you are more or less willing to listen to the industry's lament depends on how much sympathy you feel for it and what your expectations are. On one hand, it can be comforting to know that the fashion world is also suffering from economic adversity and not stuck in some fantasy world funded with public money. On the other, you may simply prefer for just one page in the newspaper not to remind you of the quagmire we're all stuck in.

Be that as it may, on day two of the five-day Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week - the capital's premier haute couture event, which ends today - it was difficult to extricate oneself from the stubbornly pessimistic context. "This is the toughest period I've had to go through," asserted Francis Montesinos, the 61-year-old designer from Valencia who is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the opening of his first store with a collection "made on the most reduced budget ever."

"I would have liked to do something more than this, but they didn't let me use a single extra meter of fabric. The world of fashion has never been in such dire straits. And isn't anybody getting married anymore?" he lamented, noting that wedding gowns used to be better business.

Another relevant name in Spanish fashion, Davidelfin, has also encountered financial hurdles that go a long way towards explaining his 2012 Spring/Summer collection, known as Katharsis. "These are complicated moments from an economic and business standpoint, but you have to adapt to the situation," said the designer. "I feel like a dolphin [ delfín ] more than ever: a mammal that adapted to the marine ecosystem."

There is certainly an element of despair in his proposals: at a particularly difficult moment, Delfín decided that he would present this collection "even if I had to make it out of the fabric samples that providers give you." Those remnants show up in fragmented garments that are colorful and full of optimism.

"This collection is marked by a desire to move forward no matter what," explained the Andalusian designer. Perhaps it was this survival instinct that produced one of the most vivacious, energetic Delfín collections we have ever seen.

These times of contention have also done wonders for Roberto Torretta, who eliminated all superfluous elements and tackled deceptively simple conundrums like how to find that precise tone of blue that rouses desire. And probably only an economic calamity of the current magnitude could bring Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada down from the clouds. Her collection was much more pragmatic than usual, and her balloons, hearts and colors took on much more reasonable proportions.

In fashion, as in film, the more you reduce the special effects, the better your storyline has to be to keep interest alive. That is why the brochures introducing each show often sounded as if they had been produced by travel agencies.

On Saturday, for instance, Cibeles went on a journey from Cannes to the Mayan culture through the shows of Teresa Helbig and Devota & Lomba. It is not hard to find the link between the Catalan Helbig and the charming French city, and her collection shone out with carefully braided shorts and dresses, even if the lurex was something of a letdown.

But to understand what Modesto Lomba has to do with the Mayas, it is necessary to go back to square one. The present economic débâcle may in fact have been forecast by that ancient civilization, whose calendar ended in 2012. Toying with that possibility, Lomba suggests a transformation for next spring "and for women to have a more natural relationship with their bodies," he said. This means lots of transparencies that hug the body like a fine membrane, emulating a chrysalis and suggesting that we will emerge from the mire as beautiful butterflies - the kind of enticing story that fashion feeds on.

But one of the most important moments of Cibeles Fashion Week actually came on day one, when the Madrid catwalk paid tribute to Jesús del Pozo, one of Spain's most charismatic designers, one month and three days after his death. As expected, audiences saw the collection he had been working on for the spring and summer of 2012 before his chronic lung condition took a fatal turn for the worse.

"It never occurred to us not to present it," said Ainhoa García, director general of the Del Pozo firm. "It was at a very advanced stage, and he would have wanted it this way. We wanted to move ahead with professionalism and also with pride." Everything from the staging to the final standing ovation had a contained feel to it, made to measure for the esthetic philosophy of the Madrid designer. Del Pozo took fashion seriously, and he fought to bring professionalism to the sector and make it a business industry.

Leonor Pérez-Pita, director of the fashion event, still recalls how she dined with Del Pozo at the New Yorker restaurant in 1986. She wanted him to show his collection at Cibeles again, like he had the previous year. "Me, Cibeles? There's no way," he replied. Still, the next day Pérez-Pita received a basket full of wallflowers.

"He was elegant and careful even when he was saying no to you," said Pérez-Pita, just minutes before the presentation of the posthumous collection.

The world of Spanish fashion attended the opening day of Madrid Fashion Week last Friday to witness the last collection from the late Jesús del Pozo (above). The designer died last month, but left what turned out to be a posthumous spring/summer show.

Design from Jesús del Pozo for the spring-summer collection 2012. The designer died last month, but left what turned out to be a posthumous show.
Design from Jesús del Pozo for the spring-summer collection 2012. The designer died last month, but left what turned out to be a posthumous show.SAMUEL SÁNCHEZ / AFP
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