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Multifaceted design: The challenges of emerging creators at 080 Barcelona Fashion

By Sandra Bódalo Munuera


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Fashion |Interview

Avec Amour's debut catwalk show at 080 Barcelona with their collection ‘Cannon Beach’. Credits: 080 Barcelona Fashion

From Avec Amour’s María Undo and Daniel de Villanueva tearfully greeting each other at the end of their first catwalk show and Guillermo Justicia's friends, bouquet in-hand, waiting to congratulate him on his debut to Santi Mozas of Compte Spain working until the last minute alongside 404 Studio designer Anaïs Vauxcelles, his close creative partner. These were just some of the many heartfelt moments from the latest edition of 080 Barcelona Fashion, a Spanish runway event spanning four intense days, during which some of the best anecdotes, as always, took place behind the scenes.

Following the unveiling of their collections, FashionUnited spoke to the creative directors and founders of Avec Amour, Compte Spain, Ga Gó Ó Studio, Guillermo Justicia and Velásquez, the five emerging names that the 33rd edition of the event left us with. For some, this was their first experience on a professional catwalk, and FashionUnited wanted to discover what the biggest challenges have been for them as new brands, what they learned and why they chose Barcelona to do it.

‘Happy Endings’ collection by Compte Spain at the 33rd edition of 080 Barcelona Fashion. Credits: 080 Barcelona Fashion.

International projection, the core element of participation

In the case of the Valencian label Avec Amour, ahead of taking part in a fashion week, they would have already established "the pillars of the brand in such a way that it would have enough body to be part of such an important event", admitted its founders Daniel de Villanueva and María Undo. Born in 2000, both are digital natives, so it's not surprising that they opted for the online world to showcase their first creations.

After interacting with the public, the duo felt that "it was time to make the leap to the catwalk and 080 Barcelona Fashion was always on our minds", they told FashionUnited. With other national platforms such as the more than well-known Allianz EGO, an initiative for emerging talent linked to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid, it's easy to wonder why. "Internationality" was one of the main reasons, they noted, with media descending from the UK, France, Germany and Italy, meaning the event “could have a very positive impact on [the brand], as most of [its] clients are European”.

Backstage at Ga Gó Ó Studio. Credits: 080 Barcelona Fashion

"A year and a half ago we moved the brand from London to Barcelona. Since Brexit, doing business in Europe from the UK had become quite complicated. Supporting emerging brands in Spain made me decide to continue from here,”

Mateo Velásquez, creative director for Velásquez

The event’s international projection was also one of the reasons why Santi Mozas, creative director of Compte Spain, chose this catwalk for the second time. In contrast, however, Guillermo Justicia said his motivation was more emotional: "Being from Barcelona, 080 has always been my fashion week of reference.” Ever since he became interested in fashion, "it has always been a dream of mine to be able to show here", Justicia explained. A dream fulfilled as he has been able to present his first collection "in the same place where [he] went to learn and see fashion shows", which he considers an honour.

Backstage of the presentation for the “Mycorrhizal” collection by Guillermo Justicia. Credits: 080 Barcelona Fashion

Meanwhile, for Colombian designer Mateo Velásquez, who grew up between Madrid and London, Brexit was the definitive cause. "A year and a half ago we moved the brand from London to Barcelona. Since Brexit, doing business with Europe from the UK had become quite complicated. Supporting emerging brands in Spain made me decide to continue from here," said the Velasquez designer. Before arriving with the ‘Barequero’ collection, he had first contact with the catwalk through the exhibition of a capsule collection, a way of previously measuring "the scope" of the event before finally opting for the Barcelona runway.

Multitasking designers, the great burden of emerging brands

Sharing the roster with major textile companies such as Hoss Intropia, a brand owned by Spanish retail giant Tendam, and Lola Casademunt by Maite, founded in 1981, we asked the emerging participants what the biggest challenges were when it came to starting up and running a fashion show of this size without the necessary resources. "The reality is that we are only two people in charge of practically all the facets of the brand: from pattern making, designing and sewing to the photography and communication of campaigns, lookbooks, e-commerce,” said the duo behind Avec Amour.

Catalan Guillermo Justicia, meanwhile, found himself in a similar situation – "not being a consolidated brand”. Justicia added: “I don't have any equipment, material or installation. I have to manage and do everything myself.” This translates into many hours of work with little sleep and without leaving the sewing machine, but which also comes with a "romantic" side, so to speak. "This has been possible thanks to friends and colleagues, who have been there to help me with whatever I needed, spending days and nights cutting and sewing at home,” said the young creator.

Finale of the Velasquez fashion show with his collection "Barequero". Credits: 080 Barcelona Fashion.

For others, a similar process draws on a lot of pressure while working against the clock, occasionally triggering intrusive thoughts like quitting the project. "I think the idea of leaving the brand is a recurring one for an emerging brand, when you see that you are not making progress or that you are stagnating. You feel a lot of frustration at being alone in the abyss of the fashion industry, but it is a thought that I try not to let take hold of me," Mozas said frankly. It is in those moments when it is necessary to count on that guardian angel who tells you to keep going, as is the case with Arlet, Marcos Gamón's friend and stylist at Ga Gó Ó Studio. "I've always been able to count on her, she's by my side and she's the one who encourages me when I need it most,” Gamón said from his dressing room.

"I think it's a good idea to make one collection a year, but also to add different drops for each season or exclusive pieces for campaigns or commercial actions,”

Marcos Gamón, creative director for Ga Gó Ó Studio

One collection a year, the trend among emerging firms

‌Finding suppliers that accept smaller orders has always been another central drawback for young designers. However, thanks to leftover stock and techniques such as upcycling, emerging brands have been able to make up for this logistical problem. "Little by little we are developing and finding methods that work and adapt to our needs. It is still a challenge, but it is a question of changing the system to allow us to make way for responsible fashion," said Velásquez. He admitted that "the industry is changing", although he is in favour of going "personally to the shops in search of fabrics and buying the right material to make that particular garment".

Similarly, at Compte Spain, the designer has been working for several years with various local suppliers from all over Spain while also always including some high quality materials, some of which have been out of print for over 30 years and are then rescued from small shops. "It allows us to offer an exclusive product, these clothes are much more special in my opinion,” concluded the Valencian.

‌Just as start-up brands have managed to stand up to the demands of wholesalers, they have also bucked the usual industry-driven calendar. Instead of autumn/winter and spring/summer seasons, it is increasingly common for new brands to opt for a single collection per year. "Given the saturation of the market, I think it's a good idea to do one collection a year," said Marcos Gamón. Thus, ‘02 Plague’ will be Ga Gó Ó Studio's only proposal for the summer, although, according to the designer, "we will be adding different drops each season and we will also create some exclusive pieces for campaigns or commercial actions", he pointed out.

For Guillermo Justicia, with only one collection behind him, this is one of the issues that has yet to be resolved due to a lack of resources. For now, like most of his peers, the brand “will only produce the garments that have been bought or ordered”. She noted: “I am looking at options to make small productions of some 10 or 20 units of the most ‘sellable’ garments.”

Pre-orders, on the other hand, continue to be a basic part of Compte Spain's strategy: "Delivery times tend to vary greatly depending on the volume of work, but we normally try to have orders within one or two weeks. Although we will also produce a very limited stock of some items in order to gain agility.” With the intention of expanding her services, Mozas says she is also working on a Studio line, a made-to-measure atelier to create looks from scratch through which she has started to design mainly for brides and guests. Such a manoeuvre is very popular among fashion designers in order to respond to the public, many of whom appreciate the quality and exclusivity of slow fashion.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.ES. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.

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