Where the money is at BA Fashion Week

Kostume spring/summer 2010

While global consumption may be on standby, Argentine spenders decided to put their credit cards where their mouths are over the past few months, thanks to the World Cup and Father’s Day. Demand for flat screen television sets outstripped supply at the start of June, while it is safe to assume that sales of men’s underwear and blank CDs also soared that month.

So it’s of little surprise that Buenos Aires lives to see another catwalk fight with BAF Week‘s Spring/Summer 2011 collections.

Starting on Wednesday August 11, with a high-street emphasis from Desiderata, Juana de Arco and Wanama, yesterday had a more haute couture feel with shows from Marcelo Senra, Kostüme (see photo from S/S 2009) and Hermanos Estebecorena.

But designers aren’t participating without a helping hand. Twelve months ago, design duo Kostüme, who showed yesterday evening, started a dialogue with Brazil’s Santana Textiles, a company that produces 100 million metres of denim a year and has four factories in Brazil and one in Chaco province. The end result? A collection free from financial worry or scrimping on material.

The textile firm invested 100,000 pesos into Emiliano Blanco and Camila Milessi’s Kostüme company to take them a model’s step closer to their ultimate goal: “To have the freedom to design the clothes we want and be able to take them to the public,” according to Milessi, who spoke to the Herald yesterday. “We get to do exactly what we want, which is brilliant.

“The key, not only for us but for Argentine design, has been linking up with a firm that wants original ideas and wants us to produce them,” she added. “These kinds of growth plans are common in Brazil and looking ahead to next year is normal. But in Argentina it’s difficult to talk long term: taxes might change, a bank might shut down, anything could happen. But this security gives us the freedom to be creative.”

From the investor’s point of view, the gesture is about supporting the local industry, according to Belén Baldelomar, marketing and communication coordinator for Santana TextilesKostume spring/summer 2010. “Supporting some players in the design sector is fundamental for the growth of fashion in Argentine,” she said. The firm, which only set up camp in Argentina two years ago, already has a 25 percent market share, and previously invested in designers such as Elus in Brazil. In Kostüme’s case, the 100,000 pesos for this collection is split between marketing, publicity, material and manpower. The men and women’s wear brand, which also exports to Japan, is the first Argentine designer the textile firm has invested in, and this debut collection, based on styling from the Iggy Pop track Search & Destroy, is step one in Santana backing local designers.

Hermanos Estebecorena, who showed at the original BAF many moons ago and closed last night’s events, also export but to the US and Spain. With an on-off relationship exporting to the US, things are very much on again following some company pruning, while high levels of unemployment in Spain are surely having a knock-on effect with regards to consumers purchasing the brothers’ wares. Alejo Estebecorena spoke to the Herald about how exporting was faring.

“Although we’ve never had our own store in the US, we’ve always had a presence in a few department stores. We had a break for a few years as it was difficult to get paid, believe it or not, but we recently started to export again,” he said. The brothers decided to concentrate on designing rather than being businessmen and downsized in terms of structure, workshops and production. “We’re now a smaller firm which has always produced in Argentina, but we’ve decided to try and have a presence abroad. We’re giving the US the importance deserves again.”

One issue that is also affecting local designers is that of textile imports. “Argentina has been locking down imports so the only option is to produce here,” he added. “It’s been affecting materials coming into the country. Still, we’ve only ever used what is available to us and never worried too much about thread count, so it hasn’t affected us too much.”

And with regards to Spain, similarly to the US the menswear designers sell to department stores in Madrid and Barcelona among other cities. “It’s been very difficult, and recently Spain’s economic problems have been affecting us a lot. We’ve stopped growing there. We were seeing between 20 and 30 percent growth but that has stopped. Now we have to maintain that. It’s all psychological there. If the Spaniards are down, everything bursts,” said Estebecorena.

According to Marcia Günter, spokesperson for La Rural, which hosts BAF Week, last season, which took place in February, received around 40,000 visitors over the three day-stint. At 20 pesos a ticket, that totalled 800,000 pesos, and this season entry costs 25 pesos. With visitor numbers visibly up Thursday from the first day although Günter could not confirm exact figures, who knows how the tills will end up by close of play this evening.

Estebecorena added that he and brother they will benefit from participating in BAF in terms of sales, so Buenos Aires’ fashion clearly still has some kick in it.

First published in the Buenos Aires Herald on August 13, 2010.

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