Spanish fashion must unite production and design for future success, says Madrid fashion week director
The reins of MBFW Madrid are held by Charo Izquierdo. The journalist took over the management of the event in November 2016 when its founder and manager Cuca Solana left her role after more than 30 years leading the fashion week, formerly known as Cibeles. And last April, Izquierdo’s responsibilities were expanded to include the management of the Ifema fashion fairs and events, including Momad Metropolis and Momad Shoes. She sends a message of renewal as she outlines the next steps towards restoring the Spanish fashion industry to its rightful place.
“Changing the dates has been a revolution”
The saying ‘renew or die’ must have been in Charo Izquierdo’s mind when she took up her position as director of the Madrid fashion week. And she swiftly got to work. “The change of dates was a priority when I started 15 months ago. I was aware that we were not going to go anywhere whilst we continued to coincide with London Fashion Week,” she says about a situation that has, until now, caused Madrid Fashion Week to fade into the background, eclipsed by the fashion weeks of the four great fashion capitals of the world. “The idea has been to leave the grand circuit of international catwalks and try to be held after Haute Couture in Paris, at the end of January and the beginning of July.”
The initiative, aimed at finding a space for Madrid in an increasingly jam-packed calendar, has received mixed reactions. While Ifema is pleased with her international outlook, which is expected to attract more press and international buyers, certain sectors of the Spanish industry are reluctant, saying that July is not “the best time” as press, agencies and companies are in intensive periods or their staff on vacations. “With an incredible merit, we have managed to have a fashion week for 35 years on coinciding dates that have never been changed. It is a very important thing. But after a long time of inertia, this has left Madrid in no man’s land.”
The event’s venue is also frequently questioned by some sectors, but Izquierdo disagrees. “We work with Madrid’s leading fair institution, which has very good facilities,” she says. “It is true that there are more and more designers and brands that, despite the cost, prefer to have a unique space for them. Now it has been concluded that even if they do their shows outside of Ifema they must be included in the calendar, which contributes to its enrichment,” Izquierdo explains and highlights her main concern: “My goal is to make showcasing in Madrid profitable for fashion brands.”
For its 68th edition, the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid will be held two weeks earlier than usual, from 6 to 11 July. It will a have a programme packed with presentations and catwalk shows from up to 47 designers and brands, both inside and outside the Madrid exhibition centre.
Communication and unity, the endemic problems of Spanish fashion
“Our great weakness is communication,” says Izquierdo. “When it comes to highlighting designers and brands, the media has preferred, historically, to talk about international brands, instead of Spanish ones. This is unheard of and does not happen in other countries,” she continues. In the face of such issues, the solution seems to be to establish synergies. “The media has to understand that it is vital to reinforce the promotion of our own designers and brands for everybody’s sake. Sometimes (designers) have been accused of not advertising, but if they do not appear, they will sell less and will never have the financial resources needed to advertise. It’s a vicious circle. The media has to understand that they do a disservice if they do not talk about Spanish fashion.”
Although Madrid fashion week wants to rival its London counterpart and is gradually gaining ground, its English neighbours still take the lead on multiple fronts. “In the United Kingdom, there is the body called the British Fashion Council which brings together everything that happens in the fashion industry,” Izquierdo explains. “It is a country decision and we need that boost, with an organisation that sells the ‘Spain’ brand and where fashion plays a very important role.” But Izquierdo’s ambitions go even further, underlining the importance of Spanish fashion from the large distribution company that has changed the understanding of consumption worldwide, such as big companies like Puig; international firms like Delpozo; others with Spanish roots, like Loewe; and others which are changing the landscape like Palomo Spain. “The only thing we have left is to believe it," says Izquierdo.
The country’s commitment should not only involve institutions and the media, according to the director. “A union between industry and design is essential to make this move forward. There is a lot of value in linking designers with companies that have production capacity, as big production levels would help them have a greater impact.” With this goal in mind, her appointment as head of the Ifema fashion events could be key. “Having the management of the trade fairs and the fashion week in my hands is very important for me, and it means I can influence the union between industry and design.”
Madrid’s fashion fairs need to be revamped, digitalised and adapted to cater for younger consumers if they are to survive and continue to be attractive. “I believe that everything can be renewed and that everything is worth being renewed. We have to work hard to improve the quality, although the current standards are very good, we need to intensify them,” Izquierdo says as she lays out her priorities. “My number one goal is to work on a quality offer that will allow me to achieve the second objective: to attract quality national and international buyers.”
Along these lines, she has announced that a major review of the trade shows’ format will take place. “The number of square metres sold is very important but so is the concept of the event and the sectors within it. Momad has to address the Spanish multi-brand retailer and not only the international buyer.” And she continues: “Additionally, it is very important to boost the concepts of sustainability and menswear; the latter hasn’t had a big presence at the fair yet and presents great opportunities nowadays. We also have to work in a more digital field and get in touch with the end consumer through the fairs.”
Izquierdo also plans to promote the footwear show. “Momad Shoes is another fair in need for transformation to become a platform that can represent the second largest European footwear producer. At the very least, we are obliged to have the second most important fair in Europe,” she explains. In short, the goals are the same for both fairs. “We have to work on the contents we offer and enrich the fairs through relevant fashion events, by offering stands, catwalk shows and even concerts. After all, the fairs have to be a reflection of society,” she states with conviction. The roadmap is clear, but there is a lot of work to do.
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