Good menswear is all about timing. Knowing exactly where we are right now and where we’re going next is paramount to design sophisticated product which resonates. It’s intuitive and is the sign of a great designer.
Left - Mans Concept Menswear's Jaime Alvarez
Hitting the mark and making menswear waves is 25 years old Barcelona Fashion Week star, Jaime Alvarez. His label ‘Mans Concept Menswear’ has quickly become the hot ticket of Barcelona, winning Best Emerging Designer multiple times, and offers a combination of dressy yet cool menswear which wouldn’t look out of place on Harry Styles or any red carpet.
"Everyone believes that MANS comes from man, but, it actually comes from my grandpa’s german surname ‘Demans’,” says Alvarez. “My grandpa is the person I admire the most, he made me appreciate a good suit and taught me how important it is in men’s dressing.
“I covert finely constructed clothes made from good fabrics that last a lifetime.” he says. “But, I look for more relaxed tailoring for everyday life.”
Alvarez founded Mans Concept Menswear in 2018 straight after graduating from the Istituto Europeo Di Design (IED Madrid) in 2017.
“I've always had the idea of creating my own brand.” he says. “Everything started two years into my final project where I presented twelve looks under my brand concept.” he says. “I’d found an enormous gap in menswear between the classic tailor’s suit to an extravagant design that I personally believe no one would wear on the daily life, so I believed that there would be a place for MANS.”
Right - Mans Concept Menswear SS20
Huma Humayun, Fashion & Features Editor, Schön! magazine says, “The brand is definitely one to watch. Jaime is not only the most exciting young designer at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week, but holds his own amongst much more experienced and established brands.”
Humayun was on the judging panel when Mans Concept Menswear won Best Emerging Designer for the third time at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week in February, 2019. “It was simply the strongest collection, both in terms of originality and, I believe, commercial viability.” she says. “Perhaps it was not as 'commercial' in the traditional sense as some of the other collections in that category, but to compete on an international stage, one must also bring something fresh to the table.” says Humayun.
Proudly Spanish, Mans Concept Menswear is made entirely made in Spain in a little atelier in Madrid, except the shirts, that are made in Seville, Alvarez’s home town. There are four people in his team and seven more working at the ateliers.
Based around tailoring, Alvarez, is trying to push the boundaries of masculinity yet with very beautiful clothes. “Masculinity is an attitude whether you wear an ostrich feather shirt or an anthracite grey blazer. We decontextualise fabrics that from the beginning are for women and use in menswear pieces without losing the virility and masculinity.” he says.
For his AW19 collection Alvarez took to India for inspiration and, his latest collection, SS20, it was all about a night in Vienna.
“I get my inspiration from many different places; from guys I see on the street in my hometown in Sevilla, La Luisana. There I design the majority of the collections, but it's curious because it’s far from Andalusian folklore, but there are pieces with a southern see through inspiration.” says Alvarez. “I take a lot of inspiration from fabrics, normally, I investigate fabrics and from there, the sketches.” he says.
Alvarez doesn’t garner much inspiration from the current menswear market and looks to the old masters. “I’m tired of sportswear, etc.” he says. “I love to have references from artistic tendencies and iconic dressmakers as Cristobal Balenciaga. His skill with fabrics and patterns still have me fascinated.”
Just shown at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week in June 2019, his latest collection ‘A Night In Vienna’ was a confection of brooding tailoring with sheer pieces and elegant satin sashes.
“With this collection we were looking for a maturity on the patterns as well as in the couture through the details compared to our other collections.” says Alvarez. “This time, the MANS man travels to Vienna to be captivated and nourish himself on the romanticism that involves not just the art and the culture in the Austrian capital, but in the minimalistic and solemn way of opera and music conservatories.
Left - Mans Concept Menswear AW19
“This collection is more focused on details; lined blazers in white poplin instead of the classic lined tailoring. The flaps are full of eyelets, trousers topped with mini satin flaps and waterfall fringing.” he says.
“It's a collection that maybe does not flash on the runway, but a closer look and there are surprises. On the colour palette it’s much more sober and defined, when compared to the last collection where I made a more crazy colour study, with colour touches of burgundies, sunset oranges, and pinks."
Alvarez is referring to his AW19 collection, which is just about to hit his website, and was inspired by India and featured florals, exaggerated lapels and knitted tank tops. A vibrant Indian colour palette of fuschia, marigold yellow and green gave this a collection a summery feel with the highlights being delicate leaf cutouts in soft tailoring.
Humayun, says, “The (SS20) collection clearly demonstrated Jaime's progression as a designer. It was sophisticated both in terms of ideas and technique. It was much more restrained than the previous collection, in terms of the palette, but still had shots of bold colour. I think Jaime has really mastered how to introduce colour into his collections and it's one of his main strengths - that and his attention to detail. I also loved the accessories.
“It's not easy to achieve an impact on the catwalk AND produce wearable garments, but I feel the brand does this very successfully. It's tailoring with a high fashion edge, for a man who wants to stand out without being overly flamboyant." she says.
“It will be exciting to see what Jaime does next season. Although he's developed a strong signature, each collection is very distinct.” says Humayun.
Any young and gifted designer will reach a stage in their career where they have to think about the next step. Do you stay a big fish in a small pond, or take the leap? “This was our last show at 080 Barcelona Fashion and we are looking for new platforms to present the new collection.” says Alvarez. British Fashion Council, are you listening?!
Right - Mans Concept Menswear SS20 at 080 Barcelona Fashion in June, 2019
There’s been much talk recently about the relevance of fashion shows and, subsequently, fashion weeks. With many brands questioning the expense, time and effort these showcases take, it is prescient for them to work harder and justify their existence.
There was a time, not that long ago, when fashion weeks were a lot like cocktail hour: there was one happening around the globe at any given point in time. Cities saw their own fashion week as a self-elevation and promotion to help their domestic fashion industry as well as tourism and the overall perception of the city. Smaller fashion weeks sprung up, hoping to emulate their big city rivals, in a calendar already squeezed for time.
“080 Barcelona Fashion”, now in its 23rd edition under the “080” - the city’s telephone code - moniker is being realistic about its ambitions and the new need to promote talent from emerging countries. For the first time, Barcelona Fashion Week threw open its catwalks to designers outside the domestic Catalan market, and looked to international designers from Colombia, China, South Africa and Turkey to provide new points of view for #AW19.
Left - Marta Coco Project Manager 080 Barcelona Fashion
Marta Coco, Project Manager for 080 Barcelona, this is her first fashion week in charge, and responsible for the fashion department for 9 years, says, ”The fashion week is paid for by both private and public funds. The majority of funds, 70% come from the public, Generalitat through the Trade, Crafts and Fashion Consortium (CCAM) and 30% from sponsors, designers and other collaborations.
“The scope mainly is to focus and promoting on three areas - trade, crafts and fashion. We hope to promote crafts and creativity in general. The main objective is promotion.”
Situated in the north-western part of Barcelona, looking down on Gaudi’s magnificent Sagrada Familia, and housed in the masterpiece of a restored art-nouveau hospital - Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau - 080 Barcelona Fashion is in the perfect environs to highlight its creative credentials. But, can cities really afford to put on these frivolous and lavish displays in a time of increasing government cuts and austerity?
“It puts Barcelona into international fashion minds”, says Coco. “We’re not Paris or Milan, but we’re going the right direction. It gives Barcelona, as a city, recognition.”
“Fashion accounts for approximately 7.5% of GDP, including retail.” says Coco. “There are 4500 manufacturing companies in the domestic fashion business, and 15,000 companies, if you include retailers, employing 60,000 people.” she says.
Catalonia has a long history of textiles and leather working industries. “Fashion is a reflection of this historic background.” says Coco.
“In 2005, (when “080 Barcelona Fashion” started, they had been previous incarnations since the 1980s) many textile companies were dying or were in crisis. People were moving to China and the largest ones couldn’t compete. Companies needed to readapt and rethink their strategies,” says Coco.
“Today, the largest companies are fast-fashion retailers, like Mango. We’re also very big in bridal with companies like Pronovias and Rosa Clará.” she says.
The recent AW19 edition, held last week, of the 080 Barcelona Fashion Week calendar had 30 designers showing, with an additional 20-30 exhibiting in the showroom and, also, 20-30 in the pop gallery. Over the week, they had over 40,000 visitors, with unique numbers around 20,000.
“The city council would like the fashion week to open to citizens, but my personal interest is to focus on buyers and fashion, lifestyle and beauty press. I am dedicated to the professionals. The other side comes by itself.” says Coco.
For the first time, 080 Barcelona Fashion Week is hosting international designers such as Polite (Colombia), Esaú Yori (China), Chulaap by Chu Suwannapha (South Africa) and Umit Benan (Turkey/France).
Umit Benan, previously head of Trussardi and a feature on the Parisian men’s calendar, mentioned his desire to step out from the main carousel of New York to Paris fashion weeks and that he feels that these satellite fashion weeks allows his message and brand to have more impact. He previously showed at Tokyo Fashion Week before being invited to Barcelona.
“If we want to be more international we need to offer global content, not just Catalonian. We said let’s not set an exact quantity, but look to designers who add something to our offer here. We’ve looked to emerging countries for a new perspective of fashion. They were chosen, together with XXL, my international PR agency, and it’s who excites me, and designers and contacts it would be good to have here.” says Coco.
080 Barcelona Fashion Week is carving a niche within the fashion calendar, hoping to offer a stepping stone for international talent on a bedrock of Catalan talent like Antonio Miro, Brain & Beast and Custo Barcelona.
“It’s impossible to compete with other fashion weeks, so we have to find our own niche. I would like Barcelona to be a good platform for talented designers coming into Europe; more about emerging talent than super-established designers.” says Coco. “I would like a more open vision of fashion, where they can present the whole universe of the brand. Not just catwalks, but maybe present a capsule in a film, a performance, a happening or work with a video maker. We have Sónar here, a filmmaker cluster, and we’re strong in audio and visuals.” she says. “There are many other creative industries in Catalonia and fashion isn’t integrated with them at the moment. We cannot grow, grow, grow, doing shows, shows, shows!” says Coco.
While the established fashion weeks may look slightly snobbishly down on these smaller fashion weeks, it is their more relaxed and supportive approach which will offer brands and designers exposure in an increasingly tough and competitive business. Barcelona is shoe-horned in between Copenhagen and New York, but it highlights that there is a big fashion world outside of the four dominant cities, and these can be where exciting new brands and ideas can bubble up. Fashion weeks can still be used as a vehicle to showcase the importance this industry has to a region’s economy and creativity, and 080 Barcelona Fashion is proving it.
My first visit to this beautiful city’s fashion week; its new remit of hosting international talent, and nearly half of the shows dedicated to menswear, makes this a place to watch for nascent menswear brands. Here are TheChicGeek’s highlights:
Mans Concept & Menswear
One of Barcelona’s emerging menswear stars, Mans Concept & Menswear - it's a mouthful - is designer, Jaime Álvarez’s brand. Born in Seville, he studied fashion at IED Madrid and graduated in 2017. This was a journey to India featuring florals, exaggerated lapels and knitted tank tops. An Indian colour palette of fuschia, marigold yellow and green gave this a summery feel with the highlights being delicate leaf cutouts in soft tailoring.
Both Left - Mans Concept & Menswear took a trip to India
Invited Turkish designer, Benan, looked to religion as a leveller of people: once their shoes are taken off in the mosque everybody is equal. He launched his eponymous line in 2009 and won the 1st edition of Who’s on Next/Uomo contest the year after at Pitti Uomo. This collection featured long trench coats to the floor, even coming in reflective gold, thuggish looking bleached corduroy and knitted under-looking clothes. Tailoring was prominent with evening wear and overcoats and quilted jackets and trousers injected the AW19 protective element.
Right - Umit Benan
Javier Girón studied at the Instituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Barcelona and upon graduating he moved to Los Angeles to work alongside Jeremy Scott, Creative Director at Moschino. He returned to Barcelona in 2016, to establish his high-end menswear brand. This was a slick sportswear collection featuring collegiate lettering in a monochrome palette. It’s hard to get this kind of aesthetic to look high-end, but here it looked considered, stylish and well fabricated.
Left - Jnorig AW19
Pablo Erroz founded his ready-to-wear fashion brand for men and women in 2010. Entirely made in Spain, this was a collection with a touch of the Gallaghers with the 90s round coloured lensed glasses. Stripes and the Spanish leather work was there in a light, wearable collection with nautical ropes, florals and sequins.
Right - Liam or Noel?! All made in Spain, Pablo Erroz
Spain’s own youthful and unashamed take on Versace hyped fashion, the Rubén Galarreta brand launched in 2014. Featuring the perfect balance between haute couture and sportswear, the vibrant prints, transparent fabrics, hand-embroidered pieces and unique accessories aren’t for those who want to blend into the crowd. Elasticated side cut outs on trousers, the Chinese Lucky Cat waving motif and transparent underwear makes for a sexualised and provocative male for AW19. This is underwear as outerwear.
Left - Strapped in for AW19 - Rubén Galarreta
Disclosure - TheChicGeek travelled to Barcelona thanks to 080 Barcelona Fashion Week
The modern way of shopping for something of quality often involves a little bit, but not too much - you can always ask TheChicGeek, of legwork to find the source. What I mean by this is, the majority of brands don’t make their own products. They use the ‘Private Label’ system of getting quality manufacturers to produce their goods. Often these manufacturers have their own in-house labels, producing products of the same quality without the designer mark up. While not cheap, you’re getting much better value for money.
One brand which fits this bill is the Spanish BIEL-LO. Carrying on a 25-year old tradition of expert craftsmanship, BIEL-LO produces fine quality knitted garments and accessories in the mountains of La Llacuna, Barcelona.
BIEL-LO constructs timeless pieces using small-scale production to provide you with their personal hallmark: each and every item has been made to delight and be cherished. The hand-finished garments are designed to ensure functionality and warmth, year after year.
Left & Right - BIEL-LO AW17
Currently stocked at Dover Street Market Tokyo and NYC, Tomorrowland, American Rag Cie, Merci, My Boon, the new AW17 collection is a collection of the must have earth colours and textured finishes like corduroy.
To be honest, these pictures don't do the clothes justice and it would be nice to see them in a UK stockist where you can see the quality for yourself. It’s also got that slightly eccentric edge and point of difference that you find around the Barcelona area.
Below - The BIEL-LO factory