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Discover Barcelona’s golden age of fashion at the “Barcelona Haute Couture” exhibition

13 January, 2011

In the first exhibition hall are shown Haute Couture dresses from sixties until nowadays.

An exhibition depicting the golden age of Catalan high fashion is now on display at the Palau Robert until February 28, 2011. “Barcelona Haute Couture,” which comes to the Palau Robert after being shown at Madrid’s Museo del Traje, includes 100 dresses from Antoni de Montpalau’s textile collection. The exhibition is sponsored by the Banc de Sabadell Foundation and the Government of Catalonia’s Consortium of Trade, Craftwork, and Fashion (CCAM).

Barcelona’s golden age of haute couture began in 1919 when designer Pedro Rodríguez opened his first store. One year later, a Lanvin store opened on Rambla Catalunya. The 1920s saw the rise of couture labels like Santa Eulalia, La Innovación, and El Dique Flotante in Barcelona, while designers including Balenciaga and Asunción Bastida made a name for themselves in the 1930s. Manuel Pertegaz, the other big name in fashion in Barcelona, opened his own couture house in the 1940s. The golden age of haute couture ended in the 1960s with the growth of ready-to-wear. Although couture houses faced a number of difficulties, they coexisted alongside off-the-rack fashion for several years; famous designers of the period include Andrés Andreu, Margarita Nuez, Josep Ferrer and Roberto Dalmau.

Barcelona dominated the Spanish fashion world due to several factors, including a direct connection to Paris, the Catalan textile industry, and a bourgeois clientele connected to this industry who consequently sought its products. In this framework, embroidery and passamanterie craftsmanship, industrial training schools, and couturiers helped promote the textile industry. A connection with Paris actually dates to the end of the nineteenth century, when Barcelona’s couture tradition arose and its important designers were connected to the Parisian design scene. For example, a very young Jean Lanvin moved to Barcelona to study under Carolina Montagne. The pieces shown at the exhibition include a party dress designed by Lanvin between 1920 and 1924, as well as embroidery created by the Luguel house for Pedro Rodríguez and Pertegaz.

Supported by the Spanish government, Barcelona’s haute couture acquired an international reputation in the 1950s and 1960s. High-fashion designers displayed their collections internationally in cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, London, Brussels, Sydney, and Cairo. This process of internationalization actually began with the founding of the Cooperativa de l’Alta Costura (Haute Couture Cooperative) in the 1940s after the Spanish Civil War ended, and included the five “big names” in fashion: Pedro Rodríguez, Manuel Pertegaz, Asunción Bastida, Santa Eulalia and El Dique Flotante. The exhibition includes dresses, shoes, and hats produced by these designers.

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