Menchén Tomàs: Almost Two Decades of Enjoying Design
15 October, 2013
The goal that women’s fashion firm Menchén Tomàs has set itself over the coming months is to seek new business opportunities in international markets.
Olga R. Menchén and Francesc Grau Tomàs have been the names behind Menchén Tomàs since 1995. They have been working on the label for nearly two decades, but their eyes still sparkle when they describe the details of some of the firm’s iconic pieces. “The Clavel skirt had 30 linear metres in the last ruffle,” says Menchén. They recall that the piece was recently adapted to mark the 45th anniversary of the Nancy doll. It is one of the designs they have been releasing year after year since 1998 and may be one way of reminding themselves that they need to be faithful to their own style.
– “We went through a period, when we were much younger,” the two designers say, laughing, “when we wanted to please all of the people all of the time. We tried adapting our designs to whatever our customers in multibrand stores wanted.”
– “We weren’t thinking about what we wanted to do but rather what other people needed,” Francesc Grau explains.
– That’s probably why it was a great opportunity to start to have our own sales outlets,” Olga says. “From then on we did whatever we wanted, no detours”.
“We have a blast!” exclaims Tomàs, with the confidence of describing a frame of mind he shares completely with Menchén. Indeed, a skirt with a 30-metre-long ruffle is a great example of the creativity the designers allow themselves.
Sales around the world
The couple used multi-brand stores as their primary sales channel up until 1998. After that, they branched into designing a new marketing project, Menchén Tomàs stores, to oversee their future and the company’s growth.
They first chose the city where they lived, Barcelona. They followed this with Seville, Saragossa and Madrid.
Now, however, the time has come to put a halt to domestic expansion and focus on the international market. “In Spain, everything is really complicated from the consumer point of view. We can’t open new stores. We will be in Paris in September, where we already have a sales outlet in a multi-brand store. We will be able to network with people from around the world in Paris and start to explore markets and decide where we want to go,” say the designers behind Menchén Tomàs.
“The team is as important as the design. If the sketches aren’t interpreted right the company won’t work,” says Olga Menchén. Both she and Francesc are convinced that having a staff of people with more than 10 years experience in the company is one of their greatest assets. “We’ve all been on a learning curve together. It’s not easy finding people like the ones we have here. Young people don’t want to sew”.
Menchén Tomàs designs and produces in Barcelona, the founders like to underscore the latter part of the sentence. “Making things here is a value that is becoming increasingly important,” Tomàs says. “It will become increasingly important,” Menchén is quick to correct.
Is or will be? What is true is that they are both sure that having their own studio allows them to endow their designs with quality and value. “You can only get good-quality finishes if you monitor the pieces closely. When you make small production runs like we do, you have to be there to control them,” Tomàs says.
Both feel proud of another characteristic the firm is known for, i.e., “taking fabrics out of context”.
– “We take our silks out onto the streets,” Francesc says by way of example. “We toss ideas around and mix up fabrics that are unrelated to each other”.
– “Many, many years ago,” says Olga Menchén, “we designed plush jackets like the ones that sailors from the south of France wore. Now you see that kind of jacket everywhere, but when we started doing it, it wasn’t common at all!”
Today Olga Menchén is wearing a pair of the label’s trousers. They are made from the same material used in cycling shorts. This is another good example of the way they take fabrics out of context and which is an inspiration in their new designs.
A diversity of products
Designing only takes up around 30% of their time. The rest is spent on production, marketing and customer relations. In fact, this is another of the characteristics they believe defines them as a firm. “We like to have direct contact with our customers, and they like it too. We make sure we provide highly customised advice to the people who visit our store and we achieve it mainly by ensuring the store managers have a very thorough knowledge of the designs and can explain why a belt should be worn higher or lower this season,” Olga Menchén says.
The Catalan firm works “all over the place and all day long” and has its own collections, seasonal pieces, party dresses and bridalwear. “In fact, our core business is bridal dresses,” they say. This wide range of designs, along with their respective responsibilities as teachers in different fashion schools across Barcelona, means they can say that “the future looks as bright as the past has been”.