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Store windows and machinery at 080 Barcelona Fashion

26 August, 2014

Txell Miras' fashion show / 080 Barcelona Spring-Summer 2015

The potential of Catalan fashion can only be explained when industry and design come together in a single space. That is how the organisers of 080 Barcelona Fashion understand it.

An impressive and brilliant stage chosen to seduce the local and, particularly, the international, experts: Hospital de Sant Pau. The Barcelona site formed the backdrop to Catalan fashion, keen to make a name on the world stage, and Catalan industry, which misses the days when its textile factors were central to the economy.

The designers, auteur fashion leaders whose works feature in the most select store windows, and the industrialists, the orchestra leaders of the machinery that weaves and sews the pieces, came together in July at this World Heritage-listed Modernist ensemble.

Once again the two sectors came together on stage and in the parallel events at 080 Barcelona Fashion to explain that there are many sides to fashion but just one goal, which is “to make consumers fall in love”, in the words of the president of the Catalan Fashion and Textile Cluster (ACTM), Roser Ramos.

This year’s event also featured craftwork as a guest of the hosts. “What better place to hold 080 Barcelona Fashion than Hospital de Sant Pau?” asks general manager of the Catalan Trade, Crafts and Fashion Consortium, Josep Maria Recasens. “This show is a perfect metaphor between the creativity and craftwork which the architectural ensemble represents and which can be seen in the designers’ works, and the business capability of the textile companies at the head of the Catalan fashion sector”.

His words were received with interest by around 40 businesspeople from some of the 100 companies in the ACTM. While they spoke of Catalonia’s reindustrialisation and the necessary leadership of textile firms in this process, a few metres away, in the former kitchen of Hospital de Sant Pau, music, pottery, stained glass windows and flashbulbs created the perfect setting to showcase the work of Txell Miras, an example of auteur fashion far removed from mass production. At 080, Miras presented a collection of twisted shapes inspired by the structures designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner at the turn of the 20th century.

Fashion and industry

Creativity and business oomph, design and competitive production, globalisation and local craftwork, authentic style and trends without borders, all in a single space, Hospital de Sant Pau, or, to put it in other words, the 14th 080 Barcelona Fashion, held in July.

If this combination seemed impossible a few years ago, it is now a reality that looks likely to take hold and grow. Collaboration between industry and auteur design “is essential to making us a benchmark beyond the domestic market,” said a spokesperson for the Government of Catalonia, the event organiser.

“Our sector has 2,500 companies, posts €15 Bn in turnover and directly employs 60,000 people. Now is the time to be creative and we need strong labels to get boost customer interest. We must support our businesses going global and work decisively to recover the Catalan textile industry,” Aretex-Cóndor CEO and ACTM president Roser Ramos said on the third day of the 080 shows.

The Arenys de Mar-based label that Ramos runs presented its designs a few hours before the Sabadell firm Txell Miras and Barcelona’s Lebor Gabala on the same catwalk. The latter two firms, along with Natalie Capell, Josep Abril, Georgina Vendrell – all on the show’s summer calendar – are representatives of a fashion concept that arises from the very story their creators write. They think beyond trends, but at 080 shared the stage with the creative and commercial potential of firms such as Cóndor, Mango, Desigual and Yerse.

Indeed, Yerse showed at 080 on the same day as Miras and Lebor Gabala. It took advantage of the event to celebrate its 50th anniversary with, of course, its knitwear jumpers as the flagship product. It also used 080 Barcelona Fashion to present a collection inspired by the universally classic tennis style and to explain that “our market is the world”, as the firm’s creative director and manager Pep Generó underlined, saying that half of the company’s sales come from overseas. 

What model?

While the knitwear designs of Yerse, Cóndor, Lebor Gabala and Sita Murt, among many others, featured at 080, the president of the Spanish Knitwear Group (AEGP), Joan Canals, spoke of his concern about the effects the current economic model is having on the textile industry and fashion sector, describing it as being based on “going into debt and focusing on imports”. His reflections were addressed to the president of the Spanish Business Association for the Textile and Accessories Trade (ACOTEX), Borja Oria. Invited by the ACTM, Oria explained that all the economic indicators today suggest that “the gap in the market between products made in China and Spain” no longer exists.

“Wages in Asia have risen, petrol is more expensive and consumers value locally sourced goods and the ability to react,” Oria said, explaining the recovery of the local textile industry. “We have to learn from the footwear sector. Its companies managed to make ‘made in Spain’ an added value and a draw for foreign companies, who are producing here once more,” he said.

This expert analyst of the fashion and retail-trade sector expects positive growth of around 3% to 4% by the end of the year. This is good news that the businesspeople assembled at 080 Barcelona Fashion were keen to hear. However, he added some additional reflections. “Margins have fallen by 14-15% and half the goods sold in stores have some kind of discount. These figures, together with the fact that factory outlet areas now represent 15% of commercial space when in 2001 the figure was just 1%, is another element impacting the fall in margins,” the ACOTEXT president said.

However, for businesses and designers alike, this reality could have a less negative reading when seen in terms of internationalisation. “Prices in Spain are around 15% below the European average. Ours is a highly competitive market and when we go abroad we have the capacity to raise prices or share activity with a franchiser or local partner,” Oria said.

Torras is another good example of this scenario that Oria paints – the label also featured at 080 Barcelona Fashion and exports 70% of its knitwear and leather wear to foreign markets, where it has been expanding strongly in China, Russia, Italy and the US in recent years.

Catwalk and electronic cHannel

Most of the companies on the 080 calendar have made good use of sales opportunities abroad. Mango and Desigual are stand-out examples, but more than 60% of the companies that featured in the 14th 080 do so. They nearly all have an online store as well. In most cases they are small or medium-sized enterprises that use this channel instead of having their own shop or in order to promote their products beyond the physical sales point. Guillermina Baeza, Celia Vela, Zazo & Brull and Miriam Ponsa are just some examples.

“In the past four years, e-commerce has posted two-digit growth. It’s hard to give the figures that this activity represents for the sector as a whole, but we know that we are still a long way from the 14% of the UK or the 10% of the EU, where there is a longstanding tradition of catalogue sales and so online stores have found it much easier to take hold. Here people still want to go into a store and feel the product. However, click and collect, i.e., buying over the internet and picking the product up in-store, is becoming increasingly popular. It represents 40% of the online sales of a company like Cortefiel. We still have a long way to go still in this channel,” Oria said.

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