Fashion, I consider, is a very personal thing. Trendsetters and big name designers create the fashions we are supposed to live by but, sometimes, living up to the dictates of fashion can be a hard—sometimes even dangerous—thing. We cannot forget that the world is large enough that variety and diversity in fashion is something almost inevitable.
In any case, and in my country, the daily lived experience of fashion is also very diverse and responds to regional as well as rural/urban parameters; for, it is not the same to live by the beach in a region of the South of the country where they enjoy 75ºF all year round and the closer they are to wear a raincoat is when they connect their garden sprinklers, as it is to spend 5 to 6 months a year fighting off rain, fog, and other meteorological disasters not sure if this is even fair to begin with. But, trying to make a long story short, and taking funds for granted, I dare say that in Spain you can pretty much move from ‘dressed to kill’ to ‘kill me, I’m dressed’ in walking the same city strip at different times of the day. For I cannot say that we are a particularly talented race in terms of fashion, or particularly trendy for that matter. No, to be honest, I don´t think that we can be said to possess a particular style in any given way. But this is mostly so because I consider that, probably due to globalization and corporatization, you can pretty much hop from one capital to another in the European Union and find the same styles, clothes and fabrics slightly adapted to each country’s particular character. I guess that, in a world where commodities “R Us,” you can no longer expect to be unique, alternative, or chic without having to wonder whether you are pretty much buying into another man-made illusion of an uniqueness, alternativeness or chicness some fashion think-tank or other has put months of intellectual effort into making you crave. So, yes, other than the occasional torero outfit or flamenco dress, I can see no traces of a ‘Spanishness in progress’ in the way we dress.
In any case, and for the purpose of this issue on fashion, the brand Zara—owned by Amancio Ortega—and the big corporate conglomerate it now belongs to, Inditex, own the vast majority of trendy clothing stores for modest-to-middle-class-pockets with a reasonable correlation between price and quality of make in Spain. It is to Zara, that opened its first shop in the mid 1970s, that we owe the ‘mainstreaming of fashion’ as an affordable/enjoyable cultural practice in Spain. With lines that are tailored in several different seasons throughout the year and targeting both the younger and the not so young potential customer, its’ makes fit both those looking for stylist and well-designed pieces, as they fit those looking for a more comfortable and casual style. Indeed, Zara has built an empire over the years that has no equivalent in Spain. Other national and international firms have tried to mimic its success—namely Mango, also Spanish, and H&M—but this big money-maker, now one of the 8 brands included in Inditex, has proved hard to vanquish even when crisis and lack of money have put many ‘out of business’ sign onto other clothing firms in Spain. As to the conglomerate of Inditex, it owns most of the stores you can find in any given commercial street in a capital city in Spain. If you are having a hard time adapting to the different geography of a new city in my country, it will suffice to look for its most central ave to feel ‘easily at home’ in the familiarity of a number of stores that are the same everywhere.
Still, I think that one can indeed say that in Spain there’s been a move for a more ‘aestheticized’ lived experience of fashion. Meaning that people now worry a lot more about their looks and what they wear than they used to. The main reason for this is that we now live in a far more commoditized world where how one looks and what one wears is often determinant in how one is read; but also, because in the last 30 to 40 years in Spain we have moved towards a more cosmopolitan type of society, a welfare-state society if you prefer, where access to affordable yet fashionable clothing is something almost anybody has.
Nonetheless, I find fashion a paradoxical, and often extremely absurd, thing. Don´t get me wrong, I do like fashion myself and follow its tenets as one follows the news—turning them off when you get saturated and/or fed up with it. What I mean is that fashion, or at least the world of ‘high fashion’ we often hear about, is one of those things that set all my alarms off right away due to its almost proselitistic stance. For indeed, there is a sort of self-congratulatory thing about the world of fashion and the way it constantly fakes an image of itself. I find this faking rather ambiguous and the circle of superficiality and emptiness fashion often helps create, rather pathetic and useless in the end.
Nonetheless, there are a number of interesting names and brands in my country you may be curious to check. If so, here are some links you may find useful: