Dear Shaded Viewers,
While I was flying back to NYC from Spain the other day, I read in the Delta inflight magazine that there are 152 "fashion weeks" held annually around the world. 152! That means there are around 3 fashion weeks going on every week of the year. For a junketeering jet-setter whose job it is to cover these "other" fashion weeks, the path through this dizzying array of catwalks is fraught with both joys and perils. One week you could be lying on the beach in Ipanema sucking on a coconut and the next you could be chased through Roman ruins by terrifying, rabid guard dogs somewhere in Macedonia. (The most ghastly scenario, of course, is arriving at a fashion week and discovering that the organizers didn't bother to secure a champagne or liquor sponsor.)
I wasn't sure what to expect from Valencia Fashion Week–an event so obscure, only four members of the international press were in attendance this season, even though it's been going on for five years now. Well, I'm happy to report that Valencia Fashion Week turned out to be the surprise hit of my winter jet-setting schedule. Maybe it was the balmy breeze blowing in off the Mediterranean or the endless supply of complimentary paella and Spanish vino or the sci-fi structures by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava (or the surprise cameo by one of Almodovar's early muses.) Whatever it was, it brought just the right touch of ambience to the catwalk creations from Valencia, Catalonia, the Basque region, Madrid & Castello.
Since these days you only need 2 examples, instead of 3, to declare something a trend, I hereby declare the trend of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall a significant influence on Latin fashion (the 1st was Juliana Jabour's collection at Fashion Rio). Here in Valencia, Miquel Suay definitely had Checkpoint Charlie on his mind, with a runway sliced through with a metal fence festooned with barbed wire. Coupled with the aggressive '80s styling, some felt this presentation was a bit ham-fisted ("too G-Star" one editor scoffed). I did like Suay's sentimentally "futuristic" silhouettes. Reminded me of some of the costumes from Mario Bava & Antonio Margheriti's sci-fi films in the 1960s.
There was a party and late fashion show in the club on the lower level of the Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias (designed by Calatrava). I liked how the peculiar (yet delicious) goat-cheese canapes (above) complemented the area's alien architecture.
The free-flowing rioja and cava were just what the doctor ordered for taking in the fashion show that followed: Something that might have been put on at 2am at NYC's Limelight, circa 1988….
Leigh Bowery lite
The group show, under the aegis of ModaKaos, featured looks by 13 young designers, with such cryptic inspirations as "Second Body," "Dark Thoughts," and "There's No Tomorrow." Oh darling, the angst, the angst!
Meet the front-row press divas: Jean-Luc Dupont of thefashionisto.com from Paris, me (the only reporter from the US Evil Empire in attendance) & Gabriel Ibarzabal of the blog Diario de Fiestas from Mexico. Yes, the fur collar is real. Sorry, PETA dolls!
Jose Zambrano was inspired by the "most aggressive species of native ants." I really liked the fog and the black tights. He does rather resemble an ant, I must admit.
Higinio Mateu is fond of baroque details and Edith Piaf songs. I really loved the shadows and the mise-en-scene.
When Rita Barbera, Valencia's mayor of 19 years, made her rock-star-like entrance before the Alex Vidal (Jr.) show, the paparazzi went absolutely wild and most members of the audience were driven to uncontrollable fits of ecstasy. A member of the (some say arch) conservative People's Party, Barbera appears here beside the director of Valencia Fashion Week (and father of the designer) Alex Vidal.
Of course I should mention that Barbera, from what I've read and been told by a few Spaniards, is said to be an open lesbian. Judging by the transcendent glow on the face of this bearded fashionista reaching out to her, like he's experiencing the Second Coming of Gertrude Stein, I have no doubt about the accuracy of these claims.
Vidal's collection was a tribute to cool Britannia, complete with a runway that mimicked a London street ("Look Right" — a reminder of the time I first visited Mark Simpson in Hampstead and, after only being on British soil for about 10 minutes, was almost run down by a car because, hello! I didn't bother to look right.)
I interviewed Vidal on camera for Valencian TV right before his show and, even though I don't know all that much Spanish, I could tell that he was referencing all the right cliches of UK culture and funneling them through his Spanish sen
sibility (i.e. bolero jackets). He also skillfully avoided any sort of Westwood hijinks, much to everyone's relief. (I worship Westwood but am weary of her imitators.)
Tonuca (above) was influenced by–surprise!–circus clowns.
Maya Hansen sent out a merciless, relentless parade of corsets. Because we all know how much women love to wear those, from desk to disco, for long hours on end!
Elle & I, lunch by the sea. I was feeling very Marcello Mastroianni that day.
Each course of our lunch at Mar de Bamboo, located in Valencia's port, was created by Chef Quique Barella and inspired by one of the designers showing on the catwalks. My favorite–duck with decadent chocolate sauce–was modeled after the designs of Jaime Piquer.
Never too busy for an interview: As a member of the international press, I was constantly hounded by Valencian TV, with reporters shouting a barrage of questions at me ("WHO ARE YOU WEARING?" "WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BRAND OF CHAMPAGNE?") every time I stepped away from my front row seat. (Actually, truth be told, I think they saw my one-second cameo on "Kell on Earth" and mistook me for some kind of somebody….)
"My typical day? Waking up and not really knowing which city I'm in. Oh no no no, it's not as glamorous as it sounds, darlings. I'm really just a soldier on the frontlines of fashion…"
Gabriel thought he was auditioning for the Ryan Seacrest role on "Valencian Idol."
We loved the parties at Valencia Fashion Week. Elle shows off her dancing skills and, in a rare moment, Gabriel is NOT replicating all of Gaga's moves from the "Bad Romance" video.
Thanks for reading. I'm off to Rio in 2 days to cover Carnaval for Diane.