Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week – Part I – Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Miriam Ocariz

Cibeles is in its 51st edition, pretty impressive for an international fashion week that isn't one of the Big 3. Aesthetics play an obviously important role in Spanish culture, but decoding the difference between, say French, and Spanish fashion is a fascinating enterprise. For the most part, the designers showing at Cibeles demonstrate able talent when it comes to tailoring – many pieces are intricately constructed (and occasionally overblown). What some of them are lacking, however, is a feeling for contemporary life. Instead many are stuck paying stylistic homage to the 20th century, from the grand couture aesthetic of the 50's, to the more 'modern' (but, at this point, actually retro) looks of the 90's.In these cases, the clothes end up feeling oddly disconnected from what a woman might want to wear in 2010, more like case studies of fashion history than contemporary stylistic statements.

The best talents, however, manage to put forth their own unique vision combined with interesting technique. The clothes (to my eyes at least) seem to express subtle aspects of the Spanish character, without resorting to obvious cliches.

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada was a name I had heard of before I landed, but I wasn't familiar with her work. I barely made it to her show on time, and by the time I arrived it was too late to sit, but I had a straight-on view from the photogapher's pit. The show was full of explosive rainbow shades, and an interesting mix of prints melding with drapery to create distorted 'heart' effects. de la Prada obviously shows some extreme runway pieces, but I can imagine she does a good business with diffusion lines – her sunny, slightly silly aesthetic would translate well to accessories and housewares. When she took her bow at the end of the show, it wasn't such a good look, however. Made up to look like some kind of demented clown, she reminded me of Betsey Johnson on a bender.

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Miriam Ocariz's collection had a Belle du Jour-meets-the-Infanta appeal, and her knits reminded me a bit of Azzedine Alaia's sensual silhouettes – if you're going to be influenced by another designer, that's one of your best bets. Shot through with silver and slightly high-waisted, some pieces also incorporated graphic prints and rich textures. The overall impression was one of Spanish sophistication, what the city's ladies who lunch might wear to take tea at the Madrid Ritz.

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