Proximity and sustainability in Catalan fashion
They have expanded all over the world and are outside the low-cost clothing sector, focusing on ethics in their work and production
This is what these brands' clothes are like: relatively affordable, durable and sustainable. We review the Catalan firms and designers who work with criteria of proximity and sustainability and who want you to leave fast fashion aside without ending up broke.
Rita Row was born in Figueres 7 years ago and today it's all over the world: it has 160 sale points, several in the United States and others in places as remote as Japan and South Korea. The team is made up of five women, led by Xènia Semis and Imma Serra, lifelong friends who lived together in Barcelona while they were studying and then "met again in Figueres with the wish to create a new clothing brand", recalls Irene Pérez, the brand's communications manager.
Their muse is a fictitious woman baptised as Rita Row, who they imagine as a "modern person, who likes to be comfortable and who values details", they explain. Their clothes are for everyday use, with a touch of trendiness that makes them timeless and special. To cut costs and reach more customers, they have created a line of organic cotton basics, and although they do not participate in fast fashion, they do have sales: "It's the moment when some people can afford a Rita Row", says Pérez.
The collections are entirely produced in Spain, especially in Catalonia, and Portugal, with fabrics from Italy, France and mostly organic and recycled local fabrics. "Every year we visit the factories where we produce", says Rita Row. They do it to have a quality control and traceability of what they defend.
Where to buy: On their website and in the shops of Barcelona Ivori (Mirallers, 7) and VlancStore (Passatge Valeri Serra, 23).
It is the newest of them all. Gale was born six months ago, in the middle of the pandemic, and its managers are Tatiana Cortés, Arnau Abril and Gaby Pujol. Abril and Cortés saw their professional world, that of music, disappear "from one day to the next", while Pujol had left the sector after having had her own clothing brand and sale point for more than 15 years in Avinyó street in Barcelona. When the health emergency arrived, she left everything and returned to Argentina. From this defeat came Gale, which references the wind. They chose the name in reference to the current situation and a song by Andrew Weatherall, a producer who died last year, well known because he worked with Primal Scream: Fail we may, sail we must, about a young sailor who finds himself immersed in a force 9 storm.
"The pandemic has been a big storm for us. But in the face of all the adversity we've brought out the best in ourselves, which is why we also make clothes with vibrant, cheerful prints", says Cortés. Pujol is in charge of the pattern making, they never make more than 10 copies of each pattern and they upcycle fabrics, as they use leftovers from factories and discontinued stocks. "We have only been able to obtain 15 metres of some, 30 metres of others, and a maximum of 50. That is why the print run is so limited and exclusive", they point out. What's more, they are made in a workshop in Barcelona.
Victor Von Schwarz
He has been in fashion for less than 9 years and has dressed Rosalía, La Mala Rodríguez, Bad Gyal and Fergie from Black Eyed Peas, among other top artists. A regular at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week, Victor von Schwarz produces one collection a year, for both men and women, without making much distinction between genders. Born in Sabadell, he has lived in Taipei (Taiwan) and now has his nerve centre in the Gràcia neighbourhood of Barcelona, where he makes "everything, everything, everything", he explains. That's where he has his workshop, where he is in charge of the pattern making, the cutting and also the making of the tulle pieces. The rest he orders from other workshops in the neighbourhood.
This year for the first time he has presented swimwear, a collection that has been difficult to achieve: "I had wanted to do it for a long time, but it was very difficult to find professionals to make a small production". The problem has been solved thanks to some girls in Gràcia who work with swimwear fabrics and make the production. All the fabrics he uses are bought in Spain or in Korea, and although his name, Victor in black according to the translation, refers to the "darkness where each collection has come from", this last one "is the only one that doesn't, because after lockdown I wanted to do something a bit more fun, and I've reminisced about our post-adolescent period and Brit pop", explains Von Schwarz.
Where to buy: On their website
Adriana Zalacain, CUS designer, studied political science, but due to a setback in life she was unable to practice. Against all odds she became interested in colour, fashion design and sustainability, and created her own brand. "I've felt from imposter to comfortable in the world of fashion design", she confesses. For years she developed CUS in Spain but operating for Central Europe, where the concern for sustainability was already well developed and widespread in society. To deepen these values the brand ended up turning a year ago, looking for a more local action - despite the fact that online they sell a lot abroad - with the creation of their own workshop, in the Gràcia neighbourhood and within sight of everyone who passes by on Carrer de Sèneca.
The workshop is combined with a shop in the same space, which is only open on Wednesdays and is used to show and sell new models. They have no stocks, so when a piece is ordered they make it specifically and it takes between 4 and 13 days to deliver it to the person who has bought it. They basically use organic cotton and Tencel, and some of the pieces are kept throughout the collections with small variations, because they are basic, timeless and long-lasting.
Where to buy: On their web and in Sèneca street number 8 on Wednesdays from 10 am to 8 pm.