Sunday, February 3, 2008

The darker side of Argentinian fashion

Buenos Aires is in love with style and fashion. From the glamorous dress code of tango dancers to the hip styles of youngsters on the street, this is one of the most stylish and fashion-obsessed cities in the Southern hemisphere.

Buenos Aires is also in love with it's fashion scene - there are number of gorgeous, glossy fashion books and magazines like Menta or Quiero published, solely devoted to Argentinian fashion. Stars of this scene are, naturally, the big name designers of the capital. Fashion mags rarely forget to mention that Pablo Ramírez was included in Phaidon's fashion tome Samples as one of the most influential designers in the international scene. Or that Jessica Trosman shared the pages of Taschen's Fashion Now with a number of the brightest rising stars in the world.

Fashion, like people, in Buenos Aires comes with two sides: one dark, dramatic and brooding; another romantic, sensual and colourful. More on the brighter side later, let us focus now on two designers from the darker side of the Argentinian fashion.

Pablo Ramírez is the master of the gothic in local fashion and possibly the most respected fashion designer in the country, a title well earned. Born 1971, he studied fashion design at University of Buenos Aires. Winning several prestigious awards early in his career opened him a possibility to set up his own brand, sold at his boutique in San Telmo (Peru 586, San Telmo).

Ramírez has created a consistent style that is clearly his own, yet he still manages to keep constantly developing, transforming and moving forward. His clothes tend to come exclusively in black and while palette - in his own words, this gives spaces for his main interest: the silhouette. This is the focus of Ramírez's work, a silhouette that is changing shape each autumn and spring, seeking out new forms, always with incredible mastery and elegance - just take a look at the pictures above, from No name, no title, collection for autumn/winter 2006.

Ramírez has called his style retroish, but this should not be mistaken for mere grave robbery of earlier styles. Like a proper porteño, Ramírez constantly reminds how important influence Buenos Aires and the city's architechture is to him. Maybe this is why his collections like Tango (A/W 2001, above) seem to engange in such a natural dialogue between the romantic past glory of the city and the most recent trends in the international fashion.

Mariano Toledo has a more colorful surface in his collections (sold at his boutique, Tienda House Tornado, in Armenia 1450, Palermo Soho and in Madrid, Spain), yet there is something darker always lurking right beneath the surface. An architect turned into a fashion desiner, Toledo escapes easy definitions: he tends to get nicknamed énfant terrible of Argentinian fashion, experimentation being his second nature.

Toledo uses a lot of leather, giving his collections sexy, fetishistic look, and models have often marched on the runway in sado-masochistic masks. This spring's selection, full of colourful, caleidoscopic patterns, was juxtaposed with silvery neck-corsets on models. Previous autumn/winter collection, called The Goat, symbolizing nothing less than battle between good and evil, was full of references to tarot and witchcraft, wrapped in shiny black leather. "Tarot cards tell us about a hidden and unknown world where we are protagonists; the destiny lives in them", explained Toledo philosophy behind the collection in Quiero.

Menta recently published an interview with Toledo, under appropriate headline Terrible and refined, where Toledo summed up his complex aesthetics: "...there's a little side of me that plays with the sinister and the unknown, that thing that on one side is beautiful and on the other side immensely ugly."

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