Agatha Ruiz de la Prada transforms Lanzarote into a fashion destination
It’s hard to think about the contemporary fashion industry without thinking of travel. The sector, in constant renewal and review of the international fashion week calendar, is forced to face new challenges such as sustainability and diversity. And it must adapt to technological and social changes, embracing new forms of communication, the influx of younger shoppers and the rise of emerging markets. As fashion becomes more democratic driven by the advent of social media and the introduction of new players, designers are rethinking the traditional catwalk show concept. Collaborations, limited-edition capsule collections, ‘see now, buy now’, resort or cruise collections in instagrammable locations are now commonplace among luxury brands. And whilst Paris will never stop being the fashion capital par excellence, other, less predictable destinations are trying to find a path to success by introducing new ideas. The latest example is the romance between Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and the island of Lanzarote.
“Before, thinking about a fashion week was thinking about Paris, period. Yes, it will always be the best runway in the world, light years ahead of the rest, followed by Milan and then the rest. But now big brands are taking their fashion shows abroad, something that would have been completely unimaginable a few years ago,” says designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada.
Honest and direct, the Spanish fashion designer wears a blue polka-dot dress from her own label —she is never seen wearing anything but her own brand— and was recently honoured at the second edition of Lanzarote Fashion Weekend. The event was aimed at promoting tourism on the volcanic island, which has found a natural ally in fashion.
“The event is a great example of the industry’s evolution. It shows that people have a great interest in fashion, that they want to participate in all of this,” she says.
The business behind Agatha Ruiz de la Prada
With over 50 successful license agreements ranging from perfumes to furniture, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada is also known for her colour-filled fashion shows.
“Last year we hosted 74 runway shows,” she says with an overwhelming naturalness. “Sometimes I have more than one per week. I have even had seven shows in seven days and in up to three continents,” she adds.
Malta, Miami, Madrid and Gran Canaria are on her agenda for upcoming shows. A multifaceted woman, she admits to trying to attend and arrange every single event personally. And when she can’t, her offspring take over: Cosima and Tristán Ramírez, director of international relations and CEO of the brand, respectively. “I don’t know if I’m now working more than ever, but of course, I've never had so many projects before,” she says.
The winner of a Spanish National Prize of the Fashion Industry for the best designer has had a few tough years in the physical retail environment, leading to the closure of her stores in New York, Milan and finally, Paris.
“In 2013 it was announced that we could no longer apply the tax consolidation regime to revenues generated abroad, which came at a time of severe crisis. And in 2016 a new law came into effect that required companies to return everything they had saved through the consolidation over twenty years... in five!” she asserts with a shrug of resignation.
“The only way to avoid paying the 20% tax was by liquidating the companies. Although it saddens me, I have now a better quality of life because I rent them. And now we are going back to a model that works for me: the licenses and Madrid,” she concludes.
Currently, the designer has a store in the Spanish capital, as well as two shops in Oporto and Bogota. Her products are also stocked in more than 150 stores worldwide. Despite the challenges, she keeps her sense of humour. “Thank God, my divorce was not that bad. As my doctor says, you can never suffer from two things at the same time,” she laughs.
Lanzarote is a key event in the designer’s busy schedule. “It’s a unique event. I was offered the opportunity to present my own fashion show in a beautiful location, with a breathtaking landscape and climate. Additionally, the link with César Manrique was an important touch for me,” she says of her friend, the late artist and architect who took advantage of Lanzarote’s natural potential to transform the island into a work of art. He is well known for his Cactus Garden, located at a former quarry for extraction of volcanic ash; his Casa-Museo Campesino; and Jameos del Agua. The latter, located inside a volcanic tunnel, was where the second edition of Lanzarote Fashion Weekend was held.
After launching the event last year, Custo Barcelona limited his presence to a fashion show hosted inside of a flying airplane at 30,000 feet this 2019. Meanwhile, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada was the protagonist of a retrospective show that included several pieces taken from her own archive. Voluminous dresses and original shapes filled with colour, including a garment featuring a ‘Michelin effect’, were presented alongside a handcrafted silk slip made by hand by the skilled craftswomen of El Paso, in the neighbouring island of La Palma. There was even a striking slip gown in bold red complete with heart-shaped helium balloons. The show was a visual feast for the local public, who had to request an invitation to attend, and for special guests such as international model Laura Ponte, actors Jorge López, Hiba Abouk and Marta Torné and influencer Pelayo Díaz.
“Lanzarote Fashion Weekend was born out of the desire to share the inherent values of Lanzarote, such as sustainability, nature and art, with major brands, making the island an unparalleled platform for the fashion industry,” said about the event Pedro San Ginés, president of the governing body of Lanzarote.
Last year, the island begun using its fashion links as a marketing tool to promote the destination abroad in collaboration with well known brands. The move also benefits the island’s local craftsmen and designers. Attracting 2,880,051 tourists in 2018, Lanzarote wants to boost tourist numbers and tourist spending by creating new experiences that can help it differentiate itself against rivals like Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and Croatia.
Travel as a way to attract media attention
Here is a good example of a successful alliance between tourism and the fashion industry, eager for new backdrops where it can stand out from the crowd. It is an investment in communication and brand image that, well executed, can be a true win-win scenario. Far from the exotic destinations selected by luxury brands to present their cruise collections, Colombian designer Esteban Cortázar became the star of Arise Fashion Week in Nigeria in April. His show, led by supermodel Naomi Campbell, got significant media coverage, helping him stay relevant after deciding to temporarily leave the busy Paris Fashion Week.
Turkish designer Umit Benan’s presentation during the last edition of the 080 Barcelona Fashion offered a similar message. He showcased his latest designs exclusively in Barcelona earlier this year after deciding to stop chasing after the sector’s fast changing calendar. And Simon Porte Jacquemus is another case in point. After choosing his native Marseille to present his first menswear collection outside fashion week, he will celebrate his brand’s tenth anniversary with a mixed show in Provence on 24 June. The world is full of possibilities. And Lanzarote is one of them.
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