As the fashion world slithers sneaky tentacles into ever-broadening areas, (sometimes with good results, other times not so good), literature seemed to be safe and off the radar due to a passé demeanour, much too low-key for the flash and dazzle of seasonal trends. So could it even be possible to join the two disciplines? This is not books written about fashion, this is fashion inspired by books.
Barcelona has finally been deemed worthy of the 20 Trajes itinerant exhibition that has travelled all over the world. 20 Designs – Dialogues Between Fashion and Literature opened this past June 11th at the Roca Barcelona Gallery. I was invited to attend the press conference on the 16th, (strange to have a press conference after an exhibition has inaugurated). Luckily, I was well-accompanied by Jorge of Trecool and I have no problem admitting that we really appreciated the catering available after the conference. So obvious that we were up in the good part of town…
This is not the first time that the Roca Barcelona Gallery has dabbled with fashion; there was the interesting Cubexperience by Josep Abril event held at the beginning of 2010 and they are currently housing the Armani – Roca bath collection. Don’t get excited, the collection is not soaps and bathrobes, more like toilets, shower plates and sinks. For those of you who need designer items not only in your closets… The 20 Trajes exhibition is spread over the Roca Gallery’s three floors and comprises 20 different garments each created by a Spanish fashion designer and based on a literary character.
What could be the link between literature and fashion? Creativity and imagination, my friends. Using the language of shape, volume and colour, the 20 designers, all members of the Association of Creators in Spanish Fashion – ACME, brings his or her chosen character to life. Fiction becomes reality. The aesthetic implications of this exhibition are grand and the bridge seems to have been gapped between the two disciplines.
The theory sounds nice, but in practise? Not so good. There are several problems, one which is quite serious and has to do with the assembly of the exhibition itself. The sub-floor is great: the walls are black and each lightbox and accompanying garment can be viewed to perfection. The problem arises on the ground and first floor. If you have already visited the Roca Gallery then you will know what I mean, otherwise, please check out the top photo once again. The Roca Gallery is a rectangular, translucent box constructed from glass which makes it very difficult to view the garments. In some cases, the garments are surrounded by a halo of light, making the pupil contract, which results in loss of detail as the garment is in shadow. This situation could and should be remedied by placing dark backdrops behind each piece or a dark back panel.
The other problem is that some of the designers just don’t seem to grasp the true essence of their chosen literary character. The garment is just a sample of what the designer normally shows on the catwalk during fashion week. Others are excellent, without a doubt. Amaya Arzuaga and Miriam Ocariz were two of my favourites.
The other problem with 20 Trajes is that, mixed in with the Roca audiovisuals and Armani bathroom collection, it seems to fade in importance. There is all this other clutter going on, not to mention the building itself, which is great as a flagship site for Roca but distracting for other ventures.
What was good? Any time there is a coherent dialogue between fashion and another discipline there are usually positive results. The key concept behind the 20 Trajes itinerant exhibition is brilliant, especially considering the manner in which they have managed to involve the local designers in every stop along this journey that they began in 2004.
It was great to sit at the conference table and listen to many of the fashion designers who were present, such as: Lydia Delgado, Ana Locking, Duyos, Hannibal Laguna, Juanjo Oliva, Roberto Torreta and Modisto Lomba himself, president of the aforementioned ACME. The curator, Concha Hernández, talked us through the different pairings and there was a final, poignant moment when the author, Olvido García Valdés, read her poem “She, The Birds” that Ana Locking had been inspired by.
The show will be on until the middle of October. I strongly recommend waiting awhile, maybe until after summer, when the sun starts to set a little earlier. That is the moment to go and see these literary garments without the dazzling halo of light. These pieces that bring fiction to life.
Roca Barcelona Gallery info
Address: Calle Joan Güell 211-213
Telephone: 93 366 1212
Metro: Maria Cristina L3
20 Trajes: 11/06/11 to 16/10/11
Mon to Sat 10:00 to 20:00
Sundays 10:00 to 14:00