Sunday, 7 February 2021

Rising Spain designer takes haute couture to village home

Trained in Milan, up-and-coming Spanish designer Nicolas Montenegro has dressed Beyonce and Kylie Minogue, but with the pandemic, he's gone back home to his village to launch his own brand.

Thanks to the internet and air links "there is no need to live in a big city," the lean 31-year-old told AFP at his atelier in Lantejuela, a village of some 3,800 residents about an hour's drive from the southern city of Seville.

Sketches and fabric samples cover one table while wedding dresses are piled high on another in a room decorated with family photos. His three employees, all local residents, are busy cutting fabric.

Going back to his village, which is surrounded by asparagus farms, is part of a global trend.

A combination of the pandemic, shifting attitudes and technological advances that make it easier than ever to work remotely, are prompting waves of people to move out of large cities and permanently relocate to more sparsely populated areas.

After studying at Milan's prestigious Istituto Marangoni, Montenegro worked for four years at the Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana where he dressed big names including Madonna, Beyonce, Kylie Minogue, and Melania Trump.

Then in 2018, he moved to Barcelona to work at Yolancris, where he designed the spectacular pleated tulle dress worn by Spanish urban music singer Rosalia to the Latin Grammys that year.

But when the pandemic hit in March and a strict national lockdown was imposed in Spain, Montenegro decided to move back to Lantejuela to be closer to his father who had cancer, and who died in November after catching Covid-19.

Online fashion shows

Encouraged by his father, Montenegro launched his own brand and first collection of wedding dresses called "Abril", or "April".

His sober, elegant gowns which mix vintage classics with a daring splash of exquisite cotton lace and dramatic bows have sold in Spain, Britain, and Greece for 2,500 euros ($3,000) apiece.

Montenegro is now preparing an autumn/winter ready-to-wear collection.

This time, his inspiration is drawn from the exotic tapestries decorated with tigers, deer, and peacocks that his father brought back after his military service in Western Sahara in 1971, at the time a Spanish colony.

Montenegro plans to promote his collection in Madrid as well as online, a medium that has more scope than traditional fashion shows which "are over very quickly".

"You don't have time to enjoy it, and then everyone forgets," he added.

"I launched the wedding dress collection online, I made promotional footage and each dress had its own video," said Montenegro, calling this approach much more "functional".

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