MBFW Madrid: building its future through public access and internationalisation
In its constant search to establish its place in the international fashion week calendar, MBFW Madrid is already immersed in preparations for its upcoming 78th edition, set to take place from September 13 to 17. Over the past few seasons, the event has been undergoing a gradual transformation to adapt to changing times and meet the needs of the domestic fashion industry, from emerging young designers to the most recognised and established brands.
At its most recent edition held at IFEMA from February 15 to 19, MBFW Madrid made a significant move towards inclusivity by opening its doors to the general public, resulting in an increase in attendance by influencers and the first-ever appearance of a Prime Minister. Additionally, the event has ramped up its internationalisation efforts, strategically positioning itself to compete with other global fashion weeks. For instance, Madrid's fashion week was scheduled concurrently with London Fashion Week, highlighting its aspirations to gain international recognition.
The event featured a total of 42 designers and brands showcasing their collections for the upcoming fall/winter 2023/24 season over an intense five-day agenda of runway shows. While nine of these shows, known as 'off' shows, were held at various locations around the Spanish capital, the remaining 33 were held at the usual catwalk of Pavilion 14 at the Ifema fairground, which also hosts professional trade fairs such as Momad or Bisutex. The lineup included national names such as Custo Barcelona, Isabel Sanchís, Claro Couture, Duarte, Lola Casademunt, and Pedro del Hierro, among others.
Runway shows with tickets available for the general public
One of the most noteworthy updates of the event was the introduction of ticket sales for the runway shows, a first in its history. The pilot project aimed to democratize access to the shows while also generating extra revenue for the organisers, and according to them, it proved to be a resounding success, with multiple shows selling out completely.
The available tickets ranged from 10 euros (for access to the activities at the Cibelespacio) to 60 euros (for access to the runway show and the after-party at the venue), with 48 tickets available per show. In total, over 1,000 tickets were sold and sold out "within minutes."
"If people are willing to pay to attend a concert or a football game, why couldn't we do the same with a fashion show? It's the best way to bring fashion and the runway experience to the general public," reflected Elena Valera, director of communications and marketing at Ifema.
The result? Shows with packed grandstands, accommodating up to 800 guests, including the presence of 200 accredited international journalists. The success of attendance and the opening to the general public created a festive atmosphere, with students and micro influencers standing out among the crowd. However, the initiative for the democratization and dissemination of the event also stirred certain reluctance among some of the invited professionals who feared that it might "denature" the runway and deviate from its original objective as a professional platform with a specific target audience.
"We aim for Cibelespacio to become a social hub where people can spend a full day with friends, regardless of whether they attend the runway show or not. However, fashion will remain the common thread connecting all the experiences offered," stated Ana Rodríguez, former commercial director of Ifema's trade fairs who took over as director of MBFW Madrid last year, succeeding Nuria de Miguel.
The impact on social media was significant, with an increasing number of celebrities, reality TV personalities, and influencers occupying front row seats and even participating in some of the runway shows. Spanish TikTok star Lola Lolita, boasting 2.6 million followers, modeled in the L'Oréal Paris beauty show, while Instagram influencer Dulceida, with 3.3 million followers, closed the Andrés Sardá show.
In addition, the event gained national attention when the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, unexpectedly attended the fashion show of designer Teresa Helbig. Accompanying his wife Begoña Gómez, a loyal customer of the Catalan creative, Sánchez became the first Spanish president to attend the Madrid fashion event. This show of support for Spanish fashion did not go unnoticed by the media or social networks, who quickly shared news of the politician's attendance.
Morocco: the guest country
MBFW Madrid focused on internationalisation by dedicating one of its nights to showcasing the fashion and creativity of Morocco. This event, entitled 'Morocco, Kingdom of Light' featured a double runway show highlighting two haute couture designers from the neighbouring country: Maison Artc and Albert Oiknine.
"My creations are synonymous with femininity, authenticity, and orientalism - a blend of Moroccan craftsmanship with an oriental and traditional universe infused with Andalusian heritage," explained designer Albert Oiknine, who specialises in Moroccan savoir-faire and the elaboration and reinterpretation of the caftan. The caftan was the star element of his collection presented in Madrid, which featured "hippie-chic garments in primary colours, a golden caftan inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, and brides dressed in colours that evoke the beauty of light."
The collection of sophisticated designs featuring intricate lacework and embroidery blended Moroccan roots with Western influences, as well as traditional clothing with more modern elements like hoods. "It's my way of seducing contemporary women and international clients," acknowledged the designer.
Considered the designer of reference for the Royal House of Morocco, Oiknine has already showcased his designs in numerous international fashion weeks, including those held in Paris, Berlin, London, New York, Chicago, Milan, Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. Additionally, the fashion designer frequently organises private shows for Middle Eastern princesses and has dressed a variety of celebrities such as Aishwarya Rai, Noémie Le Noir, Melita Toscan du Plantier, and Myriam L'Aouffir Strauss-Kahn.
Moroccan designer Artsi Ifrach's fashion brand, Maison Artc, presented an exclusive collection created specifically for the occasion, showcasing a style and positioning entirely different from Oiknine's. The eclectic show mixed references to religious iconography with gender reflections through its "no gender" looks, and presented a unique approach to upcycling. All of the designer's pieces were the result of reinterpretations and new handmade creations made from vintage fabrics and upholstery recovered from around the world.
"The pieces I create aim to evoke an emotional response and become a memory. Vintage fabrics bridge the past and the present, and colors and prints are my inspiration," the designer explained about his garments, which are meticulously crafted using artisanal techniques in his workshop in Marrakech. "To me, this type of creation is the epitome of luxury and haute couture - unique designs that transcend seasons and collections," he added.
The designer is one of the most internationally recognised names in Morocco. In October of last year, he received the Fashion Trust Arabia award in Doha, Qatar, which is considered the most significant fashion award in the Arab region. He also showcased his artistic creations at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. His multicultural fashion project, which mainly appeals to design specialists or artists, will be exhibited in New York throughout 2023.
Additionally, to further promote the Spanish fashion event overseas, MBFW Madrid collaborated with MBFW Mexico through a designer exchange program. This initiative involved the participation of Mexican designer Lorena Saravia in the Allianz EGO runway and will allow the winner of the 21st edition of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Talent, Aitor Goikoetxea, to present their creations at the upcoming edition of the Mexican event.
The platform dedicated to emerging designers, one of the most interesting in terms of subversion and fashion design, also showcased haute couture designs such as designer Guillermo Décimo's drag, as well as the streetwear debut of Asturian brand 93 Sierra/Crosses, textile upcycling by Galician designer Sabela Juncal, and lingerie-inspired patterns by the brand Alejandre.
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