Designing while Spain is locked down

Nicolas Montenegro, a Spanish designer who studied in Milan, has dressed Beyonce, Kylie Minogue and other celebrities. But with the pandemic, Montenegro returned to his village to start his own brand. The internet and air links have made it possible to “live in a small city” according to the 31-year old. He spoke to AFP from his Lantejuela atelier, which is a village of about 3,800 people located an hour away from Seville.

One table is covered with fabric samples and sketches, while the other hosts wedding dresses. The room is decorated with family photos. Three of his employees are all local residents and they are busy cutting fabric.

It is part of a worldwide trend to return to his village, which surrounds by asparagus farms.

People are moving to less populated areas due to shifting attitudes, the pandemic and technological advancements that make it easier to work remotely.

After graduating from Milan’s prestigious Istituto marangoni, Montenegro spent four years at Dolce & Gabbana, where he dressed many celebrities, including Madonna and Kylie Minogue.

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In 2018, he moved from Barcelona to work for Yolancris. There he designed the stunning pleated tulle gown Rosalia, a Spanish singer of urban music, wore to the Latin Grammys in 2018.

Montenegro moved back to Lantejuela after the March pandemic, which saw a tightened Spanish national lockdown. He wanted to be closer his father, who was suffering from cancer and died in November after contracting Covid-19.

Online fashion shows

Montenegro was encouraged by his father to launch his own brand and his first collection of wedding gowns, “Abril” or “April”.

His elegant, sober gowns, which combine vintage classics with an extravagant splash of cotton lace, dramatic bows, and are sold in Spain, Britain, and Greece for 2,500 Euros (3,000 USD) each.

Montenegro is currently preparing an autumn/winter ready to wear collection. His inspiration comes from the exotic tapestries with deer, tigers and peacocks his father brought back from his service in Western Sahara, which was then a Spanish colony.

Montenegro will promote his collection both in Madrid and online. This medium has more potential than traditional fashion shows, which “are very quick”. He said, “You don’t have the time to enjoy it and then everyone forgets.”

Montenegro said, “I launched the wedding gown collection online, I made promotional videos and each dress had its very own video,” calling this more “functional”.

Helping us a lot

His venture has helped to boost the local economy. The area has been hard hit by the pandemic, despite having generations of skilled seamstresses who make flamenco and children’s clothes.

Estefania Ponce (38-year-old mother) said that “he is helping us a lot” because there is nothing else here.

Montenegro, unlike his Spanish counterparts who have had success abroad with unisex clothing for men, is more focused on women’s fashion.

Alejandro Palomo (28-year-old Spanish designer behind Palomo Spain), is Alejandro Palomo’s role model. He mixes Spanish traditions with modern twists.

Montenegro said that Spanish designers are “once again being looked at internationally” thanks to Palomo.

Palomo also owns an atelier in Posadas, his hometown. It is located approximately 75 km (45 miles) away from Lantejuela.

Montenegro said, “Without the village we would not be anybody.” (AFP)

This will be the first collection and it will come in inclusive sizing ranging from XXS through 4XL. Prices start at 210 Euros.

Switchwear, the second product story that will be released later in spring, was inspired by the desire to give time. The brand “goes from leisurewear to fabulous in less than one minute.” This playful and modular collection includes bodysuits, hoodies and glam Duchesse accessories made of recycled yarn.

High-end silk pyjamas are available that can be worn to sleep or dance the night away. The first designs have been made in collaboration with several artists and designers, added the brand and feature prints reflect the emotions of our times and our wish to spread messages of hope, love and togetherness. The third product story, ‘SuperTech-SuperChic’, takes hi-tech activewear to high-fashion transforming eco-dyed nylon microfibre fabrics traditionally used in activewear into seasonless fashion pieces inspired by couture.

AZ Factory also introduces ‘Pointy Sneaks’. These sneakers combine the comfort and visual appeal of a sneaker with the elongating effect of a pointed-toe pump. This sneaker is performance-like and designed to support the foot and provide better mobility. The sneakers are available for pre-order and will cost 455 Euros.