A Cosmopolitan Temptation: Barcelona, A Fashion Capital
Juan Duyos is one of the most recognised Spanish fashion designers today. He regularly presents his collections at Madrid Fashion Week and is closely linked to Barcelona, where he works regularly.
Fashion has always been at the heart of Barcelona.
The textile sector drove industrialisation in Catalonia in the 19th century and this tradition is reflected today in the work of local designers who are connected to global trends and innovation. It’s easy to stumble across small boutiques all over the city that bear the names of their founders and exist in harmony with the big-brand retailers and powerful international fashion houses you can find along Passeig de Gràcia. In fact, it’s on that very avenue, just opposite La Pedrera, that you’ll find an unmissable local gem. Santa Eulalia is a tailor and store that offers selected fashion brands and accessories. After 175 years in business, the store is still thriving, having been completely renovated. There’s even a cute little café inside.
Around the historic centre, in the Eixample neighbourhood, I recommend noted designer Teresa Helbig’s atelier (Mallorca 184). Prior reservations are a must. Her work combines passion, hours of labour and precise artisanship. There’s also Lydia Delgado (Séneca 28) who makes highly personal designs that are endlessly surprising, and Ailanto (Enric Granados 46), a boutique run by twin brothers who have created a contemporary line of womenswear that is versatile and feminine. At Andrés Sardá (Valencia 272) exquisite bathing suits and lingerie catch the eye, and for an exceptional range of menswear brands, both classic and contemporary, stop by The Outpost (Rosselló 281). At Boo BCN (Bonavista 2) you’ll find a range of clothing in an eternal, timeless style by both heritage and emerging local designers, and then there’s Darial (Ausiàs Marc 37), which has plans to become the most exclusive concept store in the city.
If you head down to the Gothic Quarter, to El Raval and especially to El Born, you’ll stumble across clothing from the most creative designers in the city, some of whom participate in 080 Barcelona Fashion, which is held twice a year in iconic parts of the city, such as the modernist Sant Pau hospital. It’s a contest that aims to boost creative talent in a dynamic city where fashion thrives in specialised schools, photography studios, modelling agencies, and the Design Museum (Plaza de les Glòries 37), which houses a fascinating collection of contemporary and vintage clothing.
Three years ago, Domingo Rodriguez founded his brand Dominnico in Barcelona and has since created styles for Rosalía and Lady Gaga. You’ll also find the bridal boutique Yolancris (Diagonal 508) nearby, which styled Shakira and Beyoncé.
Of the many names that scream with personality, I have to mention Krizia Robustella. At her KR Store (Montsió 6) she has been selling youthful, colourful clothes inspired by the 80s for over a decade. Miriam Ponsa (Princesa 14) designs in an avant-garde, artisanal style, Brain & Beast (Passeig Picasso 24) makes flirty, transgressive outfits, Natalie Capell (Carassa 2) creates delicate, wistful dresses and Veneno en la Piel (Rec 41) is the place to go for women’s gala wear. Other participants of 080 Barcelona Fashion include the renowned label Custo Barcelona (Plaza de les Olles 7), which also presents a collection each year at New York Fashion Week.
This historic part of Barcelona is also home to eclectic stores like Menchén Tomàs (Rec 46), a home to luxury everyday womenswear and created by a Barcelona-based designer, and La Comercial (Rec 52) where you can purchase accessories, cosmetics and homewares from high-end, select labels. Then there’s Noténom (Rec 48), a must-visit store where the personal service and attention to detail is extraordinary. For lovers of clothing and accessories from other eras, there’s Le Swing Vintage (Lledó 6).
After so much shopping in El Born, a neighbourhood centred on the impressive market of cast-iron architecture and that has been reborn as a cultural centre, you might want to snack on the delicious pastries available from Hofmann (Flassaders 44) or stop to eat in one of the many authentic restaurants in the area. From the homely bistro Café Kafka (Fusina 7) to the farm-to-table Zero Patatero (Passatge Mercantil 1), the offerings are rich and varied. As the name suggests, Pork (Consolat de Mar 15) offers all kinds of pork- based delights, and at Passadís del Pep (Plaza de Palau 2) or Estimar (Sant Antoni dels Sombrerers 3) you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood. Vila Viniteca (Agullers 7) is the place to go for ham, cheese and wine, and you can learn the traditional way of pouring a cider from up high at the Catalan-Asturian vermouth bar El Chigre 1769 (Sombrerers 7). Closer to the sea, Oaxaca (Plaza de Palau 19) offers elevated Mexican cuisine right next door to the Barcelona classic, 7 Portes (Isabel II 14) and a new elevated vegetarian restaurant, The Green Spot (Reina Cristina 12). If you’re headed along the Rambla don’t skip the historic Mercat de la Boqueria, and if you’re looking for a good paella you’ll find it for sure at La Mar Salada (Passeig de Joan de Borbó 58).
I have to mention some of the city’s most iconic stores, like Sombrerería Mil (Fontanella 20), where celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson and Robert de Niro have stopped to buy hats, modernist glove store Guantería y Complementos Alonso (Santa Anna 27) and La Manual Alpargatera (Avinyó 7), where artisanal espadrille shoes have been in production since 1940. They’re so sought after, there’s frequently a long line of customers – often out of the door and down the street – throughout the year. It was the brand favoured by Salvador Dalí and many actors from Hollywood who sought traditional Spanish footwear.
There’s also no way I could finish this article without taking a stroll through Poblenou, the neighbourhood that is home to the Antares residences.
This part of Barcelona is full of history, with a storied industrial tradition that has successfully evolved into the city’s technology hub and innovation district, while at the same time opening itself up to the sea and attracting young, dynamic people.
These unique characteristics have created an interesting blend of traditional businesses and surprising new ventures. You can eat at restaurants like La Biennal, which opened over 30 years ago at its lively Rambla del Poblenou 76 location. On the same street you can drink a horchata at Tio Che (44) and eat daily market specials at Els Tres Porquets (165), a wonderful tavern for food and wine. If you’re after something else, Asian cuisine is on offer at Koh (Pujades 133), cajun chicken can be found at a fun eatery named DooBop (Sardenya 48), craft beer is on tap at La Cervecita Nuestra De Cada Día (Llull 84), tea can be taken at the exquisite Espai Joliu (Badajoz 95) concept store, and for a great coffee, look no further than Nomad Roasters (Pujades 95). I’d also highly recommend tasting the delicious small plates from the best and most famous restaurant in the neighbourhood, L’Artesana (Sant Joan de Malta 150), a paella at the Escribà seaside eatery at Bogatell Beach, and sitting down for a relaxing coffee at the Sala Beckett (Pere IV 228) theatre café.
For nice stores in keeping with the local neighbourhood, there’s Festuk (Rambla del Poblenou 67), Bagoa Fashion (Marià Aguiló 115) and Serendipity (Dr Trueta 236). You’ll find fantastic 20th-century furniture at Brutus de Gaper (Pamplona 60) and the neighbourhood is also home to Gabriela Coll Garments (Pallars 85), a youthful brand that will certainly surprise. Coll’s designs for men and women are fresh, modern and of the highest quality. Rather than designing new collections each season, she creates work in a series that spring from the same imaginary worlds. This is just a small selection of some of the great boutiques and eateries in Barcelona. But don’t take my word for it – the best way to get to know the city is to head out and find your own favourite places.