Of all the Spring-Summer 2018 collections that were shown by Spanish designers during New York and Madrid Fashion Weeks last month, there were two that particularly appealed to me. The first collection was by Menchén Tomàs, a designer I did not know much about, and the second one by Dolores Cortés, a prolific swimwear designer from Valencia and an old favorite of this blog, thanks to her many collaborations with Spanish shoes and accessories designers.
In both collections, the creative energy seems to center around the waist. Of course, a slim waist is the most coveted summer accessory – you really do not need much else to look good in the summer. However, in the Menchén Tomàs and Dolores Cortés collections a lot more happens at the waist than first meets the eye.
Menchén Tomàs: Corset Waist Makeover
In this delicate dress the waist acts at the line that separates two different creative themes: the vertical stripe pattern of the top and the hand-painted floral design of the flowing silk skirt. The whole is finished by elegantly tailored red suede ankle boots. The only accessory is a cross body chain that cuts across the torso in a straight diagonal line.
The chain itself is made of large beads and other charms like a Mardi Gras necklace. If you follow it all the way to the back, you will find a small fan attached to it. Fans have long been part of Spanish fashion and there is no reason why they should not continue to be. I love when fans are used in contemporary fashion. They are so expressive. Not to mention, environmentally friendly and sustainable!
Placed right at the center of the body, the traditional high-back corset encloses the waist like a giant belt. Basically, Menchén Tomàs took the corset, an intimate garment known for its hidden strength, and turned it into a piece of open armor, something a medieval knight might wear. I call this the “white knight” ensemble. With its high collar, pale blue Oxford stripe, puffy sleeves, extra wide cuffs, and impeccably white suede boots, the “white knight” ensemble is a slightly surreal, but exciting mix of power and sensuality.
Another all-white creation, the sleeveless feathery top dress with the see-through skirt is held together by a corset-like center piece made of a soft, but non-transparent material. The overall look is wispy, gentle, and light, but also a bit guarded. Eerily enough, this way of wearing the long beaded chain suddenly made me think of a weapon sling. In short, this elfish creature is not to be messed with!
Dolores Cortés: Tracing the Waist
A swimwear collection is always a love ballad about the waist, but not all designers take it upon themselves to be as creative with it as Dolores Cortés. That is why her designs belong as naturally to the fashion podium as those of regular clothes. She treats the female body as the white space onto which she draws intricate designs.
The center of this one-piece is more like a web of blue straps – a sort of a loose corset around the waist of Isabeli Fontana, a famous Brazilian model who headlined the Dolores Cortés Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid show this past September. The swimsuit is very daring, but Dolores Cortés is well-known for her practicality, inherited from her mother, who founded the brand in the 1950s. All her designs, no matter how evanescent, are held together by ingenuity and taste.
The most recognizable Dolores Cortés design is the one-piece swimsuit with a multi-color geometric pattern that reminds me of an African painting or something out of the Cubism movement (which was strongly influenced by African art). The one-piece is both cool-looking and flattering. Two vertical and one horizontal line, artfully strung together from curious black shapes, visually delineate the waist and elongate the torso.
The sun-colored stiletto sandals are designed to balance out the cool tones of the swimsuit. The sandals (and the matching bag, I presume) are by Pedro Miralles, a Spanish women’s shoe brand.
The huge golden disk earrings come from El Mito de Gea, an avant-garde Spanish jewelry designer and a long-time collaborator of the Dolores Cortés brand.
The focal point of this shimmery nude-colored swimsuit is, of course, the built-in corset detail. The cute crisscross lacing with the light-catching beads in the middle is an attention magnet and a clever trick that makes the waist appear longer and slimmer. Meanwhile, the mesh inserts at the bottom discreetly lift the hip line, visually elongating the legs. This is so Dolores Cortés – her creative team never tires of thinking up ways to make women feel confident and beautiful in all situations that call for a swimsuit.
So here you have it: two collections by two different designers, but with two similar visions for next summer. These visions are crossing the boundaries of what fashion can do for women: to take things that were invented to make women’s bodies appear desirable to others and put them at the service of women’s own desire to feel free, attractive, and safe at all times. For Menchén Tomàs and Dolores Cortés, the waist is a perfect place to begin.