Carlota Barrera

The New Men’s Tailoring

07/05/2019 · By María Ballesteros
carlota barrera mens fashion
Carlota Barrera poses that air of calm that only the creators have that, more than tendencies, seek to forge identities of the present looking to the future. © Carlos Torres

Not even past her twenties, Asturian Carlota Barrera (Gijón, 1992) has become one of the new leaders in men’s fashion. Her collection 'The Matador and The Fisherman', in her typical style halfway between minimalism, a new tailoring and taurine aesthetics, has won the prestigious 'Who’s on Next?' contest, organised by Vogue Spain. This July will be the third time she’s presenting her designs at the Madrid Fashion Week, at the Allard Club this time.

As she’s finishing her spring-summer 2020 collection in London, Barrera says that the first thing she ever designed was “a collar made of macaroni, at school”. Since then, Barrera’s life has evolved significantly. Making a living in the world of fashion, as in any artistic discipline, is a feat that requires absolute dedication: “I believe in the project a lot and willingness to take risks is a key factor for things to go well. With the level of work that this industry requires, it would be impossible for me to combine it with something else. If I did, I could not be dedicating all my energy and my time to each project, and I would end up doing things half-baked.”

The way the Gijón-born designer expresses herself reveals love for the trade, awareness of where she’s at right now, professionally speaking, and respect for the creators before her who led the way and developed their vision. She knows that she’s still a rookie and that winning the Who’s on Next contest is an impulse, not the consolidation of her career: “It’s a wonderful feeling to know that such an expert jury has decided to support our project. We dedicate an impossible number of hours and a lot of effort to it, and to see that all that is valued reaffirms even more that we have to keep growing.” She continues: “I think I’m too young to talk about recognition in the industry. I still have a lot to learn and to go through, and I hope I can do it little by little and enjoy the journey as much as I do now. I’m very excited when someone tells me that they like my work, but I don’t think anyone will come to ask me for an autograph while I’m out with my friends.”

A different kind of masculinity is possible
The pattern designs of The Matador and The Fisherman (the winning collection), inevitably, recalls the Andalusian short dress that is used to ride horses, fight the bull with a lance, kill bulls or go on a pilgrimage: “The collection arose precisely from asking myself what attracted so many people to the bullfighting shows. There’s a lot of beauty in them, both in the 'traje de luces' (‘suit of lights’, the traditional clothing that Spanish bullfighters wear in the bullring) and in the movements that resemble a dance, but I can’t help but think that the show is brutal and heart-breaking.”

The new forms of masculinity, expressed independently of gender, age and social status, have contributed significantly to the aesthetic, intellectualised evolution of Spanish men: “There’s still a long way to go, but we are on the right track. The current society is much more aware of the gender ideology, and there is a very important social task that aims to eliminate stereotypes. This is causing many men to discover parts of their personality that they did not allow themselves to be aware of before, and it’s causing a change in the way many men dress and behave.”

“Fashion seems to me a fantastic vehicle to express a concept and at the same time find the perfect balance with functionality.”

Barrera says that “femininity” is not something exclusive to a gender, either. Right now is probably a good time for the pride of identity diversity. “I think the uniqueness of my contribution comes from being a woman designing for men. Unconsciously, there is always a part of femininity that is intrinsic to my condition as a woman.”

Among her sources of inspiration there is also room for disparate obsessions: “I consider myself a very eclectic person, and in my opinion that’s a blessing because it allows me to enjoy many things. I can go from obsessing over a 50s jazz trumpeter’s clothing to being interested in the rave scene.” And she continues: “Fashion seems to me a fantastic vehicle to express a concept and at the same time find the perfect balance with functionality.”

One of the people who have used Barrera’s clothes to express themselves has been director and actor Paco León; in particular, he wore Barrera to the presentation party of the Arde Madrid series: “He asked us for some clothes for a few portraits and he was struck by the red shirt of our summer collection 2019. I was very excited to receive his message. I admire him a lot as a professional, and now that I’ve met him I also admire him as a person.”

Barrera is cautious about the future of young designers: “Each generation has its failures and virtues. Many of the people I take my cues from are creators from one or two generations before mine, who have changed the fashion in many ways, but I think that now there are some very interesting things going on, and in some way or another they will also be of future reference.”