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CLEC Festival Reimagines Fashion As An Artform

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Guest post by Alexey Timbul / PostParis.com

Fashion week is dead. Long live fashion week. For years, the industry has been searching for any alternatives and then COVID-19 pulled the plug on the calendar. Now, post-pandemic attention is diverted to initiatives that can bridge the growing gap between the digital-only experiences, huge productions like Gucci at the Hollywood Blvd and “everyone else”. The Spanish city of Valencia boasts the busiest port in the Mediterranean, the Holy Grail endorsed by the Vatican and the City of Arts and Sciences so futuristic it serves as an otherworldly location for shows like Westworld and Doctor Who. Over the Halloween weekend, it hosted the second edition of CLEC Fashion Festival with a mission to reimagine what a celebration of fashion as an artform and a business could be. “We want a relationship with fashion to be stable, sustainable, and non-toxic. Fashion consumption should be a commitment to the environment that surrounds us and to ourselves,” noted the organizers. The event was billed as “a wake-up call” to highlight the importance of supporting local talent, retailers, and media. 

True to the “think globally, act locally” progressive ethos, CLEC’s opening act was a presentation by Miquel Suay, president of the Association of Valencian Fashion Designers (DIMOVA). Known for bridal couture, he launched his MQL line with a tribute to the martyred Afghan poet Nadia Anjuman. “It seems we already moved on from the experience of the Afghan people; especially, of the women. When the Taliban regained power, it was all over the news, but now the story has been lost and I want to bring it back,” said the designer. Women in Valencian politics – deputy mayor Sandra Gómez, minister of science and innovation Diana Morant, minister of justice Gabriela Bravo and others – read Anjuman’s poems at the event. Local government made global humanitarian news in 2018 when Valencia took in a rescue ship Aquarius with over 600 refugees after it was denied entry in Italy, Malta, and France. Proceeds from Suay’s  Live the Change collection will benefit the initiative to reprint a Spanish edition of Anjuman’s poetry for distribution in local schools. Fashion remains a powerful tool of cultural diplomacy. 

A mix of invitation-only and ticketed crowd gathered at the Hemisfèric to mingle, network, and see the shows. For popular Spanish exports like Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada

or Custo Barcelona staging a défilé in Valencia appears more like a gesture of good will towards domestic audience; their signature bold colors and resilient sparkle meant to boost consumer confidence. For local and emerging talent participation can provide validation and open industry doors. Dief Studio presented a wildly entertaining collection that pushed back on the many societal pressures. Dolores Cortés

has been designing swimwear since the 1950’s. It made one curious how different are the current looks be from the early days of the brand? Upcycling studio Visori proved to be one of the more exciting up-and-comers with a strong take on apocalyptic couture. Alvaro Mars showed why he received the coveted Global Talents recognition from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia for championing nonconformity and three brand values: impact, irony, and controversy. 

Earlier in October, slow-fashion label 404 Studio impressed the critics at LA Fashion Week in the USA. Valencian designer Anaïs Vauxcelles, winner of the 18th edition of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Talent, felt great to finally share that experience with her hometown friends, peers, and clients who would not have been able to travel internationally at this time. “CLEC is a special event in a special place,” she said. Designer Yvan Andreu makes #technologywear as “fashion for the unconscious mind”. The Neolution collection was presented virtually during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Madrid. However, the opportunity to do a face-to-face show in his homeland was important for the designer. Beyond matters of pride, Andreu also saw it as a way to build support for new talent. “It is difficult to get front row buyers to invest in emerging brands like mine. I believe that CLEC is a perfect paradigm for fashion lovers to change that. Meanwhile, we are seeing a lot of impact on social media and in the independent press,” noted the designer. 

Fashion was just one of the festival ingredients. Valencian paella is a traditional rice dish about to be recognized as Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and gastronomic tourism is projected to boom at nearly 17% CAGR over the next five years. Thus, cuisine took centerstage prior to the shows. Local chefs, including Bernd Knöller and Begoña Rodrigo who run two of the city’s Michelin-starred kitchens, teamed up with participating designers for prep and degustation. Fittingly, at the time of the festival, designer Eduardo Navarrete was also a contestant on the Spanish edition of MasterChef Celebrity reality television competition.

Valencia is a city with storied Catholic heritage. It’s not surprising that CLEC came with its own Ten Commandments. Among them: “You will love fashion above all things. Fashion is not only in clothes. It is in the streets, in the sky and in each one of us. Make fashion wherever you go but never, for the world, stop being you.” Beyond miracles, CLEC is strategically supported by fifteen public institutions from the local council to the regional government as well as the Association of Valencian Designers (ADCV) and two design schools: Barreira and EASD. It bodes well for the long-term prospects of nurturing fashion as a sustainable microcosm of creativity and commerce.



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