Uruguay’s “Garzon” Label: A New Name in International Knitwear Fashion:

What exactly do you know about Uruguay? If you’re from there, then, of course, quite a lot. If you are Brazilian or Argentinian, it’s your very small neighbour with a population of just three & half million. You may be a Liverpool FC fan, in which case you’ll expect (the sometimes controversial) Luiz Suarez (born in Salto, 496 kilometres northwest of Montevideo) to score most of your team’s goals. Perhaps you are an admirer of Eduardo Galeano, the outspoken Urguguayan author of “The Open Veins of Latin America” (a copy of which was presented to Barack Obama by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the “Summit Of The Americas” in Trinidad in April 2009).

Whatever your image of Uruguay – whether as “The Switzerland of South America”, due to its “advanced education & social security systems and liberal social laws”(BBC  “World Profiles”)) or full of “gauchos” (cowboys) wearing wide-brimmed hats, baggy pants (“bombachos”) on horseback in the “pampas” rounding up their cattle – it has not (until now) been considered as having a significant presence on the global fashion scene. That is about to change.

This Friday sees the start of the latest London Fashion Week (February 15th-20th). A new, innovative feature of the event is the “International Fashion Showcase” – inaugurated in 2012 and organised jointly by the British Council & the British Fashion Council (BFC). Each of the 27 nations participating this time have been asked to “display the work of emerging designers whom they feel most personify the future of fashion in their region”. Uruguay will be represented by Scotland’s Tiggy Maconochie, who is “known throughout the photographic, contemporary art world and certain fashion circles” and has now “diversified to create the luxury knitwear label “GARZON” – named after the “chic ghost town” in Uruguay where she lives “when not in Soho, London” and from where she explained (via “Skype”) how, six years ago, “her heart had been captivated” by both the town and the surrounding countryside.

An article in the “Independent” has described Garzon as being “like the ghost town of cinematic folklore – when a new road killed the railway in the 1970’s, the town died. The old station (considered by Maconochie to be “exquisite”) stands abandoned, its ornate sign still out front, a cow tied up beside the ticket hall”. Garzon has around 198 inhabitants, is one hour’s drive from Punta del Este on the Uruguayan coast and thirty minutes on a “predominantly unpaved road” from the resort of Jose Ignacio.

Maconochie’s knitwear, although it helps promote the town, is at the moment made by small co-operatives in and around Montevideo. When she returns from the Showcase – which she believes will highlight the fact that Uruguay has great creative talent & hopes this will open the door for others to follow – she will link up with groups such as the “Manos de Uruguay” in an attempt to inspire young women to emulate previous generations, take up knitting and in the process earn extra income for their families.

Maconochie emphasised that she only uses the highest grade of merino wool (which she acknowledges is very expensive) for her knitwear, as it is soft enough to wear next to the skin. For her, this factor is extremely important: “People tend to think of very luxurious wool as being cashmere”. However, quality merino wool, though different from cashmere “is just as soft”. She expressed considerable regret that Australia, China, India, Europe and North America are all regularly invited to put forward candidates for the “International Woolmark Prize”, but not (so far) South America. This year’s winner (from six finalists) will be announced at LFW on 16th February by a judging panel consisting of “nine of the most important & influential identities in fashion” – among whom will be Donatella Versace and Victoria Beckham.

Tiggy Maconochie feels both “proud and honoured” to have been chosen to represent Uruguay and to have had the opportunity to express her passion for the country through her knitwear. Her strength is her capacity to “create visual images with feeling”, augmented by “the experience of having worked at the highest level in fashion photography and with photographers such as Horst, Michael Roberts and Helmut Newton”. She is adamant that “Fashion is about desire & emotion, not just the product”.

Her inspiration comes from “ riding around the extraordinary & beautiful Uruguayan countryside”. She tries to incorporate what she sees there into her creations – thus the names she gives to her designs reflect “the wildlife, the natural things that grow there, the traditions she would like to support & revive. For instance:“Coronilla” (the national tree); “Valdosa (based on the “wonderful tiles” she’s seen in some of Montevideo’s “crumbling buildings”); “Criollo” (everything that is indigenous to Latin America – in the Uruguayan context, horses, gaucho events and the authentic pampas lifestyle).

Maconochie would also like to “change the future concept of knitwear from casual to something which is more stylish with flair, drama and elegance”. The “whole point” of the Garzon brand is that it is centred on her – someone who “lives in two different continents with two different seasons”. Her aim is to produce “chic & practical clothes that work in both places”, supply them to a few but very selective shops in Paris, London, New York & Los Angeles and “ to have an international presence”.

During LFW, the “Plaza de Garzon” (Main Square) will be “re-created in the Dome Room of Central Saint Martins College’s former building” where the short “mood film” ‘La Sombra’  will also be shown. Shot in & around Garzon, it combines (notes “My Fashion Connect”) “the themes of shadow, horses & tango set to the music of Osvaldo Pugliese, transporting the viewer to the passionate land where the label was born”. For the filming of “La Sombra”, Tiggy Maconochie arranged for a couple to dance tango on her patio and in the centre of the square: “Tango” she insists “originated in Montevideo, not (as most people think) in Buenos Aires.”



Filed under: Society, Theatre & Film | Posted on February 12th, 2013 by Colin D Gordon

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