Jesus del Pozo – literally “Jesus of the Well,” and it’s his real name, to boot – has been blessed in recent times.
In 1988, the designer was awarded the Cristobal Balenciaga Prize by the Spanish government as Best Spanish Designer of the Year.
Last summer, he was one of three designers selected by Gruppo Finanziaria Tessile to launch its Neomode line.
In his first season in the United States under GFT distribution, his line was sold to Bloomingdale’s, Bagutta and Riding High, New York; Jordan’s, Seattle; Number 5, Provincetown, Mass.; Fred Segal, Santa Monica, Calif.; Shauna Stein, Culver City, Calif.; Buffalo, Tarzana, Calif., and Riccardi in Boston.
In Spain, Del Pozo is in the fashion forefront of a country so often described as hot that you expect to see smoke rising from his studio on Calle Almiranta, the same Madrid street where he was born and raised.
He’s being compared with Sybilla by the fashion press here, who suggest that del Pozo just might be the next avant-garde supernova to come shooting out of Spain.
Del Pozo shrugs off the comparisons. “We’ve both been around for a while,” he says noncommittally, though clearly he’s not distressed to be mentioned in the same breath as Sybilla Sorondo.
Sybilla, born in New York of Spanish parents 26 years ago, burst on the Spanish fashion scene with her first collection seven years ago. She won the first Balenciaga prize (for Best New Designer) in 1987, her reputation soared and she has been propelled out of Spain to Italy, where she now manufacturers and shows.
Her rapid trajectory from a Madrid studio to the international scene has inspired a whole generation of designers here.
Del Pozo has been around longer, beginning with a small men’s collection 15 years ago. He started designing for women, and little by little his men’s collection became vestigial and his women’s styles sprouted wings.
Trained in interior and furniture design, he is noted for his architectonic clothing, playing with line and volume for results that are simultaneously new wave and intensely feminine.
When he won the Balenciaga prize, his passion for the architectural possibilities of an excellent cut in a beautiful fabric prompted some fashion writers to compare him with Balenciaga himself, the greatest of all Spanish fashion heroes.
He describes himself as “very Castilian, austere, not at all baroque as the French can be,” adding, “I’m not interested in spangles, but in structure and volumes.”
“I always design with the same woman in mind,” he says, a woman he once described in a Madrid newspaper as someone “who is sure of herself, who has fought and had her own revolution.”
“This woman has to be many different things during the day. A good executive in the morning, a genuine lady at the table and a hot-blooded lover with her husband.”
This image of the superwoman who combines brains and sex appeal – not to mention good manners – has appealed to some of the best-dressed women in Spain, including elegant singer-actress Ana Belen, known for her serious roles and political commitment.
Although sales are still small – $3 million last year, according to Emma Fernandez, del Pozo’s sales manager – the designer gained an advantage over his competitors three years ago when Cedora SA began manufacturing and distributing his designs in Spain and the rest of Europe.
Del Pozo’s relationship with Cedora has allowed him to concentrate on what he does best and gives the economic freedom to experiment.
“Before Cedora, if I wanted to experiment, I couldn’t afford to waste 20 meters of silk. Now I work with a different point of view and in a more relaxed way.”
Of GFT, he says, “I hope the only thing that will change is that I will be able to do everything better. It will make everything easier so that I can concentrate on designing.”
Cedora continues to produce the line with GFT, taking on U.S. distribution through its Neomode line. “Our U.S. contacts were a bit timid last season (for spring),” says Fernandez, explaining that the agreement with GFT took some time to be signed and so sales of the spring collection were “a trial run” for the potential represented by the U.S. market.
“We are very satisfied with the response,” says Pablo de Echevarria-Navarro, director of Neomode in New York, noting that the goal was to promote del Pozo’s name rather than get big sales. With GFT acting as marketing representative in the U.S. and “nurturing” the designer, Echevarria-Navarro says, the hope is that the line will develop a following quickly. If it does, GFT will then take over production, he says, adding that he is consulting with Cedora on the growth of del Pozo’s business.
About his fall-winter collection, del Pozo says, “I don’t really know how to describe my collections in terms of theme, even at the end, when everything is designed. Let’s say that it is designed for an active woman who understands the luxury of being herself.”
Velours in cotton and silk figure in the collection, along with cashgora, a fabric made from the wool produced by a genetic cross between the cashmere-producing goat and the angora-producing sheep.
Although he used to consider color his weak point, he is now universally praised for his artistic shades. “I use all colors but I change shades, tones and combinations. My colors are never very bright; they’re sunbleached, as if they had been eaten up by the sun.”
For winter, he is painting his creations in a warm range from natural beige to dark burgundy with golds, toasts, reds and roses in between, offset by cool, cloudy blues and greens.