Victorio & Lucchino Define Spanish Fashion

The spirit of romantic Spain is alive and well at Victorio & Lucchino.

While other designers lean toward the simple lines and fragile colors of Spain, Jose Victor Rodriguez (Victorio) and Jose Luis Medina (Lucchino) embrace the exuberance of bullfights and flamenco, gaining an interested following at home and abroad.

Winners of Spain’s highest fashion award, the Premio Balenciaga, in the category of best designer for 1990, they have also recently been chosen to create the uniforms for Expo ’92, the World Exposition to be held here next year.

Although they joined forces in 1975, Victorio & Lucchino was strictly a local phenomenon until the early Eighties when they began to distribute their clothes around Spain. International sales did not begin until 1985, when they showed at the New York Pret. The designers now show at Cibeles in Madrid, Igedo in Dusseldorf, Mode Woche in Munich and the Fashion Coterie in New York.

“We are now up to about $5 million in annual billings and almost half of that is export,” says Medina. They sell to about a dozen countries, with Germany foremost among them and prospects for Far East sales improving.

Through U.S. representative Melina Vourlekis, the line goes to a handful of specialty shops including If in New York, Shauna Stein in Culver City, Calif., Modasport in Los Angeles, Gorsuch in Vail, Colo., and Sasha Frisson in Atlanta.

U.S. sales, hovering around the $150,000 mark, aren’t enormous but the designers are pleased at the American attraction to some of their bolder designs, such as a floor-length skirt with deep chocolate brown flounces from the winter 1990 collection. The line is produced by their company, Joluele SA through a group of cooperative workshops.

They would like to join up with a manufacturer and distributor who can take some of the burden off them. “That’s the future of all big designers at the right moment,” Medina says. “But we’re not going to get married to just anybody. We’re looking for the best manufacturer in the world.”

Although they are far removed from the fashion centers of Barcelona and Madrid, they say that living here allows them to remain more themselves, free from outside influences that might dilute the ideas behind their designs.

Seville gives them their palette — warm colors like chrysanthemum, sky blue, scarlet and white.

Their historical sense is keen, and immediately apparent from their office: It is in the house where the painter Velazquez was born. They have decorated their home with an extensive and imaginative collection of Spanish antiques.

History also permeates the names they give to their collections.

“We are trying to send messages in our collections,” explains Medina. “The last one was called `Tarsis’ after the ancient name given first to the Guadalquivir River and later to Seville long before the Romans came. In each collection there are historical elements that reflect who we are and where we’re from.”

They incorporate traditional crafts into their designs, like the crocheted fringes on their shawls.

“Some of these crafts are in danger of dying out,” says the more cherubic-looking Rodriguez, showing handmade lace that is used in their couture wedding gowns. “We’ve gotten together a group of older women in a village near here who pass on the techniques to younger women in workshops.”

The designers say they design for the Andalusian woman, passionate and temperamental, who enjoys dressing up an is aware of looking good. These are not stay-at-home clothes, so they appeal to women like socialite and party-giver Susan Gutfreund and Spanish aristocrats and jet setters like Carmen Rossi, granddaughter of the late dictator of Spain Francisco Franco.

The ideal fabric for achieving this effect, Medina says, is Egyptian cotton voile, supplied by a textile house in Barcelona. “We really love natural fabrics although we don’t reject fabrics like acrylic when we’re trying to do something sexy. But cotton voile is our overall favorite because it’s very subtle, transparent and very manageable when it comes to design.”

The lightness of the fabric is especially important to the designers. “When people see our clothes on the runway, they tell us that it makes them want to touch them because they seem to be flying, vaporous. That’s the feeling that we want to give in our clothing, that it is full of life both inside and out,” Medina explains.

These days the pair is bursting with plans: a lower-price women’s collection, a men’s collection, possibly one for children, maybe a lingerie line. A perfume is also in the works, probably to be launched in the next year.

“We’re not in a hurry with it,” says Medina. “We know what it will be called but we’re waiting for the right moment to do it.”

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