Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Agatha Ruiz de la Prada is one of the only designers who can plop an egg on a dress, send it down a Fashion Week runway and get away with it.
30 years ago she began her career as a womenswear designer in Madrid, as the city was entering La Movida Madrilenia- a cultural movement that mirrors American counterculture in the 60s. Today, this Spanish designer can lay claim to a fashion empire that includes menswear, childrenswear, stationary, accessories, perfumery, tiles and home amongst other things. She can list off collaborations with major international brands like Apple, Nissan, Bic and Kleenex, but that's just taking a chip off the iceberg.
Her designs are outlandish, however Ruiz de la Prada is a shrewd business woman. Rather than thinning her brand more, she's opting to beef up the quality of it. We're bummed to hear that a Miami storefront isn't on the horizon, but we're happy we caught up with the designer before her show at Miami Fashion Week to chat about her latest collection, the inspiration behind her candy-hued brand and why she's not about that brick and mortar life.
The Agatha Ruiz de la Prada fashion show during Miami Fashion Week // All images below via Getty
Tell me about the collection you showed at Miami Fashion Week.
All of the clothing in the collection is painted by hand. Before I became a designer I wanted to be a painter. Many times I would paint my own fabrics and sometimes I would work with artists who would paint the fabrics and I would make them into clothing. Everything I make has a lot of color and strokes and I think it goes very well with the style in Miami. A lot of the clothing you're going to see is is my point of view on Miami.
Are there plans at all to open more stores in the states?
No. In Spain we have an industry that's number one in terms of opening new stores, and [designers] keep opening and opening stores. To compete with those people is very hard. I think sometimes you have to step aside because [big companies] have shown me their factories many times and the more you get to know them the more you realize how small you are and how hard it is… I have a design studio, where we have over 50 licenses, where we do plays every week, where we do posters, where we do events, where we do cultural events, thousands of things. We have our stores, but [opening more] can lead you to your downfall.
You have en empire that extends way beyond clothing.
I do chimneys, embroidered curtains, lamps, tiles, stationary. If I have to do all that and worry about opening stores around the world, to be honest I'm not really prepared to do that. I have a few stores, but it's very difficult. I've realized as a general rule people only care about the number of stores you have. From that point of view, the king of the world is Inditex [Spanish multi-national retail group that owns Zara], but I think it's not about that… All designers are in a very complicated situation. For example, I think Custo [Barcelona] is a great designer, he's actually around here somewhere, but I'm not sure if he opened too many stores. My stores give me a hassle that you wouldn't even imagine.
So you think it's better to have less stores with more quality.
If you have a lot of money and there's some left over, you could open a store. But to enter opening a lot of stores where you could lose? I'm a risk taker when it comes to my designs but I'm very prudent as a business owner.
What's your design process like?
I have a foundation that produces catalogues, puts on expositions, so then what we do is that we have a giant archive of the things we've done. It's a process where we're always looking at the past. I do many retrospectives of my past 20 and 30 years. My theory is that we always repeat ourselves. For example, Botero and Henry Moore, because he does something very similar [to Botero]. Or Roy Litchenstein and Romero Britto. It's the same.
And what's the style of Agatha Ruiz dela Prada?
That you'll have to describe, since you're the journalist. I think it's a style that some people really like, and some don't like at all. But it's a style that everyone can recognize, and that's important.
Your designs are very fun and bright. Is that a reflection of your personality?
I'm not sure but, at least, it reflects my intentions. My intentions of having fun, of being optimistic, of not liking sad things, solving problems. I don't like grim people, I like the act of being happy, and that gives off color.
Out of all the things that you design, from stationary to menswear, what's the next category you want to explore?
As of this moment I don't want to enter any more categories because I have enough. Before I would imagine doing watches, jewelry, tiles, anything- how fun! Now, I prefer to do things well. I want to work on perfecting what I do rather than do more.
And what's the category that you have the most fun working on?
I think that the most important has always been womenswear. Now I do mens, kids, a little bit of everything, but my main focus has always been womenswear.
And when did you begin?
I was 20 when I designed my first collection. Now that I think about it, I don't know where I got the money or how I know how to get it out there. I did it with a brutal illusion, working hard. I was lucky because I began my career when the Movida Madrileña started. After Franco's death, Spain became democratic. It was a time where we really discovered what freedom was and it was one of the funnest time periods that Madrid had ever experienced. All the major newspapers of the world came- The New York Times, NewsWeek, National Geographic- to cover Madrid. It's why they call it the Movida Madrileña. That's the moment when I started to work.
When you began your career in the 80s, did you ever dream of having an empire this size?
I don't consider that I have an absolute empire, but I've had a lot of fun with my job for the past 30 years. For example, Beth, the organizer of Miami Fashion Week, showed me a photograph of her modeling in one of my shows in the 80s in Madrid. I didn't remember until I saw the photo; I had no idea that she had been a model of mine! So after all these years, someone is one of models, then creates a fashion week, and later does something else… when you're constantly doing things everywhere, it creates an energy that leads you to venture out and do other things.
What do you see when you come to Miami?
I think Miami can become a very important city for latin american fashion in North America and South America, as well as Spain. Miami Fashion Week, for example, has brought a lot of great Italian [designers]. That could create a great mix between Europe and America that could be very interesting. In South America there are a lot of smaller fashion weeks, but here it can be the hyper fashion week, the fashion week of all the fashion weeks.
What's the next chapter for you and the Agatha Ruiz de la Prada brand?
I don't know. Spain is going through a very tough time now and when people ask me what my next project is, I always say it's to survive. I'm happy because I've survived most of the crisis; I have the same stores, I have almost the same team, I'm still doing the same. Before we all had our own projects but now the project is to maintain what you have and survive.
· Agatha Ruiz de la Prada [Official Site]
· All One on One Posts [Racked Miami]