It’s five o’clock at La Rural. It’s pouring outside. Inside is all-white and garden-themed. You can hear the murmur of models talking amongst themselves, taking group selfies and giggling their way through their pre-catwalk nervousness from backstage. The Max Factor makeup artists are busy at work, applying makeup on Benito Fernandez, one of the most important designers in the Buenos Aires fashion scene. Fernandez looks every bit the part in a classic cut dark blue jean with navy blazer over a light blue cotton button down, casually paired off with a pair of leopard print moccasins.
This backstage area is overflowing with clothes racks. Claudia Arce’s are filled with short dresses cut for summer. The collection is a montage of full ballerina skirts made out of layers of gossamer, lightly sparkled tulle, and long silk ethereal lemon yellow gowns adorned with cream-colored lace. Arce plays with silhouettes by sending down a few backless and strapless pieces worthy of mentioning. The collection was saturated with a kind of nostalgic opulence reminiscent of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s dream.
I managed to talk to the jeweler, Leonor Sanjurjo. A fiercely elegant woman of vision, with a sharp eye for things of beauty, Sanjurjo told me the pieces chosen for the occasion weren’t specifically crafted for the show, but carefully handpicked by Fernandez. “These jewels are feminine and sophisticated. Some are classic and others fall more on the innovative side. However they’re all quite versatile, and can easily go with either formal or informal looks,” said Leonor about the jewels selected by the argentine couturier. “They’re not ornamental jewels, but delicate pieces intended to accompany the simple fluidity and calm elegance of Benito Fernandez dresses.”
At six o’clock I hurry back to my seat located somewhere in an assortment of round tables with crisp white tablecloths with vases flowing with white flowers. Tea is being served and the show is about to start. The first collection is DeLaOstia, created by fashion designer Lola Canavosio. Her line is all about all-white shorts and tops. Either paired off with a chic blazer for a more formal look or on their own, for a more devil-may-care casual resort look. All-white cotton dresses are also present in this collection. All excellent choices for a quick getaway to Punta del Este. This line also includes a very eccentric cream spaghetti-stringed feathered top paired off with silky black shorts. Très parisian chic!
Another note-worthy line was designed by Caro Sosa. This collection is carried by gorgeous solid color block garments that manage to create impact without looking or feeling weighed down. One of the most original pieces is a darling mint-green ankle length dress with a cream-colored neckline. It looks like something Mia Farrow might have worn in the original Great Gatsby film. This whimpsy contrasted amazingly against the color-block items in black, grey, pink and nude. My favorite look? A silvery white backless jumpsuit.
Benito’s dresses are as always very glamorous. They’re all made of tulle or gauzy silk. The beading and bright colored prints make all the dresses reminiscent of mermaid tails. The kind you could easily picture on young socialite sirens in cocktail parties the city over. Sanjurjo’s elegant jewelry is the perfect finishing touch for these dresses.
The pièce de résistance, as always, is the closing line. Isabel Toledo, the Cuban-American designer that is among First Lady Michelle Obama’s favorite designers, is honored with this position in the Six O’Clock Tea . And I can see why at once: her lines are reminiscent of the 60’s, but with a provocative nuance. Models with big Jackie O sunglasses and sunhats stream through the tables, walking among the guests in a breathtaking whirl of color. As they move, these veritable works of art -sculpted out of layers of colorful fabric- take your breath away.
Toledo’s collection (Fashion Camouflage) is made up of long and short dresses sporadically paired with coordinating opera coats. I managed to interview Isabel, and was able to experience her sweetness and charm first-hand. She talked about each piece with a sparkle in her eyes, and referred to her craft as “soft sculpture”. You can tell she invests a lot of herself into her work. Each dress is a direct result of her vision and dedication. This directly translates to the end product. Her unique and hand-crafted vision was the absolute perfect line to end this distinctively couture take on afternoon tea.