Buenos Aires Design Tour
Article by Sharon Salt.
In the midst of all the clunky suede shoes, wide printed pants, and black mesh shirts, we have Luján Cordaro, Buenos Aires native and founder of Buenos Aires Design Tours, with her finger on the pulse of it all. Even after two years here, I have yet to wrap my mind around the Buenos Aires fashion scene, so I was happy to sit down with Luján – “the h is very strong, so it’s just easier to call me Lu” – and gain some insight.
If anyone understands, it’s Lu. A graduate of UBA’s fashion program, Lu considers herself something of a design sociologist. Rather than design her own pieces, she prefers to analyze the cyclical nature of trends or how fashion is informed by place. “The weather affects the style, or colors in the surrounding environment affect the style, for example,” she says, “and if you pay attention, you can predict what will come next.“
Despite her wealth of knowledge and list of connections to the scene, Buenos Aires Design Tours (BA:Dt) actually started in a bed and breakfast where Lu was working part-time. Many of the tourists, frustrated with guidebook listings of only big brands and malls, would ask her for the best places to buy Argentine leather and clothing. Between her excellent English and fashion expertise, Lu had no trouble pointing them in the right direction.
Now, BA:Dt is a full-fledged business five years in the running, catering to tourists and locals alike. Lu gives tours to Argentine design students during the winter months, and the rest of the year she runs private tours on a reservation-basis only. Participants request the kind of tour they’d like: up-and-coming Argentine designers, where to find the best leather, an inside look at Buenos Aires Fashion Week, or anything else they might be interested in.
But no matter what the request, BA:Dt tours are based on something Lu calls “author design,” which means that the “style represents the designer’s vision, speaks to the designer’s spirit,” thus ruling out big brands that tend to copy trends from abroad. Fast fashion is seeping into design culture everywhere, unfortunately; even a few of Lu’s old classmates are stuck working in fast fashion, where they “spend all day downloading images from the internet for the companies to copy, first looking for lots of blue stripes, then for hippie chic, then whatever they think is next,” she explains. “Because these big brands cater to everyone, they don’t have an identity of their own.”
For Lu, on the other hand, fashion is a form of expression, both for the designer and the consumer. Personally, she says, she loves fashion that plays with volume, texture, and the construction of the garments. One example is Tramando, by Martin Churba, a big name in Recoleta and Palermo. Lu has even been to some of his shows, which are always “in interesting places,” she says, “like museums or parking garages.”
But Lu’s favorite is Kostume, a line created by two former architects, which has been seen everywhere from Buenos Aires to Milan to Berlin. Because the look is informed by their previous profession, “the design is richer,” very geometric and structural, which is just what Lu likes. One recent collection was based on travel, with lots of easily converted layers – like a jacket that folded into a bag, or a piece that changed shape depending on which buttons were used – and their most recent collection was unisex.
“I think unisex is going to get much bigger,” Lu says. “Gay marriage is an important issue now, and that has had an impact on clothing and fashion. A unisex look is more important now, too.” And she’s right. For Lu, it all comes back to design sociology, fashion as a product of place.
For more on BA:Dt or to get in touch with Lujan Cordaro, check out her website here.