The Jakarta Post
While excellent cuisine and exquisite architecture will be top reasons to visit Spain, make sure to bring an extra suitcase when planning a vacation to the Iberian country. There’s treasure to be found, whether in swanky shops on Madrid’s Calle del Oro, quirky boutiques in the alleys of Málaga or at Marbella's tony stores. Spain will surprise travelers with designs that combine traditional artisanal work with contemporary style and design.
After reading about our shopping odyssey, check out J+ by The Jakarta Post’s Travel Intelligence guide for Spain.
Stroll through Madrid, down commercial arteries like Gran Via or neighborhoods like the city’s tony Salamanca district and it’s easy to see why Spaniards say that life is lived on the streets. Stores and boutique abound, making for a vibrant experience. Here’s some of what we saw.
First things first: It’s time for some serious shopping for what you can’t get back home. El Corte Ingles, with 85 department stores across Spain and Portugal, offers an excellent curation of international and Spanish luxury and lifestyles brands. More than a retailer, El Corte Ingles stores have been virtual community centers for more than 77 years. Locals report warm memories hanging out, sharing cupcakes and coffee and even getting a movie star’s autograph at El Corte Ingles. At the immense Castellana outpost in Madrid, covering 11 floors and two buildings, international tourists were given the brand’s standard welcome–free wine and tapas, along with a loyalty card offering 10 percent cash back for purchases made in a five-day window. El Corte Ingles also has a destination- worthy selection of culinary offerings at its co-located Gourmet Experience markets that will thrill foodies.
A design destination itself, luxury handbag brand Loewe has a three-story flagship store on Calle del Oro that took decor cues from the film A Single Man, directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, according to the architect. A floating spiral staircase and 15-meter-tall textured curtains adorn a minimalist space accentuated by gorgeous Spanish limestone. An installation by the Spanish exile artist Gloria Garcia Lorca and painting by the late British impressionist Howard Hodgkin are two of several standout artworks in the space. It’s a striking backdrop for the Spanish-made luxury handbags that are on display.
Where: Casa Loewe Serrano, 34 Madrid
Read also: How to get around in Barcelona, Spain
Funny labels adorn the products on offer at Ecoalf, near the Alonso Martinez Metro stop in Madrid’s Salmanca district. “Today you are wearing recycled fishnets,” is printed on the liner of sleek puffer jackets. “Because there is no Planet B” is stamped on a cool backpack. The label specializes in “sustainable fashion”, using cutting-edge techniques masterminded by founder Javier Goyeneche, to, for example, weave discarded plastic into thread. Used tires, industrial cotton and wool and even post-consumer coffee grounds (harvested from 7-Eleven convenience stores in Taiwan) have also been pressed into service, with end results that are indistinguishable from conventional fashion.
Where: Calle de Hortaleza, 116 Madrid
Since 2005, Pretty Ballerinas has been offering fashionably offbeat ballet flats coming from the Spanish island of Menorca, where generations of artisans working for the Mascaró family have been making high-fashion footwear since 1918. Aiming to evoke the elegance of high heels, albeit more comfortably; the flats come in hundreds of styles, including flowers, glitter, lace, snake print, suede, Swarovski crystals and velvet. Despite huge demand–the brand is sold in 32 countries, including Singapore and Malaysia–Pretty Ballerinas reflect personal touches. Ten women, for example, still apply soles by hand, not machine.
Where: Many locations, in Spain and abroad
A short walk from Salamanca and the Calle del Oro is Calle Zurbano, where sisters Mercedes and Elena Zubizarreta run a cool storefront for Zubi Design, one of several creative, millennial-run brands that have turned the neighborhood, laid low by the last decade’s financial woes, into a hip, walkable destination for lifestyles, shopping and dining. Inspired by travel, the sisters design and produce popular collections of cute canvas bags emblazoned with dreamy images taken on trips to locales like California and Cuba. On each bag is a tag with the latitude and longitude of where the picture was taken, so you can experience the destination yourself. Cooler still is how Zubi works with artisans as it strives to offer 100 percent made-in-Spain collections. Canvas, for example, is sourced locally, printed in Madrid and made by 30 Spanish artisans, employed by the sisters after the factory in their village closed.
Where: Calle Zurbano, 22 Madrid
Read also: 10 ultimate things to do in southern Spain
ADVENTURES IN ANDALUCÍA
About three hours from Madrid via high-speed train, the Andalucían city of Málaga offers attractions like the Alcazaba, a Muslim fortress fronted by an ancient Roman amphitheater, a sunny clime, excellent cuisine taking advantage of a nearness to the Atlantic and Mediterranean and a bevy of talented artisans working on a personal scale.
Málaga offers a chance to meet Jesus Segado and Rafael Urquizar, sophisticated fashion designers with couture reputations that go well beyond the city where they were born and currently work. In a converted workshop in his art-filled apartment, Segado, who has been invited to shows in Paris and New York City, is a solitary worker. He caters to a clientele limited only by the time he needs to hand make his sculptural masterpieces, often drawing inspiration from the city’s many churches, and which feature touches like Escher-esque weaves or elaborate butterflies created through traditional Spanish embroidery and detailed beading.
Meanwhile, Urquizar, who plays with volume and form to fashion dresses that evoke Valentino for weddings, First Communions and flamenco dancers, has ateliers in Seville and in Málaga, where he takes three stories to present his pret-a-porter collections, a full haute couture studio and workshop.
Be sure to venture off the main commercial drag of Calle Larios and explore Málaga’s alleys and side streets. You’ll find cobblestones and impossibly tiny squares that front ancient and elaborate churches, as well as family-friendly haunts with a Bohemian vibe, like La Casa Invisible (The Invisible House) or Gabinete de Crisis (Crisis Cabinet, adorned with Dr. Strangelove pictures). Sometimes you’ll find stores like Calzados Hinojosa, family run since 1920 and plastered with shoes on every available surface. There’s also a host of hidden boutiques, like Piel/Piel. Operating out of a single storefront, the brand offers funky shoes made from handcrafted leather that feature a pastiche of vibrant colors and textures.
Where: Plaza Los Mártires Ciriaco y Paula, N-10 Málaga
The seaside vacation town of Marbella is a scenic 60-kilometer-or-so drive along the Mediterranean Sea from Málaga. Along Calle Ribera at the Marbella marina–where you can see the plaything sailboats of the elite–is a row of shops with brands like Louis Vuitton, Roberto Cavalli, Bang & Olufsen and Versace, among others. Nearby, El Corte Ingles at Plaza Antonio Banderas (the actor is from Málaga, as you’ll be frequently reminded), offers excellent deals–and a Gourmet Experience in its food center.
The author was a guest of Turespaña.
This article was originally published in the Apr. 2018 edition of J+ by The Jakarta Post with the headline "In Search of Spanish Style".