Tending toward creative but sophisticated looks, simply put, Spanish fashion is hot. So whether you’re looking to renovate your wardrobe or buy a souvenir you will gladly use again and again, Madrid is ground zero for clothes shopping – for both men and women.
In the Spanish capital you’ll find a plethora of interesting clothing stores and beautiful clothes. It can be fun to wander around and discover new shops, but if you don’t have an unlimited amount of time or you’re looking for a smart purchase, it pays to strategize.
For a casual, modern Spanish look, women should first seek out Zara and Mango. Zara has lots of versatile pieces at good prices, while Mango clothes skew a tad more sophisticated. For everyday clothing, men should first try their hand at Adolfo Dominguez.
For a more unique Spanish look, however, women should check out the bold and perennially colorful Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, or else the romantic, more pastel colored store Biscuit. Urban-minded men, however, will find their togs at Playground.
Otherwise the Mercado Fuencarral has a great selection of distinctive clothing. It’s a good place to go if you’re looking to make a statement but you’re not exactly sure what you want yet. You’ll figure it out there!
The latest chain to sweep Spain, Desigual specializes in up-to-the-minute street fashion and club wear. Its look is emphatically not for wall flowers as colors are generally loud, prints are louder and the cuts expose flesh with abandon. Prices appeal to the younger set: expect to pay around 35 euros for a trademark asymmetrical skirt and 25 euros for a tight slogan T-shirt. The outlets themselves are more like clubs than shops with throbbing house music playing from dawn to dusk, graffiti style décor and hoards of gorgeous shop assistants swanning about, pouting and occasionally folding some clothes. METRO: Tribunal or Gran Vía (91-360-4524)
Devota & Lomba
Since the late 1980s Devota & Lomba has been creating attractive and elegant Spanish fashions for the capital. (The Argentine half of the duo, Jose Luis Devota, actually passed away in 1993 but the brand is still led by Spaniard Modesto Lomba.) At the firm's Salamanca shop on Calle de Castello, which was Devota & Lomba's first, you will find a range of women's and men's clothing and accessories, as well as a line of beautiful wedding dresses and groom's attire, for which they are well known. In case you're in the market, they also do some pretty first communion dresses. (34 914 31 93 54)
This Galician designer's stores have become ubiquitous in Spain and his beautifully cut clothes are the mainstays of many a forty-something's wardrobe. He is best known for wonderful suits made in classic lines, soft neutral palettes and flattering cuts. His high quality materials stand the test of time, and are easily mixed and matched. For younger shoppers, the newer Linea U line has markedly fresher and funkier designs. It's aimed at streetwise twenty- to thirty-year-old urbanites: expect plenty of gently quirky footwear, denim and asymmetrical skirts with interesting prints. METRO: Nu?ez de Balboa (91-576-0084)
Agatha Ruiz de la Prada
Clothes don't get any more bold and colorful than these fun designs from one of Spain's most distinctive and famous designers. Most successful in the children's arena, and more recently, in homeware, this wacky redheaded designer has been going since the eighties and has become Spain's answer to Zandra Rhodes. Typically simple cuts and designs often are emblazoned with her trademark of a single childish heart or flower. Agatha's designs come in bright pink, green, blue and yellow: no subdued palettes of grey and beige can be found here. A new branch has just opened on Calle Serrano. METRO: Rubén Darío (91-319-0501)
One of the major success stories in Spanish fashion, Catalan designer Custodio Dalmau became famous in the late eighties for his bright and funky T-shirts emblazoned with faces, pop art and various textiles. The range has gradually expanded to include denims, dresses, skirts, coats and even menswear in highly creative styles and materials, but always with very flattering cuts. It's not cheap -- a T-shirt goes for 70 to 220 -- but the label is an essential part of any fashion conscious wardrobe. His clothes, now a global brand enjoying huge international success, are mainly popular with hip city kids in their twenties and thirties. METRO: Gran Vía, Chueca (91-360-4636)
The undisputed queen of the high street crop, Zara dominates both Spanish and international markets. Apart from low prices, its success lies in the speed with which it has copies of catwalk fashions on the racks and that fact that new stock arrives weekly. The racks can be intimidatingly full, particularly at sales time, but there are excellent shoes, bags, suits, casual wear, denim and evening outfits all in young and up-to-the-minute styles. It pays to take time to browse. Be warned that lines at the checkout are long on Fridays and Saturdays, when all Madrid's bright young things flock in to buy a new outfit for the weekend. METRO: Argüelles (91-541-0902)
Playground is a fun, hip store that sells men's casual and athletic shoes from brands like Nike, Fred Perry, Hummel, Le Coq Sportif, Vans, Converse, Reebok and New Balance in a wide variety of colors. While the store isn't that big, it has two floors and besides shoes, Playground sells streetwear accessories, backpacks and headphones. Playground is also known for its friendly clerks. The store is located just off Gran Vía and in the happening Chueca neighborhood. After shopping, you will probably be tempted to head out for dinner and drinks. If you can't make it to the store though, Playground also sells their shoes online. (915 23 01 09)
Mercado Fuencarral is a good place to make your wardrobe more interesting. The centrally located Mercado is a hip alternative mall filled with dozens of clothing shops, some of them from independent designers. The shops tend to carry more unique items than you'd find elsewhere, including a number of stores dedicated to fashion subcultures such as goth, hip-hop and pin-up. A metal staircase connects the three floors of shopping. (I actually bought some of my favorite dresses at the Mercado Fuencarral.) If shopping gets too tiring though, head downstairs for a drink at Bar Sofa Club, where they have free Wi-Fi. (28004)
Inspired by romance and the best of vintage clothing, Biscuit is a sweet boutique for women's clothing and accessories. It's hard to put my finger on, but to me it also has a faintly French innocent schoolgirl style (but definitely not the naughty kind). Antique furniture doubles as display space and gives the store a bit of homey charm. The clothing at Biscuit is from brands like La Casita de Wendy, Muka (the owner's brand), Nice Things, Lily Ann and Rützou. They also have an original selection of pretty earrings, headbands, necklaces, brooches, cell phone charms and other girly accessories. (915 91 62 75)
With outlets all over the city, this Barcelona-based fashion chain is one of the big guns on the Spanish high street. Styles are modern and change monthly with looks coming straight off the catwalk and onto the shelves. Prices are not rock bottom, but still very affordable, particularly for the basics range. Mango adorns Spanish ladies from all walks of life, from teenagers to businesswomen. The ranges include accessories, gym gear, shoes, bags, beachwear, formal wear, office clothes and a particularly strong selection of glam evening gowns. METRO: Plaza Espa�a (91-543-9267)
About Sarah Rogers
Born and raised in northern California, Sarah grew up to become an expat, traveler and wordsmith. She spent seven years in Madrid, Spain and now calls Buenos Aires, Argentina home. She has had the privilege of visiting a number of countries and working as a writer and content consultant doing what she loves best: facilitating intercultural communication through the written word.
Read more about Sarah Rogers here.