Elio Berhanyer has just received a kind and affectionate tribute in Córdoba, his hometown, organized by Centro Córdoba with the collaboration of the Asociación Creadores de Moda de España, of which he was one of the five founders. There we were able to see something that we already knew: how much he is loved and admired in the profession. Modesto Lomba, Roberto Verino, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Hannibal Laguna recognize in him his role as a forerunner and in a way they see in him a father figure who paved and showed them the way. Verino expressed it very well in the text he sent to be read in his name during the act: “You have been a little our father […] Our generation received the torch from yours. You are our admired teacher. Neither Jesus [del Pozo] nor Francis [Montesinos] nor Antonio [Pernas] nor Adolfo [Domínguez] nor Agatha [Ruiz de la Prada] nor I would be who we are without your example. ”
Elio was a forerunner of modernity who aptly redirected his sewing atelier towards unstoppable prêt-à-porter, and he did it successfully. In the narrative of his story, in fact, many of the keys to contemporary Spanish fashion are glimpsed. He also detected very early on that a designer’s brand could be stamped on something more than clothing, and that fragrances and accessories should be a fundamental part of the economic strength and prestige of a fashion label. What would Chanel be without her perfumes and lipsticks? And who says Chanel, says Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy or so many others …
But beyond the unquestionable worth of his work, the issue I want to raise here is that of the permanence of fashion houses once the founding figure retires. “Brands do not die, designers die,” declared the Andalusian to journalist Rafael Muñoz, who interviewed him in Córdoba this past weekend. Elio, as many other times, is accurate in his analysis. In fact, the great designers of the twentieth century have left behind them very solid companies that have continued their legacies decades after the disappearance or retirement of their creators. And again recurring names come to mind such as Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Paco Rabanne … Although, interestingly, brands such as Courrèges or Cardin, fundamental, like Berhanyer, in the fashion of the 60s and 70s, have not enjoyed that awaited and permanent stability in time.
Elio, in the aforementioned interview, has recognized to the journalist that he has been thinking some time about the person who will perpetuate his house. Hopefully that wish will materialize, because in Spain, unlike France, the historical fashion labels have not been able to, or have not known how to, in an outright manner. Pertegaz and Pedro Rovira, to give two examples, had very successful brands and knew how to diversify their business to take it beyond the textile life of its creators, but they are languishing or have disappeared after their demise. Rabanne’s baton has been taken to the future by the company that holds his property, Puig, in the same way that Jesus del Pozo has found in Perfumes y Diseño the economic power necessary to position Delpozo in prêt-à-couture. Julien Dossena and Josep Font, in charge of the design teams of each one respectively, are two magnificent creators, but behind them are two cosmetics giants that have made possible the development of both brands. Does that mean that more than a designer, you have to find an investor so that the brand can be perpetuated over time? It would be a sign of the good health of Spanish fashion design that this happened in the case of Berhanyer, so that the rays of the sun that his name radiates will continue to illuminate us all.
Elio Berhanyer’s sketch from the year 1962
Main picture: Juan Gatti for the book ‘Geography of Spanish Fashion’