The Community of Madrid has just announced the winners of their 2016 Culture Awards, and this year, for the first time, Fashion – and yes, I write it in capital letters – is added as a category, together with theatre, movies, literature, etc. ., and Elio Berhanyer has been the designer deserving of this distinction. Poetic justice after last May 4th the ruling of the jury of the Princesa de Asturias Awards in the category of Arts was made public. And no, on that occasion it was not for Elio Berhanyer. His candidacy had been an initiative of ADYMO (Association of Design and Fashion of Asturias) supported with all our resources from the Asociación de Creadores de Moda de España, although the result has not been what we would have wanted. We had many things against it, but many others in favour. Among the first, the shortage of time to put together a support campaign, a little more than a month, or that at the moment, Elio is no longer an internationally known figure, although during his moment of splendour, in the 70s, yes he was. Also among the difficulties, one is the fact that fashion is not mentioned in the ruling of the awards among the artistic categories to reward. And therein lies the crux of the matter. In a meeting with EFE agency that we organized from ACME to publicize the candidacy, Elio, always so elegant and generous, said immediately: “I am not here in a personal capacity, I represent all my colleagues, the fashion of Spain “. He was very clear that if he had received the award, it would have been a collective recognition towards fashion understood as another artistic discipline, because fashion is a fundamental part of the cultural history of nations. And this, which seems very obvious, does not turn out to be so … For example, in the composition of the jury of the awards there was no one to represent this discipline, so there was no one who could defend his candidacy from within.
Modesto Lomba con Elio Berhanyer durante el desayuno “60 minutos de moda con EFE Estilo”
In his favour, there were and there are many things. The whole profession was at his side, both the designers and schools and universities of design, museums, associations and textile, media entrepreneurs … the most active being Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, who upon learning about the initiative immediately put her entire team to work to gather as much support as possible. We have received letters from prominent political figures, such as the President of the Community of Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes; of elite athletes, such as Ona Carbonell; actresses, like Concha Velasco; models like Nieves Alvarez or Naty Abascal, who along with her twin sister Ana worked as a model for Elio; Baroness Thyssen, Antonio Gala, Miriam Clegg, Carla Royo Vilanova, María Zurita, Alejandra Rojas … The list is extensive. At change.org, the campaign drew around 1000 anonymous signatures.
Boceto de Elio Berhanyer
Of course this was not to be easily achieved: 43 candidates from 19 countries, including Bruce Springsteen and David Hockney, were nominated for this edition, just to mention two of the most relevant from the media point of view; and of course, no objection and our most sincere congratulations to the winner, the South African plastic artist William Kentridge. But as I said above, the question is that fashion deserves by right to have a space in that privileged place that is the Arts; In fact, it already occupies a place of its own in museums, and Givenchy’s exhibitions in the Thyssen or the Balenciaga that will soon be housed by the Prado – I only mention two examples, but I could mention hundreds – are proof of this. The professor of Theory of Literature and Comparative Literature at the University of A Coruña, José María Paz Gago, in his book “Fashion. The eighth art” clearly showcases that this discipline contains important historical, social and cultural values that have transformed and marked society, so fashion certainly deserves to be catalogued as the eighth art. So, next year, as we will continue trying, we will accompany the candidacy of Elio with this book. Elio and fashion deserve more than one award.
Photos: EFE/Fernando Alvarado