Haute couture, made in Catalonia

Asunción Bastida™ was a well-known and celebrated haute couture brand during the greater part of the last century. The motor of this successful house was Asunción Bastida herself, born in Barcelona in 1902, an all-round professional in times not always propitious for female executives.

One of her great finds was the use of cotton and linen fabrics she popularized for street and evening dresses as well as for summer outfits. What is more, she was one of the first Catalan fashion houses to include a boutique with accessories, sports and prêt-a-porter lines, called Asunción Bastida Sport.

In this way Asunción capitalized on the then prevailing style trends. Towards the end of the 40s the social activities of the wealthier classes were increasing and all those different events required different clothes and accessories. So the women of the Spanish high society had to be prepared and wear another design on each occasion. Within this rigid etiquette you should have street clothes, smart clothes, cocktail clothes for daytime parties as well as evening clothes. Asunción’s merit was that she offered haute couture for every possible social event and even added a sports mode.

The beginning
Asunción was a self-made couturier whose career started as a dressmaker in her father’s fabric shop. During the mid twenties she opened a house specialized in knit garments first on the Carrer de Girona, later relocating to the Passeig de Gràcia 96 of Barcelona that soon became an important centre of haute couture fashion. On its first floor, the former atelier of the modernist painter Ramon Casas, she had her sumptuous parlour whose original decoration of 1898 she respected: a monumental stone fireplace and golden Solomonic columns, the perfect Modernist background for her designs.

One of her first fashion shows was held during the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The goal of this big exhibition was to highlight the city’s further technological progress and increase awareness abroad of modern Catalan industry. It also meant the beginning of Asunción’s international career. However, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) temporarily put a stop to all her plans: she was obliged to close her Barcelona shop as well as the branch in Madrid that she had inaugurated in 1934 at Hermosilla street in the Salamanca district. As soon as the war was over, she reopened both establishments.

Shortly afterwards, in 1940, she founded the Haute Couture Cooperative …

Elisava and the mystery of the banner


ELISAVA ME FECIT: these three Latin words embroidered on a beautiful ancient banner, acquired by the Design Museum (Museu del Disseny) in Barcelona some hundred years ago, posed an interesting challenge for historians.

‘Elisava made me’ said the text, while as a rule Medieval artists did not sign their work. So the experts wondered who ‘wrote’ it and which other secrets did the standard hide? Here is what they discovered.

The banner was found in a box placed in the niche of the Altar of Saint Ot at the cathedral of Santa Maria d’Urgell, La Seu d’Urgell. Ot of Urgell (now the town’s patron saint) was a bishop of Urgell from a noble family whose members were counts of the region Pallars Sobirà. He presided his diocese between 1095 and 1122 and the standard could very well date from those years, also considering its material and style characteristics.

But who was Elisava? The name was rather common in the Middle Ages, so that does not give us any indication, although it was frequently used by the family of counts over a large period. Continue reading “Elisava and the mystery of the banner”

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