Typewriting as an art

View of the Cathedral of Barcelona

It may not be your cup of tea, but Montserrat Alberich‘s art undeniably is striking. Using the typewriter as a paint-brush she created a large number of realistic paintings of landscapes, monuments, rural scenes as well as portraits. Her work won admiration among a broad national, and international public and museums and libraries acquired some significant pieces.

Professional typist
When Montserrat was born in 1912, typewriters were already common in offices for some thirty years. At that time more and more women began to enter the field of typists, thus playing a major role in liberating them from the domestic role that had been assigned to them.

At the beginning of the 20C being a typist gradually became the right choice for a “good girl”, meaning women who present themselves as being chaste and having good conduct. So schools, like the Acadèmia Cots of Barcelona, had to adapt their politics and open up their curriculums for young girls.

As early as 1879 Ramon Cots had foreseen future demands of typing and secretarial courses and had grasped the opportunity. His school at the Portal de l’Àngel, 38 offered education from general culture to specialized classes, such as bookkeeping in accordance with tax laws. The advertising poster emphasizes the ‘different classrooms for separation of both sexes’, the target group being ‘selected classes’.

Contests, technique, recognition and media coverage

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.

Innovations
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 …

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