” It’s shameful to see how fashion companies market their mass-produced goods as handmade or tailor made.”
Fernando García de la Calera is the Madrid-based owner/founder of The Concrete Company Madrid, established in 2007 and Fernando’s reflection of his way of living:
“Before starting my own brand, I was working for several design studios. I became more and more frustrated about not being able to do my own thing. Next to that, I’m a very hyperactive boy, mentally and physically. So I started imaging and working on graphic designs for skateboards, as I’m very much into skateboarding, and tees. Thus my own brand, The Concrete, was created. And even though the style from back then is not matching my current developments, the vision it holds is still the same reflection: Always moving forward.”
Growing up, Fernando’s surroundings were a mix of tradition, military standards and the introduction to the world of skateboarding, all elements that have shaped him one way or the other:
“In my daily work, there isn’t much of an influence from my family actually. My grandfather, father and oldest brother are all pilots, sort of an aviation tradition. I guess you can call me the odd one in the family. I left home when I was 18, to find my own enlightenment as I moved to London for a couple of years. However, as a child I’ve spent many summers on the military base due to my father’s occupation. I was surrounded by uniforms and tools, discovering their usability and practicality. There was a U.S. base in Madrid as well, in the eighties. I remember being one of the first kids to have a Levi’s 501 and a Power Peralta skateboard, as the Yanks imported stuff like this into the base.”
What does the world of The Concrete look like now?
“Currently I’m developing what I would like to call “Rugged Tailoring“, it’s an elegant style of wear but influenced by my own background. It focuses on durability, quality and true artisanal work by using premium raw materials, comfort and clean design. For me, the world of an artisan and the world of The Concrete is to give importance to quality and not quantity.”
The Artisan thing is a Natural thing
“I’m in a constant internal conflict which eventually leads me to find my personal balance. I believe all things should come natural, and not as an impuls decision. I’ve been developing my tailoring skills very heavily for the past four years now and now I feel it is time to expand my horizon. There’s this idea I have based on a world full of quality fabrics, traveling to research more, learn from other cultures and understand how their vision on artisanal fabrics and work look like. This is what I want to discover and see if and how it can influence my work.
“I truly believe in the come as you are expression.”
The artisanal movement is growing, and I feel this also is a natural thing that’s happening now. People think fashion should be what the big companies such as Zara or H&M tell us it should be. It seems like every young designer aspires to design, manufacture and sell quantity instead of caring about the quality or the originality of their design.”
Creativity from the Crisis
It’s 2008 when the massive economical crisis hits the world, and Spain was one of the hardest hit regions in Europe. Banks and multinationals went out of business, millions of people lost their job (3.2 million between 2008 and 2014) and the unemployment rate amongst those that just graduated was one of the highest in Europe.
However, every downside has it’s upside and this was certainly the case amongst many Spanish youngsters:
“The crisis made the youngsters restructure certain values and started doing things that at a certain point in time seemed forgotten, and they were good at it! We were not doing this because the competition was gone, it wasn’t about competing in any market at all. We, the restless minds, were reinventing and embracing the crafts of the past. The art of making was our counter-movement against everything that was shit, there were no other options for us.
Fernando and so many of his fellow countrymen and women were the risk-takers, the first to set foot into a new world of tradition and paving the way for others to follow them. Rising up against the big fashion companies, they share common values and beliefs and remember consumers about what’s pure craftsmanship and what’s poorly made:
“What we’re still seeing is shameful… These fashion companies abuse marketing tools to falsely influence consumers claiming that their goods are handmade or tailor-made, whilst they don’t even have their own workshop!”
Would you ever consider offering a volume-based range of products to retailers? Or would this take the art out of your artisanal methods of working?
“I’m not at all keen on reproducing a certain model or fit hundreds or thousands of times. Most of my work is completely bespoke for my clients, and at the moment I’m developing the e-commerce side with some models by size. But this is more to give a representation of my style and design and give access to my products for those that are not able to easily visit my workshop. I only make stock when someone buys, and most of my fabrics are very limited or deadstock.
The World of The Concrete Company Madrid in 2020
“I try not to look that far ahead. I live in the present and everyday things can change and everyday I can change, so I think it’s not wise to go that far into the future. However, I do dream sometimes. About a more spacious workspace, on the countryside, perhaps somewhere near the Tramontana mountains in Mallorca. I would have the space to build my own miniramp to practice everyday.