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Verdú, Joaquim

VERDÚ, Joaquim

Spanish designer

Born: Barcelona, Spain. Education: Attended Feli's fashion school; studied anatomical drawing and painting; apprenticed under Pedro Rodríguez. Career: Became known for knitwear; own label manufactured by Pulligan, from 1991. Address: Riera del Pinar, 12, 08360 Carnet de Mar, Spain.

Publications

On VERDÚ:

Articles

Klensch, Elsa, "España!," in Vogue, October 1988.

"Highlights of the Spanish Cibeles Autumn/Winter 1999-2000 Fashion Shows in the Words of Pedro Mansilla," available online at Fashion Click, www.fashionclick.com, 14 October 2001.

"Joaquim Verdú Runway Fashion Photos," online at www.fashionshowroom.com, 14 October 2001.

"La Moda Nupcial Empieza en Punto," online at La Vanguardia, www.lavanguardia.es, 14 October 2001.

"Noticias: Joaquim Verdú," online at Solo Moda, www.solomoda.com, 14 October 2001.

***

Joaquim Verdú is rare among fashion designers in showing a preference for knitted rather than woven fabricsto the extent that since his label began to be manufactured by Pulligan in 1991, Verdú has devoted himself exclusively to knitting. Underlying the eminently wearable collections is a philosophy of less is more. The keynotes are well-defined volumes, fluid lines, and immaculate detailing; colors are mostly plain. What interests the designer is the knitted fabric in its own right, rather than knitting as a vehicle for multicolored jacquards and intarsias. Apart from occasional stripes or prints, if Verdú combines colors it is on a large scale. He might, for example, use a different shade for each part of an outfit or for each garment of a range. That he had intended to be a painter is always apparent in the subtle choice and juxtaposition of brights, pastels, or neutrals.

Early collections were exuberant, with a clever mix of knitted and woven materials. When mixing fabrics, Verdú tends to play a teasing game of "spot the knitting." He chooses knitted fabrics that look so much like weaves that only a very close inspection reveals what they are; then he reverses traditional roles and takes us light years away from the woven suit teamed with a sweater. In a Verdú runway, knitting, identifiable or not, is always the star of the show. Weaves become complementary or, at best, equal partners.

Handling knitting in this way is a difficult exercise, especially when tailoring is involved, and Verdú has been known to dress male models in suits entirely made out of jersey. The very same qualities that make knitting feel like a second skin turn it awkward in the workroom as knitted fabrics can be unpredictable. Pressing can stretch them; some curl, others have a sideways slant, difficult to control and impossible to correct. Half the time, the fabric needs to be designed from scratch, and here lies the greatest challengeto start a garment not from a bale of jersey but from a cone of yarn.

Verdú's designs for the straight knitting machine show him in complete control of the fabric and of the manufacturing process. This is one of the aspects that makes his work so successful, but there are others; another is his skill at producing infinite variations on a theme, however simple. Verdú devotees know for a fact that, in any given range, they will find something to fit their age, lifestyle, and bone structure. Then there is the way in which the designer combines chic with exquisite comfort, something that international models appearing in his shows have been quick to point out. Finally, there is the clearly distinctive signature, the very personal imprint Verdú leaves on everything he does, because, except for making the clothes, he actually does everything. From the moment he chooses a yarn or fabric and reaches for the sketch pad, up to the final fitting, nobody else works on the design. In the era of the franchise, a Joaquim Verdú label means exactly what it says.

As a young man, Verdú started his studies at Feli's fashion school. He had not been there more than a few weeks before his potential was spotted by one of the lecturers. Pedro Rodríguez obtained permission from the school to take Verdú to his own couture house, where he personally introduced him to the intricacies of cut and drape. On his death, many years later, Rodríguez left him his scissors. The man who shares with Balenciaga the honor of being the father of Spanish couture could not have paid Verdú a greater compliment.

Spanning the end of the millennium, Verdú welcomed the 21st century at the Spanish Cibeles. According to commentator Pedro Mansilla, Verdú avoided the fashion vapors of no-show designers and regional divas to showcase practical Spanish goods. As in the past, he presented a wearable collection of knits in contrasting colors, his signature style. In Madrid for fall 2001, his clingy, monochromatic knits presented a vulnerable, sensuous youth in thigh-hugging pants and matching bateau-neck top and ethereal slip dress.

Montse Stanley;

updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass

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