Unlike Zara or Mango, Desigual was one of the Spanish brands I had completely forgotten about until I started strolling along the streets of Barcelona and noticed that every second passer-by seemed to be toting a Desigual shopping bag. And even though I don't mind any of their clothes or accessories, browsing their collection never really occurred to me, because I've always associated their colorful streetwear with something you'd wear to the beach or another summer destination. It didn't take me long to find one of their stores, so of course I popped in, just to see what the fuss was about.
Current Desigual campaign (images: Desigual).
Desigual was founded in 1984 by Thomas Meyer, a Swiss who based the company in Barcelona. The goal was to offer bold, original and good quality clothing at accessible prices. The original company philosophy 'we are not the same' is something that still holds true - I believe the current brand slogan is 'atypical Spanish wear since 1984'. These sentiments were mirrored in the store window - the first thing that caught my attention and made me want to enter the store. Displayed amidst a flock of white (wooden) sheep, stood a black sheep voicing "I'm not the same". In the background, a colorful Desigual handbag, among a display of simple white purses, was telling shoppers "you are not the same". Standing out from the crowd seems to be the key here, so what exactly would that entail?
According to the current Desigual range, it's color. Lots and lots of it. Preferably patterned and combined with a unique tailoring or materials which can range from distressed linen to fine cotton. Details include everything from hand embroidery to funky buttons and graffiti print - one of the brand's signature looks. Of course colorful clothing is nothing new, especially in a season when Liberty prints, animal prints and tie-dye are making a huge comeback. What I quickly realized though, was that Desigual was very different and bold in the sense that you will find all kinds of vivid shapes and patterns... in one outfit. While most clothing brands will settle for a floral design on one dress and block colors on another, those who can't decide what they want should just get something from Desigual. The majority of their jackets featured a patchwork of different prints in various materials and colors. It was definitely a bit too much for someone like myself, who still favors black and grey when she can't decide what to wear, but for those who embrace patterns and color, it's probably a dream-come-true.
Of course not all clothing was that over the top. Once I started browsing, I did see the potential in a lot of the outfits... mainly those in more subdued shades. A black top (yes, they do stock the occasional black) with an asymmetrical hemline and interesting ruching on the side was something I almost walked out with. It did have some embroidery, but it would have been really easy to give it a rock-chick vibe. In fact, most of the dresses in muted greys or olive green were quite versatile and could have easily been mistaken for something from an avant-garde label.
Those who want something more 'Barcelona', i.e. fun and cheerful will not be disappointed either. I'm guessing this is the reason most tourists end up purchasing the colorful dresses and bags. The menswear range is worth looking at as well - like most menswear, the collection was slightly less trend-driven and more timeless casual, so if you like the style but prefer something less bold, I'd give this section a try.
The store design itself is unique as well. Unlike the bare and simple interiors you tend to find in most high street stores, this one was kept darker with ceiling spotlights that gave the impression of stars in a black sky. The idea of the Desigual stores was to resemble a traditional Spanish marketplace filled with contemporary goods, which explains why many of the items are laid out and very visible. For some reason the changing room area seemed to be illuminated by UV light, but I later found out that this building actually used to house a legendary concert hall called Sala Zeleste - the blue background with its glass bricks was a characteristic feature of the venue and has now been conceived as a 'backstage area' of the store. Graffiti adorned some of the walls and pillars throughout the shop area, but what I liked most was that you didn't have to fight your way through people or racks of clothing to look at the different pieces. The staff made a great effort to keep everything neat as well, so it was really easy to get an overview of where certain items were.
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Address: Carrer de l'Argenteria 65, 08003 Barcelona
Opening Hrs: Mon-Sat: 10:00-22:00
Desigual Homepage & Online Shop