Until recently, directing films seemed off-limits to women in Spain, but a new generation of filmmakers —Carla Simón, Pilar Palomero, or Paula Ortiz, among others— have broken through that glass ceiling.
Nostalgia and freedom are young designer Aitor Goikoetxea’s two main sources of inspiration. From being grounded in his Basque roots, he shares his unique vision of fashion with the world. At the age of 23, he won the Fashion Talent Award at the 21st edition of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid (MBFWM) and, even though his garments are already winning over the United States and Canada, he admits that he still has a long way to go.
In a world where fashion is woven together with creative freedom, Aitor Goikoetxea (Basauri, 1999) defines himself as a passionate artist who determinedly pursues his vision. Aitor considers himself a “polymath” because he’s not only curious about fashion, but also other disciplines: “I’d love to direct a film and cook professionally,” he confesses. Today, he puts his heart and soul into his designs and his mission is to “make the old new again”, with his unique vision of Basque culture and making fabrics such as knitwear his brand’s hallmark: “What I do is bring new meaning to that fabric, which isn’t usually considered a contribution in fashion.”
Where did your passion for fashion come from?
My entire life, my family, friends and teachers told me I’d become a designer. I’ve always enjoyed dressing up and taking care of my aesthetic. While in high school, I realised that fashion is a discipline I can use to work on the more conceptual side of art that I’m most interested in, and express it physically. Fashion makes sense, is useful, it has a social impact, and it allows you to extrapolate it to many different disciplines: such as music or cinema, etc. It also provides you with artistic licence which, for me, is perfect to experiment and grow.
“Clothing makes sense, is useful, it has a social impact, and allows you to extrapolate it to many different disciplines”
What does a typical day for you look like?
A disaster (laughs). I almost always work better at night because it’s when everyone is asleep and my phone quiets down a bit. It’s when I’m the most focused. I’m unable to unplug from work because I’m always thinking about what I’m not doing and I feel guilty. Right now, I’m my own team, although I’ve recently started working with some factories that are helping me to launch small collections. Even though it can be taxing, I feel like this is how I work best and how I’m most productive. It’s the way I feel fulfilled and I know now is the time to work at this pace.
How do you define your style?
The word I love the most is: nostalgia. Nostalgia is what has helped me and pushed me to find an ethical identity and creativity. At university, I started each project thinking about my roots and my memories. I want to talk about Basque identity in a watered-down way, that people can spot some references; my version of traditional costumes using the concept of skirts and overskirts, for example. I don’t need to put the Basque Country flag on a garment to pay homage to Basque culture, rather it’s present in a subtle way and can be interpreted in thousands of ways depending on the person’s point of view. I also associate my style to craftsmanship because for some pieces I use handmade knit fabrics or embroidery, which take many hours of work, and the way I work means I romanticise these ideas.
Who are your biggest role models?
My greatest role models don’t come directly from the fashion industry, but rather from film. Almodóvar is quite a nostalgic type of director, very emotional and firmly family-oriented, so I think we have a lot in common conceptually.
I don’t need to put the Basque Country flag on a garment to pay homage to Basque culture, rather it’s present in a subtle way”
Who has motivated you to be where you are today?
When my father passed away, I felt like he wasn’t able to make his dream of becoming an architect come true. With hindsight, I think that motivates me to do everything I can to achieve the success he wasn’t able to have. I feel like I grew up in an environment where there were high expectations of me, so I’ve never doubted that I can achieve whatever I set out to do. I’m aware that, even if you put a lot of effort into your work, you also need to be in the right place at the right time, know the right people, etc. I’m an ambitious person, work brings meaning to my life and that motivates me.
Last year you won the Fashion Talent Award, given to the best young designer at Madrid Fashion Week; what did this achievement mean to your career?
I experienced it quite innocently and I was stressed about spinning lots of plates at the same time. I wasn’t aware of the significance of winning, my mind was on zips and necklines. I got emotional afterwards looking at the photographs and interviews. As a brand, it was a boost in terms of image, but personally, however, I don’t think it has changed anything.
“I’m aware that even if you put a lot of effort into your work, you also need to be in the right place at the right time”
Your brand hasn’t only won over Spain, but it’s also emerging in destinations such as the United States and Canada. How do you feel about achieving all of this at the tender age of 23?
A lot of pressure. It’s true that, for my age, I’ve been highly motivated and done lots of things, but I can’t help comparing myself and know that, really, I’ve just started and I still have a long way to go. I’d love to do more fashion shows, take part in some films... I want to reach a wider audience. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel satisfied enough to say: “Great, I’ve made it.”
Currently, what makes you keep your atelier and life in Basauri?
I returned to Basauri from Barcelona because I can focus a lot better here. Objectively, I have less distractions. I like it as a place to cut myself off and focus on my work. I love the quality of life it offers, I have my friends, and I can be closer to everything that my brand is inspired by.
Although one of your dreams is having a studio in Paris...
Right now, it’s in the Basque Country and I feel really comfortable here, but I think I’d like to be in Paris because I’m aware that’s where everything is happening. The entire industry has its sights set on Paris. I’d love to go there with my brand and continue experimenting.
Which connection boosted your talent? How does your environment influence your creative process?
Not long before moving to Barcelona to study, one of my best friends, Olatz, supported me a lot and made me believe in my talent more. During my degree, my partner at the time, who was also at university, encouraged me to enjoy the process. During that time, my passion was magnified. Furthermore, I usually talk to friends who work in the fashion industry, like photographers or designers, and ask for their opinions. Those conversations help me find the essence of the concept I’m looking for.
“Talent is when someone manages to touch your heart while being consistent and true to themselves, providing something personal”
Finally, what is talent to you?
Talent is when someone manages to touch your heart while being consistent and true to themselves, providing something personal. For me that’s the core of being creative. I believe talent consists of emotionally connecting with people, so for me a talented person is someone who moves you and connects with you.