Before becoming a designer, I wanted to be a painter.
My father used to be a contemporary art collector in Spain, so I think that contemporary art has influenced me a lot. One day, I decided to become a designer, and when I began to work in Spain it was the period of La Movida. It was a very, very fun time to work in Madrid. I began doing a women's collection. La Movida was a movement in Madrid which was after the death of General Franco. It was the coming of democracy, and a moment of a lot of freedom. And so there were some people like Almodovar, and others were involved. La Movida was a very active, and very free movement. We had, at that time in Madrid, a wonderful mayor of the city--people called him, “the old professor,” and he was for liberty. There was a lot of artistic movement, a lot of nightlife. Bueno, it was a very funny period of Madrid history, no? So I decided to become a designer. I began with a women’s collection. I was known from the very beginning of my career, I was known in Spain.
In the beginning of the ‘80s, people thought I was a little bit--no--a lot crazy, because I was doing dresses with wings and strange forms, like with hula hoops. Everybody knew my things and they thought it was crazy. But little by little, they recognized and got used to my style. I was very known in Spain but I used to sell very little. El Corte Ingles, which is a very big department store, decided to make a contract with me. I began to work for El Corte Ingles, and very quickly they said to me, “You have to do a children’s collection.” So I told them that I was not happy at all. I was thinking that they asked me to do that because they did not believe in my women’s collection.
Bueno, in the beginning, I had very little money. But I had no need for money because I was living in the family house--and I could live in the family house for as long as I need to.
So we did a little collection for the children’s department in El Corte Ingles, and it was the most tremendous success I have had in my life. I couldn’t have imagined. The other nice thing at that moment was that I had a daughter who was 3 years old at the time. It was very good for me, because it was much more fun when you have a girl when you are designing things for children. I tried a lot of the dresses I did on my daughter.
My theory was that people in Spain were very afraid of my things. They wanted them, but they were afraid of them—because of the colors and shapes. But they always want the best for their children, so that’s why they bought an extraordinary amount of dresses. We would come in with trucks to El Corte Ingles, and they’d disappear in one week. In the history of El Corte Ingles they never saw a phenomenon like that. We decided to think of exportation, and the first country was Italy. In Spain, even if a woman spends very little on herself, she spends a lot on her children, and the big concurrence of Spain was always Italy. Italy was a very Catholic country with lots of children.
There are always a lot of low points, but the most important thing about my job is the job itself. It’s not about becoming a multimillionaire.
I think I have a very personal style, and you never know how your style is formed. But in one moment, you can become a prisoner of your own style, because the style is more powerful than you. Sometimes when you build a style then you no longer have the power to decide. Everyday at work is absolutely exciting, because I am very enthusiastic about every little detail. Some days they are so magical that they give you an enormous amount of energy.
Bueno, in the beginning, I had very little money. But I had no need for money because I was living in the family house--and I could live in my family house for as long as I need to. I think that when you begin a business, you have to be ready to invest for something like 10 years, without earning a penny. The first 10 years or more are always about building. Sometimes more time than 10 years. And sometimes, a lot of people in business are not so patient. Perhaps they abandon when they are in their 8th or 9th year, and there are only 2 more years left.
...you can become a prisoner of your own style, because the style is more powerful than you. Sometimes when you build a style then you no longer have the power to decide.
There are always a lot of low points, but the most important thing about my job is the job itself. It’s not about becoming a multimillionaire. What I like is everyday, work. Everyday, you have lots of problems, but I think it’s like playing--you have to have some problems because if you don't have any problems in your life you get very bored. The only thing you have to realize is that problems are not the end of the world--and it’s always positive too when you have a problem and you can work overpass or arrange the problem.
Spanish fashion designer, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada (Interview by Kariz Favis )