Monday, September 19, 2011

Under the Argentine Sky

While the rest of the fashion-world is recuperating from the rambunctiousness of New York Fashion Week, possibly en route to London for the city's shows, allow me to direct your attention southward, to South America---Argentina, in particular, from where my dear friend Sofia Sanchez Barrenechea hails, and from which she sources the most exceptional artisanal pieces for her new e-boutique Under Our Sky. Let me share with you the little chat I had with Sofia about style, and love, an obsession with a certain accessory and designer crushes, and the allure of her home country, Argentina.

Sofia at the salt lakes in Argentina

Tell me about your store, Under Our Sky.

Under Our Sky is the place where my sisters and I share what we like the most from Argentina. Here, we carefully select and commission different products and make them available to the rest of the world.

These sterling silver cufflinks by Marcelo Toledo, my favorites out of everything in the boutique, were inspired by the Argentine national flower, the Ceibo. They will definitely add that dark-sexy-earthy touch to this suit that Mr. Margiela is sure to send to me after reading this little blurb!

What made you start an e-boutique?

This project started when I was dazzled by my friend Celina Saubidet's jewelry (Cabinet Oseo). Her unique and stunning designs made me crazy and right away I started wearing them every single day.

This Cabinet Oseo gold-plated bones bracelet would look stunning worn over a black cashmere sweater with fitted sleeves.

Her pieces were so strong, that people all over New York would stop me to ask where they could get the pieces, but the answer was "A friend makes them in Argentina, sorry, but you can't get them here". This had been happening to me forever, always with Argentinian pieces, I would always get compliments about them!

Cabinet Oseo phalanx rings look particularly exceptional worn on each segment of the finger.

Even though I have a creative background, I've always felt a big interest in business and marketing so soon after I decided to start my own store where I would proudly promote and sell Argentinian Design (officially, as I had always naturally done it).

I've always found you to be charmingly offbeat, yet still very chic. Tell me about your aesthetic. What inspires you? Who are your favorite designers, fashion and non-fashion?

Sofia Sanchez Barrenechea by Cameron Krone for The New York Times

My aesthetic is a mix of classic and rock, always with a personal touch, either it's a vintage piece from my grandmother or flea market, or a one-of-a-kind necklace made by an unknown designer. I normally fall for a designer and wear it non-stop for a certain period and then mutate into something else but always keeping something from my last crush. For example, when I was in high school I was obsessed with scarves, even for insanely warm days, I wouldn't take them off. My teachers would threaten to not let me sit for an exam if I didn't take my scarf off (they thought I would faint otherwise), but I always managed to keep my scarf on, even to go to the beach. I'm not that crazy about them nowadays, but I can't help but spending hours going through the vintage collection of scarves from the lovely Chinese lady in the Chelsea Garage's Flea Market. Every time I come by she says, "Sofia! Look what I have for you today!"

I get inspired by people, I always feel attracted to talented and creative minds, so I try to surround myself with very smart and interesting people so that I always challenge myself to know more, explore different worlds, and try harder.

My favorite designers are mostly graphic designers and typography designers: Peter Saville, Milton Glaser, Alejandro Ros, Paula Scher, Juan Gatti, Stephan Sagmeister.
Fashion-wise, I like everything from Elio Fiorucci to Carolina Herrera, it all depends on the day. Rodarte, Nicholas Kirkwood, Jason Wu, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Alaïa...

Tell me about Argentina, I've never been. What are your favorite things to see, do, eat?

Well, it's amazing!!! It has the perfect mix of nature and culture, which I love. The Theater scene is evolving into very interesting scenarios. Every time I go I ask my genius friend Agustin Pruzzo (writer/actor/director) what's new and he always surprises me with the most unexpected plays.

When it comes to eating I have my all time favorites: Dulce de Leche La Salamandra (milk caramel) and Asados (Argentinian barbecues).

Argentinian asado (via The Daily Omnivore)

If I had to carry a knife around with me, this would be it. sterling silver asado knife with black leather sleeve by Marcelo Toledo

Meat there is delicious, it's taste is pure and naturally flavored, we never add any spices, as just a tiny bit of salt is all you need. A typical Bodegón is my favorite destination to enjoy a good piece of meat with friends, 'Los Amigos' or 'El Obrero' are among my top choices.

the menu at El Obrero Buenos Aires (via All Points Buenos Aires)

What are stylish people like in Argentina? What influences them? How do people dress on the street? To go out?

There's a funny saying about Porteños (people from Buenos Aires -people of the port) which I think portrays us quite accurately:
"A porteño is an Italian that speaks Spanish, dresses like a French and thinks is an English Lord."
With this I mean, Argentinians are very Classic in their style, and even though they might be up to date with international fashion trends, they don't really follow them. I also see Buenos Aires's fashion very much influenced by Rock and Roll, there's a big devotion for bands from the 70's to 90's which shows in many aspects of society.

When I think of Argentina, I think cow. These weekend bags by Catalina MZ make use of the hide in a way that is both chic and sophisticated, yet raw and rugged at the same time.

What is the fashion industry like in Argentina? Who are your favorite Argentinian designers?

I see in Argentina a vibrating design world growing bigger and stronger every day. There's a lot of talent and some designers really stand out and make honor to the word "Design" (which are the ones I select and sell on my site). Handmade products are my favorites, which makes it all much more interesting. Nowadays, I feel like people are not just seeking for safe and standardized products, but for stronger one of a kind extraordinary ones. My favorite designers/brands are Cabinet Oseo, Tramando, Federico de Alzaga for Aracano, Pablo Ramirez, Lucia Sanchez, Perez Sanz, Trosman.

This tribal chisel cuff by Marcelo Toledo combines forging, embossing and chiseling techniques.

What do you see in the future for Argentinian fashion, and for Latin American fashion in general?
I feel globalization will eventually guide us back to our roots and origins (hopefully!), and just like we will seek refuge in nature, we will want to dress with unique and special pieces, not something mass-produced of which there's ten million pieces of. I think Argentina might benefit from this.

sterling silver marine cufflinks by my favorite Under Our Sky designer, Marcelo Toledo

I know there's lots to look forward to in terms of the future of your very recently launched e-boutique, but what are the new things coming up that you're particularly excited about?

We are adding designers every day, mixing all sorts of products! What really excites me is when I have the chance of collaborating with designers and combine our ideas.

There's also another side to this project which really inspires me and fulfills me. We are soon going to start with our workshops season, where our designers will be teaching underprivileged young people in Argentina, design techniques and how to conceive design projects. A few months later they will develop their own project and present it to us. The best ones will be sponsored by us and their designs will be sold at

Also, Opening Ceremony is launching the year of Argentinian Designers this month and a lot of very talented designers will be having the opportunity to get worldwide recognition for it. I've contributed with this project in a few different ways for which I'm very excited to see the results!

Sofia, in jewelry by Aracano

photographs (unless stated otherwise) courtesy of Under Our Sky

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