Back in 2008, 24-year-old Fernando had turned his back on anything design-related.
A young entrepreneur he had used his skills as an illustrator to design and sell skate wear throughout Spain, but it was not the success he had hoped for.
With €20-30k of debt and feeling ‘psychologically like a wreck’ he found a job as a waiter in a restaurant where, for a time, it seemed that his creative dreams were out of reach.
While working in the restaurant a fortuitous meeting with a costume designer helped Fernando to refocus his energies, and he began sewing. ‘I learned with this man’, he says, ‘and with the money I earned as a waiter I bought my first machines and invested a bit of money in textiles, in good quality Japanese fabric’. He created samples and received orders, before opening a small store to sell customised / tailored clothing with emphasis on denim. ‘This was a big change for me’, he says, ‘I saw it as personal development, my style evolved from elastic pants and skate wear to more formal menswear’. This isn’t your average formal menswear, however, The Concrete Co uses denim to turn menswear on its head. Denim has long been a symbol of relaxation, of a laidback and individual approach to life – we rip it, dye it, and wear it in until it’s completely comfortable. Fernando has approached his work with this attitude; he’s taken something conventionally formal and liberated it.
It was a chance meeting with an Englishman who happened to pass by the store that gave the brand the initial push it needed (the shop is fitted to Fernando’s style using plenty of recycled materials, and this alone attracts many people in from the street). The man was impressed by Fernando and his work, and by the fact that the store was independent, and he just so happened to write for Monocle magazine. The Concrete Co was later featured and this created a snowball effect leading to more publications, to blog pieces and to coverage in local newspapers such as El Pais and ABC. ‘This gave a big boost to my brand, I think it is the main reason people know me and the business has lasted and become what it is today’, Fernando says.
Tailoring is no longer a thing of the past. It’s Fernando’s belief that every neighbourhood should have a tailor, that ‘everyone should have the option to purchase tailor-made, high quality clothing that will last for years’. While creating and growing The Concrete Co Fernando says he was not really aware of the resurgence of craftsmanship elsewhere in the world, until he ‘found out about the tendency in places such as the US and the Netherlands to recover traditional crafts and encourage a return to craftsmanship’. His designs were honed almost in isolation, protected from trends that might affect and influence his vision; the brand is more an extension of his personality than a reaction to external influences. ‘I was clueless about what was happening around the world, concepts such as tailoring, shoemaking or barbershops were now a hit. These crafts had died, but now they’ve been brought back to the market’.
Fernando does not see himself as a ‘businessman’, rather someone ‘learning on my own how to develop this business’. Reflective of the earlier attitude that enabled him to harvest creativity from crisis, he says ‘I have fallen down many times and learned the hard way. After all, I think life is about solving the problems you find on your way, and your attitude towards them. I now see myself as more open, I know how to educate people and make them understand the importance of tailoring.’ He seems unfazed by the daily trials of running a business, ‘I consider this a lifestyle and feel deeply rewarded; it is a process where I do not get stuck at all. I love what I do. Of course, the pressure of the monthly income and the timings are always there, but I guess this is a way of being challenged’.
Fernando puts a lot of himself into his products. Every piece receives equal care and attention and he works with each customer to develop the design best suited to them, giving consideration to taste, comfort and happiness. He is a genuine artisan, focused on quality and originality, durability and personality. The Concrete Co is faithful to Fernando, a representation of his style, his personality, his dreams, his failures and his successes. ‘I’ve always been a pretty hyperactive and restless lad’, he says, ‘I always feel the need to do something, with my hands, with my body, with my inner energy’. He has channelled this into his work and says, ‘whatever I think or want to wear in the future, I want my brand to be a reflection of it. My brand style is a reflection of my personality, my concerns, I do not want to be perverted by a specific trend or influenced by money’. He satisfies his curiosity and restlessness by constantly creating; using unusual ways of treating his fabrics, curry and coffee to name just two, and he has branched into more unisex styles suitable for women. As Fernando grows and changes so too will The Concrete Co – they are inextricably entwined – this makes it unpredictable, organic, and all the more appealing.