She Had a Knack for Thrifting But Knew Nothing About Madrid Fashion Week

When her best friend backed out, writer Natalya Villa decided to go alone to her first fashion show and talk to some fashionistas. It didn’t work out the way she expected.
The authors view of the catwalk at Madrid Fashion Week in September.
The author’s view of the catwalk at Madrid Fashion Week in September.
Natalya Villa
Outfits on display outside the catwalk at Madrid Fashion Week in September. (Natalya Villa)

As an international student in Madrid, Spain, my love for fashion was always my way of expressing myself. Thrifting and styling outfits were my creative playground, but the intimidating world of high fashion remained an enigma. I had a passion for style, but I knew nothing about the industry. So this fall, I decided to take a leap into the unknown, and that leap landed me right at Mercedes Benz Madrid Fashion Week.

I had planned to go with a friend, hoping her company would ease my nerves as the new kid on the fashion block. My tickets were booked for a 10:30 a.m. show on Saturday, Sept. 16, but at 9 a.m., my bestie dropped the bomb that she couldn’t make it after a long night out. In normal circumstances, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but for a newbie like me, it felt like a big challenge.

Undeterred, I decided to embrace the solo adventure. I wore an outfit I had meticulously prepared the night before: my one and only pair of couture pants from Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada. I took a deep breath and headed to the IFEMA pavilion, not having a clue about what awaited me – and hoping the day didn’t turn out to be “The Devil Wears Prada: Spain Edition.”

I took a deep breath and headed to the IFEMA pavilion, not having a clue about what awaited me – and hoping the day didn’t turn out to be “The Devil Wears Prada: Spain Edition.”

The first sight of the event was nothing like I’d ever imagined. The runway was surrounded by guys in lab coats removing plastic coverings under the pulsating glow of purple strobe lights, all set to the backdrop of classical music. It was a surreal sight.

At one spot, there was a hot air balloon that said, “The Fashion Globe.” I turned to two young Spanish girls next to me and asked, “Perdona,¿ sabéis qué es eso?”  “Excuse me, do you know what that is?”

Their rapid-fire Spanish response left me flustered.

“Corsicana,” they replied.

My confused expression undoubtedly revealed my imposter syndrome.

I let out timidly, “¿Y me puedes explicar qué es eso?” “And, could you please explain what that is?”

They shot me a look and replied in English, “It is a designer…”

I managed a polite “Oh, gracias” and walked away, nursing my slightly bruised ego. But I couldn’t help but laugh: this was not just my first blunder, it was my first blunder at FASHION WEEK. I’d truly made it!

Later on, I found myself in the coffee area of the conference hall, amidst the fashion crowd. My eyes were drawn to a fellow attendee about my age, tan with gold-accented eyes who exuded impeccable style. Her hair was elegantly twisted and cascaded gracefully down her back, complementing her chic denim ensemble. I can’t resist admiring (aka. staring) at a well-put-together outfit, and this was no exception.

In the politest way I could, I turned to the girl and asked in Spanish if she would like to occupy the remaining seat. She responded with a sheepish “sí.” I asked her another question, to which she replied, “No hablo mucho español.” Swiftly, I reassured her, saying, “No worries, I don’t speak much Spanish either!”

I encountered another secret American amidst the fashion cautious at Madrid Fashion Week. I wasn’t as alone in this foreign fashion world as I had initially thought. We delved into our stories, discussing the challenges, experiences, and interactions we had encountered as outsiders among the fashionistas.

My new friend Beayonie attended Madrid Fashion Week with a simple goal: to see her first-ever fashion show.

“I found out about fashion week through a friend who saw a TikTok,” she explained. “A friend shared the link to buy our tickets.”

The language barrier wasn´t a problem for her. “When I was waiting for the show, two girls got excited about someone who had arrived, talking in Spanish,” she told me.  “I gave it a shot with ‘tu hablas inglés?’ and they said yes. I asked what they were excited about, and they said two famous influencers had arrived.”

Beayonie’s story teaches me that in the world of fashion, curiosity knows no borders, and a simple “tu hablas inglés” can open doors to a world of inspiration and connection.

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