Scenes from Jerez #5: La Pasarela Flamenca 2016

The aroma of Jerez’s famous flor wines that lingers through the Gonzalez Byass bodega mixes with the floral perfumes and colognes of the crowd of people congregating in an old wine cellar to watch some of the most beautiful Andaluzas model the latest in flamenco fashion. A slow strum of a guitar starts as the first model of the Inma de Benicio label saunters out onto the cat-walk: the silent crowd’s eyebrows raise all at once, dazzled at the flowers in her hair, the waving tassels, the big round earrings. “There is beauty in a running horse, and there is beauty in running stream” old Li Po once said, “but there no beauty like the beauty of a young woman, and she letting down her hair”. The second group enters, the patterns are wilder, the colours brighter, the flares wider, the dresses tighter: this is the sixties meets flamenco, and its all over with the upward nod of a head and a slink of the shoulders. Polka-dots explode, then a rose bush burns on the next dress and not even the collective exhale of the crowd blows it out. Estrella Morante’s racing En lo Alto del Cerro de Palomares eggs the next line onto the stage; more modern now, even pants make a show, and what a show. “Ay, in the mirror of the water I see myself and I brush my hair / Ay, en el espejo del agua me miro y me peino el pelo”, Estrella sings. There are no straight faces here, none of the half-open mouths and blank stares of other fashion shows, only sultry stares and sly smiles. No skinny stick figures, these clothes aren’t made for display on the pages of glossy magazines but for dance of flamenca women with curves and cuerpo.  I never really knew what fashion was all about, and maybe I still don’t, but this is art, and once again I’m blown away by the breadth of human creativity and the depth of cultural and physical beauty. Ay…

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