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Tuesday, July 2, 2024

The Story of the Seseña Cape – Everlasting Type


By Manish Puri

In 1957, Irving Penn arrived at Villa La Californie, the Cannes residence of Pablo Picasso, for an appointment to shoot portraiture – solely to be informed that the person of the home wasn’t in.

Undeterred, Penn instructed his assistant, Robert Freson, to scale the villa’s gate, the place they discovered the painter lounging in a gray sweatshirt. After some persuasion, Picasso granted Penn 10 minutes to take photographs, donning a felt sombrero and a darkish embroidered capa given to him in 1955 by the well-known bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín (under with Picasso).

Penn’s photos of Picasso (prime) have change into iconic, and regardless of being so tightly cropped they handle to encapsulate lots of the qualities of the cape: highly effective, enigmatic, dramatic but in some way coy.

The garment in query was made by Casa Seseña in Madrid, whose capes, alongside the aforementioned Picasso (who was buried sporting one other Seseña cape given to him by his spouse, Jacqueline Roque), have adorned the shoulders of people reminiscent of King Alfonoso XIII, Federico Fellini, Luis Buñuel, Marcello Mastroiani, Placido Domingo and Catherine Deneuve.

Throughout a latest journey to the Spanish capital I paid a go to to Casa Seseña, the one store on the earth nonetheless devoted to creating capa española.

I met with Marcos Seseña (under proper) – the great-grandson of the store’s founder Santos Seseña (under left), and the fourth era of the household to run the enterprise. We spoke about how capes are made and who the hell is shopping for them as we speak (which I’ll cowl in a separate article subsequent week), in addition to Seseña’s frankly fascinating historical past.

Based in 1901, Casa Seseña was considered one of dozens of tailors within the Sol barrio. However while the opposite shops had been starting to desert the cape for extra fashionable clothes, Santos persevered with providing capes alongside fits and overcoats, and even marketed the enterprise as specialists on this space (see advert above from the early 1900s).

The Seseña cape gained recognition among the many intellectuals that gathered within the cafes lining the close by sq., Puerta del Sol. Chief amongst them was the novel dramatist and novelist Ramón María del Valle-Inclán, who was fairly the sight in Belle Époque Madrid: his lengthy, greying beard sat proudly atop a black cape (as seen on the quilt of his biography, under).

And by the way in which, isn’t it fascinating how usually radicals and the avant garde venerate conventional clothes and craft? Though in Valle-Inclán’s case, having misplaced his left arm following a brawl at Café de la Montaña, the arm-less silhouette of a conventional cape might have pushed his sartorial choice: an illustration of the cape’s capability to hide a perceived weak point whereas nonetheless projecting power.

By the late Twenties, stewardship had handed to the second era of Seseñas, Marcos’ grandfather Tomás.

Tomás (under centre) was buddies with a person named Pedro Chicote (within the pinstripe double-breasted go well with), a bartender on the Lodge Ritz who opened Spain’s first American cocktail bar in 1931: the eponymous Chicote on the Gran Vía (the setting for the photograph).

It was at Chicote’s that Ernest Hemingway (above with Pedro) drank Papa Dobles in between penning dispatches from the Spanish Civil Struggle for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Such was Hemingway’s fondness for the bar that it was immortalised in his quick story, The Denunciation, referring to it as “the most effective bars on the earth” – fairly the tribute from a person who had seemingly been to most of them.

As soon as the struggle had ended, in a bid to enhance Spain’s broken worldwide repute and to entry US {dollars}, Franco grew to become one thing of an “unlikely patron” of Hollywood, and his regime labored with American studios (who themselves had been beset by rising prices, antitrust rulings and a growth in tv) to relocate productions to Spain.

Lawrence of Arabia, Physician Zhivago and El Cid had been simply three of the numerous movies shot throughout the nation, and with it got here a constellation of stars reminiscent of Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Tony Curtis and Orson Welles (under in his signature cape) – all of whom frequented Chicote’s.

Ava Gardner was so enamoured with Spanish tradition (and the matadors that bestrode it) that she spent a number of years residing in Madrid. 

Whereas being haplessly pursued throughout the nation by then husband Frank Sinatra, she engaged in romances with Mario Cabré (above left) and Luis Miguel Dominguín (who gave Picasso his cape, above proper) – each bullfighters, each fantastic dressers, and each, after all, prospects of Seseña.

A perplexed Humphrey Bogart remarked to Gardner that “most girls can be prepared to pull themselves at [Sinatra’s] ft, but you go round with a man who attire up in a cape and ballet footwear”.

As Chicote’s events raged into the small hours and the torrid affairs scorched mattress sheets throughout the capital, Tomás was there promoting Seseña capes to every person from his store on Calle de Espoz y Mina (captured above by Brassaï in 1950). 

Gardner, Grant, Cooper, Curtis, Hemingway – all grew to become prospects. A modest garment for conceited occasions.

The starry clientele helped convey Seseña capes to prominence with a world viewers. A place which was consolidated within the Nineteen Sixties, when the reins had been taken up by Tomás’ widow Conchita Díez and her son Enrique (under), by focusing manufacturing solely on capes, and growing (for the primary time) a ladies’s line.

In 2009, Marcos (above) grew to become the fourth era of the Seseña household to run the enterprise, although not earlier than Enrique had opened considered one of Spain’s very first on-line outlets in 1998 – the primary order positioned by a person in Springfield, USA (no, I do not assume it was Evil Homer).

Underneath Marcos’s route, the vary of capes has grown, with extra kinds, colors and materials. Nevertheless, the traditional capes endure – Marcos informed me that whereas many new prospects are available for the fashionable kinds, they keep for the standard ones – and the tactic of manufacturing stays unchanged from when Santos opened the doorways over 120 years in the past.

Who’re these prospects and the way are the capes made? All might be revealed in subsequent week’s follow-up article.

Manish is @the_daily_mirror on Instagram



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