Bond Street: The Cradle of Baires Subculture
Bond Street: The Cradle of Baires Subculture
Walking down Calle Santa Fe through the posh Recoleta district of Buenos Aires, one can spend hours window shopping the best of Argentine and international style. Continue past Calle Peña and the smell of tobacco (among other things) emanating from a cavern gallery hints at the alternative world that exists past the portico. Entering a labyrinthine three-floor gallery, the artistic graffiti splashed on the walls and neon signs advertising the talents of its resident tattoo artists signals you have crossed into the Argentine subculture of Bond Street.
Bond Street may be in the center of the traditional bourgeois of Buenos Aires but its style is a different cut from the tight European styles and elitist monogrammed polos of the stores that surround it. Here is where the black eyeshadowed-lip-pierced goths and the tight mocking hipster t-shirt mingle peacefully next to the shaved punks spilling out of tattoo parlors. Renown by local Porteños (natives of Buenos Aires) and by connected internationals as a place of alternative fashion, few recognize its historical importance.
In the 50’s Bond Street began as one of the most exclusive galleries in Buenos Aires, it claimed the most fashionable European designers of the time such as Pierre Cardin. As the dictatorship dragged on the gallery lost its prestige and many of its upscale boutiques left. During the transition to democracy a businessman by the name of Salomon Cohen bought much of the real estate in the gallery and allowed alternative music stores to take advantage of economical rents on the first floor. Young Porteños, hungry for international culture that had been restricted during the dictatorship, flocked to its stores. Its reputation for counter culture was born.
Eduardo Bengoa is an independent designer who has sold his own label Avengers in Bond Street for over ten years. He explains how Bond Street changed over time, “ After the first alternative stores entered, the gallery followed the international fads, in the 80’s the punk scene was big…a punk bar opened, attracted the punks to the scene and gallery transformed itself. In the 90’s the American grunge and skate scene took over, tattoo parlors and skate shops opened and Bond Street continued to evolutionize with the times.”
The most innovative period happened in the second half of the 90’s when Bond Street grew from following foreign trends to developing its own distinct style. The graduates of the first fashion degree program in Argentina at the prestigious University of Buenos Aires launched their labels in Bond Street. They opened stores and marketed their labels where they had shopped as youngsters. Several survived and a few notable Argentine designers such as Miuki Madeliere, Marcelo Ortega and the Hermanos Estevez reached international acclaim.
Despites its deficiencies the Argentine government was effective in developing the domestic fashion industry. Many shopping districts like Soho Palermo and San Telmo have been recently renovated attracting high-end stores and fashion conscious tourists to its cobblestone streets. Also, the government supports many international fashion and design competitions like Fashion Week Buenos Aires to raise the profile of Argentine designers in the eyes of the prestigious international firms. These efforts have raised the profile of Argentine style and crowned Buenos Aires as the current fashion capital of Latin America.
The current proprietor of Bond Street, Fredrico Cohen, is the son of the original investor who oversaw its transformation. He plans to take Bond Street into the digital age through a website dedicated to Bond Street with links to the blogs of the individual stores. Fredrico explains his aim, “to give an idea of what it is like to be an independent designer in one of the most competitive environments in the world”.
Today, Bond Street represents its history well with skate shops, tattoo parlors and punk fashion, but remains loyal to its reputation for debuting the newest trends due to courageous, independent designers. Eduardo summarizes, “Argentine fashion owes much to Bond Street, it was the inspiration for many of the current designers and the nursery where it bloomed”.
Hunting through the innovative and stylish clothes of Bond Street, it is thrilling to discover the most unique pieces hidden between the hangers. The stores along Bond Street are refreshingly personal and independent. The clerks that sell the clothing are often the designers themselves. Weaving through groups of eclectic fashionistas decked out in grunge, punk or hipster-like clothing, one stumbles upon a store blasting Argentine reggae over a recording of Mumia Abu Jamal preaching solidarity. Bond Street is another dimension.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.