Guest Author · Spain

Designer Diaries – Queens Sofia and Letizia and Manuel Pertegaz

Pertegaz was one of the favourite designers of Spanish high society ladies, an innovator throughout his life. For example, he sensed the change in fashion back in the 60s and was the first one designing a pret-a-porter collection in Spain. He brought from America the concept “location, location, location” and opened his stores in Barcelona and Madrid in the best area, the most popular streets possible, while other designers still opened their ateliers in private apartments. He was only 25 years old back then but had studied tailoring for 10 years in Spain and Paris. He went to USA in 1954 and became a star, he’s got awards from Harvard, and also México, Brazil, Japan…and was a candidate to replace Christian Dior when he died from a heart attack suddenly. 

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Pertegaz was a designer Queen Sofia used to wear often in her early years in Spain before she started to trust Margarita Nuez and Valentino. Apparently, she was trying a dress in his atelier and one of her diamond earrings got lost. It vanished and she was unable to find it, since that day she stopped wearing his designs. Rumour has it that one of the Pertegaz’s assistants was responsible for it. Twenty years later, a journalist asked the designer about the earring incident and he answered “That problem is already fixed.” Letizia chose Pertegaz for her wedding dress because Queen Sofia recommended him, so I guess it’s true that they patched things. 

The pink dress with the flower on her neck is from 1975 and the one with the feathers on her sleeves is famous because it’s one of their first official portraits as king and queen of Spain. The white one in the car picture is one of my favourites and the pink with the neckline detail was worn for their 10th wedding anniversary photoshoot. 

This white skirt with two different tops is a Pertegaz worn by Queen Sofia around 1978. We even have a video of the second one when the President of France visited us. You can see it on minute 1. She changed the belt for a bow. 

I think in Spain we aren’t aware of how big and famous he was, mostly because after travelling around the world during the 50-60-70s, he became some kind of recluse He kept working till the end of his life but, when we learnt that he was designing Letizia’s wedding dress, Pertegaz sounded like an old designer. His name rang a bell but was linked to our grandmothers in our mind. He had dressed Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy or Ava Gardner, but never had a defined style. He preferred slender silhouettes and said his main goal was “make women look impeccable and pretty”. He could design a smart, classic dress or an avant-garde one, because he was a master in cutting and sewing.

Below is the beautiful champagne gown designed for Sofia by Pertegaz for the pre-wedding gala of Felipe and Letizia.

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Pertagez was a master of cutting. He cut the back of Letizia’s wedding dress from one big and unique piece of silk in one go, there were no second chances or a spare piece of fabric in case he messed things up. He took the scissors while his assistants held their breaths and, less than 5 minutes later, the back and the long train were ready to sew. Later, other Spanish designers had said that Pertegaz was the only designer who could’ve done something like that without even sweating. 

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Pertegaz died in Barcelona on 30 August 2014, leaving behind a legacy of couture excellence and elegance.

Next week we are back with a look at Queen Sofia’s most trusted current designer. Please tune in!