On the bustling Calle de Cervantes in Madrid, there is a shop that is special within its own city. When you walk by Lola Fonseca, its clean and simple exterior becomes an invitation. It is the type of shop someone could only be happy to come across due to its Spanish authenticity. Once you enter, there are silken treasures to behold.
You will see well-placed racks of silk scarves, shawls, and coverings that are plentiful in colors. The designs are smart and remarkable, and each has been created to satisfy the designer and, of course, the future customer.
“Come here, I want you to see why these scarves are special,” says Joanna, an employee at Lola Fonseca. She walked to a centered table that was an area for display. “Our craftsman, Claudio, paints onto the scarf and then to add extra effect, he burns into it as well. This makes it so that there is a design that is able to be placed onto the scarf. This takes special skill and time.”
Claudio Mendez, the son of Lola Fonseca, is the head of the shop today. With him lie the originality and impressive craftsmanship that come from the roots of this shop. This shop is named after his mother, Lola Fonseca, the original creator of the business that she has been operating for the past 28 years.
He explains that his mother was always interested in creating via different outlets. Lola delved into ceramics, painting, and various other crafts. That was until she came across silk. “Ever since she discovered painting on silk, she never stopped,” says Claudio. “She paints solely on silk scarves to this day.”
“My mother still paints for the store. The things that she paints for the store become much more special than other items,” he adds. The items that Lola creates are the specific ones that become featured at the entrance of the store.
“I used to have another business in Barcelona. That was until my father became sick, had to spend time in the hospital, and needed help running his store of 26 employees,” says Claudio, “I left my business to help my father, and that’s how I made it back to Madrid.”
All new ideas and great waves of creativity come from the type of person that discovers their light and purpose. For creators and designers, the satisfaction of creation not only comes from internal desire but also from the personal requests of their appreciators. “I had a man show me a video of his wife swimming with sharks. So, what I did was paint these beautiful sharks onto the scarf as if they were swimming in the ocean.”
There was also a scarf design that was based upon constellations. Every constellation was painted onto the scarf with fine detail. After browsing more with the shop owner, there were also scarves that were cheeky. Out of playfulness, printed onto the scarf were instructions on how to put on the scarf and even ones that simply had the dimensions printed boldly onto them.
“How horrible the world would look without women,” Claudio says while explaining his designs and points of inspiration. His ideas are based on Spanish books from his childhood, whales, the artist Gustav Klimt, dreams, women, and the history of art. He’s even inspired by the enigma of space from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: Space Odyssey” film.
“Here is a design that was a request from a customer for his wife,” Claudio explains, displaying a scarf covered in autumn leaves. “He has been my customer for the past 20 years and his wife receives one of these scarves as a gift every year, and now she has a collection.”
The scarves are not only for women. Claudio states that “The scarves are also for men. There is a scarf that I wear during the fall and there are other men who do as well.”
The more that was displayed, the deeper the points of inspirations came. There were many layers to his artistry. He also utilizes ceramics to add to his creations on the silk scarves. The shop window serves as an art installation for him. In the window, will be a scarf that he created along with pieces that he ties in together to fully exhibit the entirety of the silk scarf.
“I had an instructor for three years that taught me how to paint,” says Claudio. “I always have a long list of things that I want to create, but I simply don’t have the time to do them all. I have many ideas that I end up forgetting about, because I don’t write them down, and I don’t get the chance to paint them.”
One can only imagine how difficult this process actually is. It doesn’t seem as if everyone could simply jump into this sort of method. It takes time and skill to engineer a product as sensitive as this and not waste any of the materials that are being used. This is truly the individual magic that make Lola Fonseca noteworthy and unique.
“I make many mistakes! What happens with silk is very hard to correct,” says Claudio. “So because of that, it’s not like a painting that you can just paint over with another color and nothing happened. With silk, you have to move very slow and with patience.”
“Silk is made from protein of an animal, and it burns differently than other fabrics. I have discovered how to burn each fabric specifically so that it does not get destroyed and I am able to paint on top of it.”
The future of Lola Fonseca lies in the desires of the head of the shop. Claudio says, “I love the way that this shop is right now. I wasn’t happy before, because I had too many people working for me, and I wasn’t painting as much as I wanted to. I didn’t want to spend my time fixing other paintings, I wanted to do my own. I want to have time to think about what it is I want to create without pressure.”
“There is a part of me that I recognize is an artist,” says Claudio, “I like to make beautiful things, but here I also like to make things that are representative of me as well.”
Being able to express himself artistically has been Claudio’s daily joy. For tourists that come to his shop, he wants them to know that this is a business but also an establishment of beauty and ideas.
“We make every scarf by hand, one by one,” he says, “There are scarves that customers have requested that I have made before, but I cannot recall them all. There are scarves that only the owners have ever seen. If there are custom designs that a customer is wanting, having a source of inspiration and explaining what it is they desire will help them get close to what it is they are looking for.”
During your travels in Madrid, you’ll peruse shops. You’ll wander and think of your loved ones at home that aren’t with you. You remember everyone wanted a souvenir. Or maybe there is a special occasion that is approaching. A hand-painted, custom-designed silk scarf is a wonderful alternative to simply purchasing a t-shirt that says “I LOVE MADRID.”
Lola Fonseca reflects the relaxed and natural atmosphere of Spanish culture. In Madrid, you’ll find these types of shops that will remain unforgettable. Stop by, embrace the moment, and enjoy your custom-made silk scarf or shawl that will become timeless in your wardrobe.
Calle de Cervantes, 20, Madrid M 28014
Tel: +34 913 691 543
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m,
Prices range between €30 to €400
Edited by Brianne Recker.