Sastrería 91 in Madrid



An excerpt from MITT Magazine Issue Nº2

Intro by Natalie Shukur
Interview and Photography by Giuseppe Santamaria

In an unassuming neighbourhood in central Madrid, between hip Malasaña and affluent Salamanca, Paul García de Oteyza, 37, and Caterina Pañeda, 35, are making some of the most exciting men’s tailoring on the market at their shop, Sastrería 91. The couple, in life and in business, met through a friend and, on their first date, Paul took Caterina to Chicote—Madrid’s iconic cocktail bar on the Gran Vía, once frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. By coincidence, Cat’s grandfather used to own the tailor shop above the bar (her father was a tailor, too) and so, the pair’s course was set from the very beginning. 

Seeing the duo in action is like watching a very well-dressed tennis match, with energy and ideas zinging past each other at high speed—they challenge each other often, even finishing each other’s sentences. With no formal fashion education bar a tailoring course, they relish the research process that brings a deep historical context to their work. Often dressed in full suiting (and always catching the eye of street-style photographers), the couple’s style is eclectic and elegant, embracing antiquity with a flourish of modernity. Indeed, even when clad in a full three-piece with a cravat, perhaps, or a striking hat, their tailoring retains a lightness and movement that stops it from ever being stuffy or restrictive. 

Bespoke traditions are the crux of their business, and Oteyza and Pañeda have a uniquely creative side too, best demonstrated by their intricately made feather lapels, cuffs and bowties (available to purchase online), which won them a spot in the centre pavilion at the most recent Pitti Uomo tradeshow in Florence. And while an international audience is opening up to Sastrería 91, the new parents see themselves as underdogs, enjoying the busy pace of their small family business in pursuit of the perfect suit. 

MITT met Oteyza and Pañeda at their studio on Calle de Rodriguez San Pedro, where we chatted about everything from the history of men’s dress, finding the perfect feathers, their take on tailoring and fashion’s unisex future.

MITT: Tailoring is in your blood, but you have only worked in it in the past few years. How did Sastrería 91 come to life? 
Pañeda: Yes, we used to do other things … Paul was an economist and I used to be a translator. One day, he came home and said, “Why don’t we open a tailor shop?” And I said, “Are you crazy?! … Okay, let’s do it!” We didn’t get to know my grandfather’s tailor shop because it closed in the ’70s. 
Oteyza: We have relationships with tailors and costumiers in our families—Caterina’s grandmother was a couturier. In my family, my father worked on a project exporting merino sheep to Australia to make wool, and now Australia is the biggest exporter of wool in the world. So he taught me a lot of things about wool. I would always go to the tailor shop with him and my grandfather. He was an agricultural engineer and I studied with him, so I was indirectly related to these things. 
P: [When we opened the shop] my parents were like, “Are you crazy?!” [laughs]. They had good jobs—my father was a marketing director for a big pharmacy company. 
O: It was impossible to start a business three years ago with the crisis in Spain; all the businesses closed. 
P: We didn’t have a lot of money—we were having a baby and we had just bought a house. We did everything at the same time. Now we’re having our second baby!

What were some of your early experiences at the tailors, Paul?
O: My first baseball jacket, for example— I had it made at eighteen years old, when all the other guys would never think to do a baseball jacket. I always had this interest in … not fashion, but making clothes. I don’t follow fashion, really. If you see our shop, there are a lot of things that are not related to fashion.

So if not fashion, what influences your work?
O: We are always inspired by music: blues, jazz … We study in the museum of dress in Spain one or two days per week, looking at the evolution of the dress from the 16th century to now. We try to do our work in the sense of a laboratory of experiments. It’s not about production of garments—everything we do is one-off. We work with the imagination of the client and our experience and we try to create this kind of universe, you know?

It’s a lifestyle …
P: Yes, it’s a deep thing. What we want for our brand is to translate fashion to a lifestyle, and that’s why we research a lot. [We’re] not only looking at what others do. When we see some colleagues in tailor shops they say, “I look at what the Italians do, I look at what the English do, I look at what people are wearing …” And obviously we do, because we walk around the streets and we’re not blind! But we like gathering art, music, history, nature—our colours are very inspired by nature. 

So you’re going a little bit deeper and you guys are actually teaching yourselves now …
P: Yes! That’s the point.
O: Our pillars are geometry, because it’s necessary to see the balance between everything; it’s like the architecture. Simplicity, always in life—simplify the lines, simplify the cuts. And movement. You can’t understand the dress without the movement of the person—how he expresses himself, how he walks … This is very important for us. With these three pillars we construct and then we add colours and textures…

Continued in MITT magazine issue Nº2...