Sybilla’s luxurious fabrics, rich color palette, and distinctive silhouettes have led many to call her Spain’s most important designer after Cristobal Balenciaga.
Sybilla hit the international fashion scene in the 1980s, after making her mark locally as part of la Movida Madrileña, the post-Franco cultural movement of which filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar was also a part. After a decade away from the fashion world, she has returned, hosting pop-up shops around the world and opening an airy, light-filled boutique in Madrid’s Las Salesas neighborhood two years ago.
Her talents and curiosity extend beyond fashion: She has also designed a collection for Spanish rugmaker nanimarquina, and is interested in finding more sustainable ways for Mongolian goatherds to produce cashmere. Born in New York, she was raised largely in Madrid, where she currently lives and works out of a loft space in the industrial neighborhood of Carabanchel. Here, she shares with DEPARTURES her favorite places in the city.
“Life in Madrid is always about the warmth of the people, although now it’s becoming a more serious city. Its informality was part of its charm. The ambiance in Carabanchel is like Madrid used to be, with the popular bars. I’ve moved into a big loft in this area, that’s where I have my workshop and my factory. There’s a movement starting there — they call it ‘the SoHo of Madrid.’ It’s on the other side of the river, it’s industrial lofts.”
“This neighborhood [Las Salesas] is where I’ve always lived; I love this neighborhood. I like the friendliness of this neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood I’ve seen transformed from being a spooky place full of drug addicts in the 80s, and I’ve seen it slowly transforming and growing and now it is starting to really shine. What is nice about this neighborhood now is the energy of young people starting their own creative businesses. Calle Pelayo is one of the examples of how the neighborhood is transforming.”
“Over in Carabanchel, there's now something called Art|Banchel, it’s a presentation by artists of their showrooms and studios. There’s an artist in Carabanchel I like very much, Álvaro Catalán de Ocón, an industrial designer who makes lamps and furniture.”
“Huerto de Lucas is a café, restaurant, and organic grocery store where they’ve put in a lot of effort in choosing the materials and creating the air of the place. It’s an ecospace, it really feels like an oasis in Madrid. It has a special cocoon energy. This is my other place of meetings. Especially when the air in the summer in Madrid is dry and hot, you go there.”
Moncalvillo makes delicious food done with a lot of love and care. It’s simple, fantastic food. It’s very small, very cozy — the woman who runs it, Myrna, is like my mother. She runs it on her own. That’s my luxury. El Cisne Azul, around the corner, this is my favorite. It looks like a noisy, smelly, popular tavern, but the food is exquisite. They do mushrooms from all over the world. Go to the old one on Calle Gravina 19. I always order the mushrooms, or the wild herbs.”
“The Real Jardín Botánico and El Retiro Park are where I hold most of my meetings. When I can, I do them in the Retiro. There are some stairs by the pond where you can watch the sunset; I like to be near the pond. My life in Madrid is between Salesas, Carabanchel, and the Retiro. Well, and the Hotel Urso, where I make my serious meetings. It has a very nice lobby. I’ve always loved hotel lobbies, and this hotel has a good one.”
“The Capilla del Cachito de Cielo is like a temple. It’s a chapel, and you can go any time of the day or the night, and it has such a beautiful, peaceful vibe. It’s a nice oasis — it’s not that I like churches, but it’s incredible you can come at 3 in the morning, or at 7. It’s always open. The nuns that run it are doing a great, great job, so whoever goes there has to leave money for the nuns.”
“This antique store, La Europa, doesn’t specialize in one epoch; it’s a very personal taste of the owner, Eugenia Mateo. If I could, I would buy many, many things from here. She has jewels.”