22 Mar Interview with a Bullfighters Tailor Pedro Algaba, Seville
Pedro Algaba, Bespoke Tailor to Bullfighters
Bullfighting is an emotive subject, but whether you love or loath this Spanish custom there can be no denying that the trajes de luce (suits of light) worn by the toreros are beautiful, intricate outfits that dazzle in the plaza de toros. They are not particularly comfortable to wear but as with all things related to this world, the suits are steeped in tradition and add a certain elegance and beauty to the bullighter.
Pedro Algaba is a well-known tailor in Seville who has his studio and shop just behind the bullring in Calle Adriano. He very kindly gave me some of his time to tell me a little bit about his profession.
Gerry: Pedro how did you get into this profession?
Pedro: Accidentally, I never thought of working as a tailor and even less so as a specialist tailor which is much more difficult.
It came about via my brother, which again was an accident. You have to remember that usually this trade is hereditary, it is passed on from father to son. This is a profession that you can´t go and study anywhere and if you go to a tailor they don´t show you.
My brother was running a tailors workshop although they showed him very little and I entered accidentally as an assistant. I was there to iron, to clean. This is how I got into it. It was a long process. I started in 1969 as an apprentice and later I wanted to take a leap and do something that has never been done before by the bullfighting tailors which was to open a shop. Normally the tailors are located in an apartment, almost hidden and clandestine. I am exagerating a bit but they didn´t even have a nameplate on the door.
In the 1980s I suggested to my brother that we open a tailors shop but he felt he was not prepared so I went to Mexico from 1982 to 1990 and when I returned I opened my first shop in Seville. My clientele (the bullfighters) was already well estabished and relatively secure. I wanted to give a free rein to the other ideas I had designing accessories with a taurine theme, bags, leather goods, boots, silverware for men etc.
Gerry: What is the better business? Making the suits for the bullfighters or the accessories?
Pedro: Until a few years ago, it was the suits. But there has been an important change and because of both the economic crisis and the crisis in the taurine world, whereas before 80% of sales came from the suits now it´s the reverse, with 80% of sales coming from accessories. I think that perhaps this is to do with destiny and just as well I took the path I took.
Gerry: Would you like to have a young apprentice with enthusiasm and interest in learning who you could teach this craft to?
Pedro: I really wanted to show my son but he had no interest which is a shame. This is a business which as a profession is lovely and it makes me sad that my business one day will finish. Perhaps if my son had been interested? What I am doing is training Pepi (his partner and assistant) so that she can continue the business.
Gerry: A suit of light is very detailed. How long does it take to make?
Pedro: Approximately one month.
Gerry: Does the torero (bullfighter) have to come for many fittings?
Pedro: No. Before there were always lots of fittings, at least three or four. Now we do just one or none at all. I have toreros who try the suits for the first time when they are finished and they are perfect.
Gerry: Have you had any dealings with the fashion world? For example Madonna dressed as a torero in one of her concerts and John Galliano came to the April Fair in Seville some years ago.
Pedro. John Galliano´s suit was made by us. There is a long list of famous people who have worn our clothes. La Toya Jackson has severa l of our jackets and recently we made all the bullighting costumes for the Opera Carmen produced by the New York Metropolitan. We made the costumes for the Film Blood and Sand and I had the pleasure of meeting Sharon Stone who was one of the film´s stars. Paul McCartney has also been a client as well as Andy Garcia who likes our boots and Placido Domingo. It is a long list.
Gerry: What do you most like about your work?
Pedro: To me this is not work. I feel inspired doing this and I love it. Every day is like a new adventure , I often work on weekends, holidays but I do not mind because I am doing something I love. I do not have to take orders from a boss, I am free.
Gerry: Have you a favourite bullfighter?
Pedro: I have various, I don´t really want to mention anyone in particular but I like the artistic bullfighters. You do have to admire all of them really because anyone who stands in front of a bull is brave. One fighter in particular springs to mind, Pepe Luis Vasquez. He is admirable both as a person and as a torero, I also like Curro Romero, Morante de la Puebla and Jose Tomas.
Gerry: What advice would you give to a tourist visiting Seville, where should they go? Somewhere a little off the beaten track?
Pedro: I don´t go out very much but what I would recommend that is a little bit different is a flamenco place, not a tablao where normally all the tourists go. This place is called Lola de los Reyes it´s near the feria ground in Los Remedios and is only open on weekends but it is worth visiting. You can listen to flamenco and dance.
Gerry: And to eat?
Pedro: I always eat at home but one restaurant that is very special and is decorated with many bullfighting costumes is Puerta Grande. The food is very good and I do sometimes go there.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]