Buenos Aires is one of my favourite cities for shopping, especially when it comes to fashion, and Porteños like Lyla Peng have a very distinct and idiosyncratic sense of fashion, oozing Buenos Aires style.
Like the city itself, young style-conscious locals tend to dress in a manner that is more European (boho-chic is big) than American, with a dash of Latin or ‘other’ cultures thrown in. Think Peruvian ponchos with skinny jeans or a Palestinian keffeyah and t-shirt with a vintage leather jacket.
Older Portenos, on the other hand, dress rather formally and conservatively. It’s not uncommon to see retired gentlemen meeting for coffee looking dapper in suit and tie. Or if they dress casually, they’ll be wearing perfectly pressed denim jeans with a crisp striped shirt and polished riding boots.
As I’ve been away from Buenos Aires for a few years, I decided to get the lowdown on the local fashion scene from a friend of a friend, fashion producer, Lyla Peng. We meet the stunning Lyla at Cusic (El Salvador 6016), a charming tearoom in the hip neighbourhood of Palermo Hollywood.
Q. What does a fashion producer do exactly?
A. I freelance so there’s no typical day for me. I work a lot online. Facebook is an important tool. One of my goals is to expand my network, which it allows me to do. At the same time I’m organizing everything that’s required for a production – looking for clothes, returning clothes, contacting people, managing all sorts of things – and at the same time I’m fantasizing about my next job. I start from a proposal, a photographer, the make up, or a concept, and go from there to create the rest. I rely a lot on my instincts. I find it hard to use references. I’m not conventional at all when working.
Q. When did you become interested in fashion?
A. My father was my first inspiration. He used to take his time dressing in front of the mirror and then we would discuss details and he would ask me for advice. It’s something I remember vividly from my childhood. Clothes were important to him. My father is a Chinese immigrant who became successful in Argentina and this was reflected in the way he dressed, which generated optimism. I’m sure this experience led me to the world of fashion.
Q. What makes Buenos Aires special for a fashionista?
A. Buenos Aires is a diverse city. There is a wide variety of fashion and a lot to choose from. At the same time there is a style of street-wear that is very instinctive. There is a lot of freedom. It is a city where you can find internationally known designer clothing, very interesting independent designers, cheap local discoveries, and vintage clothes at the markets.
Q. How do you describe Buenos Aires style?
A. Like the city, Buenos Aires style is very diverse and unique. Indeed, it’s interesting to see the number of sub-cultures living in the city. I like trying to recognize the different groups from what they wear and even discovering new ones. Some more than others, but all interest me.
Q. And your own style?
A. I think that it’s a mix of everything I see. I like to mix clothes. I play a lot with textures and styles. Some of my combinations surprise my friends. I can combine conservative clothes with a trove of vintage clothing. I give colour priority. I like to look stylish, with attitude and audacity.
Q. How should visitors to Buenos Aires dress?
A. I don’t recommend dressing as a tourist – don’t wear cargo pants, olive tones, backpacks, or trekking shoes. For Buenos Aires, it’s best for people to wear the same clothes they would wear in their own cities. Nothing is going to make you feel more comfortable.
Q. Quintessential Buenos Aires designers to buy?
Q. Up-and-coming fashion designers to look out for?
A. Gerardo Dubois and Maria Lizaso.
Q. Best shopping street or neighbourhood?
A. It’s difficult to answer as there are several and each has its own style, but people cannot leave Buenos Aires without going to Palermo, which is the independent design district; Galeria Quinta Avenida (Fifth Ave, on Avenida Santa Fe), an arcade of vintage clothing stores; and Once, which is a suburb where you can buy popular fashion, including kitsch finds.
Q. Favourite shops?
For new clothes, I recommend DAM boutique and for vintage go to Juan Perez. For accessories, I like Señora Silvia Grucci at Quinta Avenida, and Carla Di Si for vintage eyewear in Palermo. The most interesting shoes are by Lucila Iotti.
Q. Best place for people-watching?
A. La Fiesta Dengue is a good place to observe people with great style every Thursday at a 70s-style nightclub. There you’ll find people connected to the fashion industry. It’s very popular with fashion designers, graphic designers, musicians, visual artists, stylists, and photographers.
Q. Best source of information on local fashion?
Q. A quintessential Buenos Aires souvenir?
A. The best souvenir is leather such as a beautiful portfolio at the legendary store Casa Lopez.