Seventies Soldier

I never met Mercedes’ mom but I can just about picture what she looked like when she was young: tall and leggy in a floral, A-line mini-dress, with oversized sunglasses, honey-brushed, wispy bangs, and a warm, toothy smile. Her interior may have even been similar to the one I just stepped into: formica furniture, posters of the Beatles, an old record player and lots of orange. The Spanish theme would have come from the garden, just like this, through the double door windows: a huge terrace with pottery and plants galore, maybe even a hammock and some paper lanterns. Aside from the refurbished, lowered ceilings, I could be in the seventies today. “My mom keeps everything!! Thank god for that. She saved my life!!” laughs Mercedes. “Since I was little I’ve had issues with clothing, and growing up in Bilbao didn´t help… Now it’s a bit better but before it was terribly conventional! My mom and I would sneak behind my dad and go shopping to France for the day. I’ve always been into 60s music, well, into 60s everything. So discovering all of my mom’s 60s and 70s clothes was for me the biggest treasure I could find!!”

So it’s clear: Mercedes Gallego-Ruiz lives and breathes vintage. From her clothes to the figurines she collects, to the bags she makes, there’s always a hint or direct influence of the past. She just got back from a long trip to California with her husband Javi, and looking at her travel photos is in itself a Tale. They shopped for vintage at the Rose Bowl in Los Pasadena, hung out with Johnny Depp backstage at a Patti Smith concert in Los Angeles, drove to Palm Springs just to stay at The Parker hotel (“I’m a big fan of Jonathan Adler and this hotel was just a dream designed by him. I think it’s the best hotel experience of my life!!!”). They visited Carmel, Big Sur and San Francisco and the neon museum in Las Vegas. When I tell her that Jonathan Adler is presenting his Spring/Summer Accessories collection in New York this week, she screams. “God you are so lucky!!! I must move to the US!! There’s so many things going on!! Life here (in Barcelona) is quite slow and can get so dull at times!!! Our trip has been like a breath of fresh air!”

I can easily see Mercedes living in Los Angeles. She’d actually be riding around on her Monkey bike, rather that letting it sit in the garage. Her husband, a musician and a psychiatrist who works with kids who suffer from addiction, would have a flourishing practice! And her bags would sell like hot cakes. She started her line Mercules about two years ago and though she’s doing everything on her own right now, from design to shipping, she’ll have to hire staff soon. (She studied Design at Central Saint Martins in London, trained as an intern with Galliano and Dior and worked at Loewe and Massimo Duti as the Accessories Designer. All the bags you see in the pictures are hers.) But for now Mercedes has to stick it out in Barcelona. She loves “the weather, the cocktails, being surrounded by beautiful buildings and having the Costa Brava at one hour drive,” but is hugely disappointed in the increasing crime rate. “It’s a pity,” she sighs. “It’s a great city but there’s a big problem with robbery. Almost every friend I know has seen their bag disappear once or twice.” A few months ago someone tried to break into her building (but they only managed to burst the first door) and “one night, driving back home from a party waiting at a red light, this guy walked behind me and yanked my bag. I was lucky in a way for it was a vintage bag and the handle was a bit loose so it just detached and I didn’t end up on the ground.” Needless to say, it’s yet another example of how vintage can save one’s life! ; – ))

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