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by Muriel Feiner
14 October 2020
At Cruz, 23, very close to the Puerta del Sol, we find one of the most historic shops in the country, which opened its doors for the first time in 1901, specializing in the classic Spanish garment: the capa española. It was founded by the great-grandfather of the current owners, Santos Seseña, who left his village of Yuncos in Toledo to work as an apprentice in a tailor shop in Madrid at age 14.
The elaboration of this traditional garment which dates back to the fifteenth century has not varied in all this time. In the past, any “respectable gentleman” would have three capes: a blue one for the morning, a brown one for the afternoon and finally the black one for the evening, ideal for attending the opera, gala events or formal dinners.
The current director of the store, Marcos, fourth generation, explains that they have been able to survive for more than a century because they have always respected the quality of the material and the craftsmanship which is the hallmark of Seseña. However, they have also learned to adapt to the changes taking place in society and did so in part thanks to the boldness and chutzpah of Grandma Conchita, who was forced to take over the business when her father and husband both died in 1959. She was a pioneer, as an entrepreneur, at a time when a woman could not open her own bank account and she introduced a very successful women’s line.
Such a long-standing business possesses endless anecdotes and the family has always been proud to hold the title of Supplier of the Royal Family and so, they added: “Casa Seseña. Proveedor de la Casa Real” to the label. However, that reference created a major problem during the Franco era when they were obliged to delete these words and those who already owned a cape had to cut out the label.
Marcos, who succeeded his father Enrique in the store, insists that they are a modest enterprise, although he is pleased that they have been able to resist so long, without having to sacrifice the basic values of the company. They sell roughly seven hundred capes a year, sixty percent of which go to foreign tourists and the international market: “You cannot consider a garment like this expensive when you consider it will last for a lifetime,” he says.
Among the Spanish intellectuals and artists who have sported the Seseña capes were Ramón de Valle-Inclán, Pio Baroja, Paco Rabal, Alfredo Kraus, Rafael Alberti, Camilo José Cela, Pablo Picasso…, to which we can add a long list of international personalities: Hillary Clinton, Federico Fellini, Marcelo Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Joseph Cotton, Jane Fonda, Cary Grant, Yul Brynner Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen …
The cape is an elegant and very comfortable garment to wear and it has been said: “The purpose of wearing a cape is to attain a touch of distinction and also have people turn to look at you.”
Note: During the current pandemic situation, Capas Seseña remains open in the mornings from 10.30 to 14.30 and it might be a good idea to schedule an appointment. www.sesena.com Tel: +34 915 316 840
Photos other than those by Muriel Feiner are from the Seseña website and Facebook page, used with due permission.
Texts, prints, photos and other illustrative materials depicted in GUIDEPOST have been either contributed by the authors of each published work or, to the Magazine’s good-faith knowledge, are in the public domain or otherwise benefit from the allowances of Articles 9(2), 10, 10(bis), and applicable others of the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works.