This week, ACCENT Madrid’s Senior Programs Coordinator Raquel del Pozo Martínez discusses a visit Washington University business students took to Casa Seseña, makers of stylish capes. There, the students learned how such a seemingly niche product has supported this small family business for over 100 years
Some businesses close their doors after a short season, while others thrive for decades. Few can boast over a century of operations, surviving civil war, dramatic cultural shifts, economic recession, and gentrification to build a client list that includes Ernest Hemingway, Hillary Clinton, and Jeremy Irons.
This spring, a group of students from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis visited Casa Seseña, Madrid’s historic handmade cape-maker, founded in 1901, to explore the key factors behind the company’s success.
Four generations of the Seseña family have worked in the shop on Madrid’s central Calle de la Cruz. Upon crossing the threshold, students were transported back to the beginning of the 20th century. While, today, Casa Seseña is the only store in the world tailoring and selling handmade capes, the market for capes has changed dramatically in nearly 120 years of operation.
Students met with Carmen Fábrega, the head of the workshop, who recalled, while cutting a new piece of fabric under their attentive gaze, “Every generation of the Seseña family left their mark on the firm.” Each generation made the decision to adapt the product to their time. Seseña’s son was very well connected in Spanish high society, and had many contacts in theater and cinema, which helped the brand gain visibility in international markets. In the sixties, the third generation of the family launched a women’s line, democratizing the use of the cape in Spain.
Today, Casa Seseña maintains the same artisan savoir faire as ever, and sews around 700 hundred classical and modern capes a year, selling worldwide, with forty percent of sales shipping to the U.S. The company launched a website in the 1990s, a sign of forward-thinking leadership in a country where Internet only arrived in 1995. More recently, Marcos Seseña led a complete redesign of the website and a launch in social media. He is frequently interviewed by fashion media and collaborates with designers and influencers. The traditional cape maker on Calle de la Cruz has amassed over 21,000 followers on Instagram.
From classic to modern, students did not hesitate to try on the styles. Immediately after the visit, they took out their cell phones and posted photos with Casa Seseña’s #yesyoucape hashtag. A capa Seseña is an exclusive item of clothing that, like a fine piece of jewelry, can be worn forever and beyond. Picasso must have been thinking just that when he asked to be buried in his Seseña!~Raquel del Pozo Martínez – ACCENT Madrid
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