Warning: there are spoilers ahead.
Fashion Insight: The Spanish word “desfile” is more or less synonymous for “fashion show” and “catwalk”.
Ross and Rachel of the Week: Ana and Alberto
Spanish Culture Clue: There were apparently no fair labor laws in Franco’s Spain. An employer could order an hourly employee to come in early without pay, for example.
Language Point: “Galerias” is translated as “fashion store”, although I would probably translate it as “Department Store” and it looks like the more modern usage is for “shopping mall”.
For a variety of reasons, I have been taking Spanish lessons (again), and as part of that, I started watching Velvet, a Spanish drama available on Netflix. I have a habit of reading recaps of serial dramas as I watch them, and I could not find any in English on Velvet. I couldn’t even find any in Spanish. (I’m okay with having spoilers in favor of seeing how they play out.) So, I decided it was a sign that I needed to do it.
The show is about life at Galerias Velvet, a high-end women’s store on Madrid’s Gran Via. The series opens in 1958 on the night of the store’s big fashion show. The owner’s son, Don Alberto Marquez, has returned from several years away in London.
We flash back to 20 years before the big night. Young Ana’s mother has died, and she leaves her small town to live in Madrid with her only living relative, her uncle Don Emilio, the manager of Velvet. He is played by Jose Sacristan in a very different role from the creepy reporter he plays in Madrid 1987. When he asks Don Rafael Marquez, the store’s owner, to take Ana in, it is clear that Emilio has some leverage over his boss based on something that happened in the past. But what?
Young Alberto sees young Ana in the hallway and is smitten. He throws a series of paper airplanes at her, a thing we will see again and again.
Ana loves being an apprentice seamstress and she loves Alberto. Their love is doomed, though – their social classes are too far apart. Don Rafael sends Alberto to London to learn retail from the bottom – and to get away from Ana. Alberto sent Ana letters regularly, signing them as “Philippe Ray” so that they would get past Tio Emilio, but he could not be fooled. He hid them all. (You’d think he would throw them out, but this is more soap opera than Shakespeare.) And Ana, of course, finds them before the episode is over.
And now, he is back. This being the first episode, we get to meet the other characters at the store. Rita is one of the other seamstresses. Her sister Clara works in sales; they came to Madrid from the same town as Pedro, the messenger who is also Clara’s boyfriend and Rita’s crush. The other main seamstress is Luisa, who is taking mending on the side to get money to support her cancer-stricken husband. Dona Blanca runs the workroom and apparently has a secret that Don Emilio knows. That Don Emilio, he has some power at Velvet.
We get some more details on the family. Alberto’s mother was Don Rafael’s first wife. His second wife, Gloria, is the mother of Patricia, who resents Alberto’s role as favored older son. Don Rafael has a sister, Pilar, who owns a competing department store. They do not get along. Don Rafael wants Alberto to take up with Cristina Otegui, from a respectable family.
The night of the big fashion show, Alberto tells his father that he will not take over the company, in part because Don Rafael won’t allow him to modernize. Alberto and Ana decide to run off to London today. After they drive off, we see a haunted Don Rafael go back to his office, leave a note, and jump out the window. Ana and Alberto hear an announcement of the death on the radio. Alberto, stunned, drives into a ditch.
Back in the office, Gloria sees a letter labelled “para Alberto”, and takes it.
And we go on to Episode 2.