Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Reign in Spain

Begoña Zunzunegui, on the eve of her adventure.

In 1964 a young Spanish woman, Begoña Zunzunegui, opened Becara, an import business that would jump-start the home furnishings market in her native land.

At the time, Spain was an isolated nation, with very little influence from neighboring countries, let alone those farther afield. Zunzunegui, who was educated in England and had lived in the United States, returned to Spain and settled in Madrid. She soon recognized the absence of all the worldly materials and designs she had come to love through her travels, and decided to open a small boutique. She imported glass from Portugal, tableware and antiques from Britain, and ceramics from Italy.

During the early 1970s, the Far East opened to the Western world and Zunzunegui was one of the first Europeans – one of the first females – to travel throughout Asia and successfully establish business relationships with manufacturers in Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Hong Kong and India, to name but a few. All of these new things she brought to Madrid; all of these new things awakened Spain to international design. Eventually, the walls of her shop could no longer accomodate the abundance of goods, and the sheer volume of materials led to the establishment of trade fairs and gift shows, a new concept in Spain. Becara was a founding participant in Regalofama in 1976, The International Furniture Fair in Valencia (1979), Habitat (1985) and Intergift (1989).

Becara's beautifully composed and romantic advertising images helped to secure its role as one of Spain's most influential design retailers.

During the late 1990s, Becara reached another milestone in its history. It had outgrown its warehouse in the Pinto neighborhood of Madrid, and Zunzunegui undertook a major modernization of the company, relocating and unifying the entire firm under one roof in Valdemoro, Madrid’s most prosperous industrial area. She also developed a new line of antique-inspired furnishings, a bespoke-design department, a corporate gift program and associations with numerous Spanish hotels and restaurants. Since then, Becara has also opened factory offices in Jakarta, Beijing and Delhi.

Madrid's Hotel AC Santo Mauro, furnished by Becara.

Zunzunegui, a mother whose four grown children are now part of the firm, has also chosen to return some of what she has been given and is a major supporter of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation’s effort to aid development in India, particularly the Anantapur region. Her story is one of foresight, fearlessness, and, ultimately, faith, not just in herself, but in the world around her.

Begoña Zunzunegui, today.

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