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He is a trend-spotter at 97 years of age

Fidel Montoto

Last December, the journalist Patricia García made us this report in La Voz de Galicia, specifically in its YES supplement, which made us very excited because it was a well-deserved tribute to Fidel Montoto. Here you can see the YES article and we also transcribe it in full below:

Paula and Roberto Montoto have in their grandfather, who founded the brand they run in 1956, a coolhunter who advises them on the garments that can be trendy. “If you don’t wear knitwear, you’re not dressed in winter,” says Fidel.

It is twelve o’clock in the morning and Paula’s cell phone rings. It is her grandfather Fidel. “Paula, how are you? Viches que se volven levar as saias plisadas?”. Fidel is almost 97 years old. Or 77 as he jokingly says, taking off 20 years between laughs. He connects via Skype from his home for a three-way interview with his grandchildren. Fidel Montoto and them, Paula and Roberto Montoto, are more than just one of Galicia’s most emblematic knitting companies. They are a team, a reflection that there is no age. “Having grandfather’s help is very cool. He is a person who brings knowledge, he is very open-minded. He’s very good and he’s very well-liked. Here at home we all fight to look like him. We all want to be like grandpa,” they say.

Fidel started knitting in 1956. In 2011, his grandchildren Roberto and Paula took over the textile manufacturing company, Roberto as commercial director and Paula as designer. The relationship of the three is so special that it is impossible not to notice them. Fidel never stops smiling. He has a very good memory: he is a genius for dates. “Abuelo, lémbraste de cómo empezaches?”, Paula asks him. “I started in 1956, with a small machine. My wife told me: come here, you make socks and I make them, and you earn more than going to the fairs. And that’s how we started and we went up, up, up!”, he answers. Fidel was 30 years old at the time. He remembers perfectly what he had to do to buy the first machine: “I had to buy 22,000 pesetas. You had to sell 22 cows, at 1,000 pesetas each. Here in Galicia there was nothing like that and that was when we started to work”. With his wife, Élida, they turned Montoto into a point of reference in Spain. “We both wanted to work. As there was no television you had to go to Santiago, A Coruña or Vigo to see the shops. We used to see how a sweater looked like, and we would say ‘gústache? Well, let’s do it’. We did what we liked”. Fidel continues to be a trend hunter, an observer. He doesn’t say no to anything and watches TV programs carefully to write down all the ones he sees to later tell his granddaughter about them. “Aínda non fixeches as saias plisadas”, he reminds her affectionately.

“To buy the first machine I had to sell 22 cows.”

His grandchildren remember the stories he told them as a child. How he and his grandmother used to travel around Spain, France and Italy to go to fairs and sell their sweaters. Or how they would get on a motorcycle and cross Galicia with sample books to sell their knitwear to the first stores. “We started going to Madrid. E despois fomos a París, Milán, Mónaco, San Remo… We went in the Simca 1000”, tells Fidel. “My grandmother drove and my grandfather was the co-driver,” says Paula. They were adventurous and language was not a barrier: “In Paris we looked at what the people next to us were eating and we said what we liked the most”. They had resources for everything: “To go to the Paris fair we had to pay an entrance fee, but we always got someone to give us theirs, and we got in for free”. He also remembers when they used to squeeze into the subway and pay only for one of the tickets.

It was in the 60s when they settled in Lalín. There is no corner of Galicia that they did not travel through with their knitwear. “It took us six hours to get to Fisterra,” she recalls. The trip was rewarding: “We ate barnacles for five pesos! Fidel is still a fashion lover: “Gústame moito”. And an advocate of knitwear: “If you don’t wear something knitted, you won’t be dressed in winter”, he adds.

If you don’t wear knitwear, you’re not dressed for winter

“He is very affectionate and cares a lot about everyone,” Paula says. At almost 97 years old, he calls his grandchildren every day to know how they are doing, how their day went. “When we could travel and we went to Milan he always told us to go to a certain street that there are many stores with good point, or he recommended restaurants to eat. Some of them changed or closed, but others are still there and you find very curious things. It’s amazing how he remembers everything,” he says. Fidel always has advice for his grandchildren. And a helping hand to keep working. He has a non-touchscreen cell phone with the family’s numbers engraved on it and a small notebook on the back with the key that corresponds to each person. “Before, when we could travel and go to fairs, we used to go to Madrid a lot. Grandpa didn’t sleep until we arrived, and we called him to tell him we were back home. “For him the company was like his son, it was part of his lifestyle. He doesn’t know how to live without working,” says Paula, who adds: “He is very sociable: he understands everything and encourages us – even when we open the online sales page! She is a very dear person and a support for my brother and me. A person who gives you a lot of joy and confidence”.

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