Creativity, co-creation and androgyny: meet the new wave of Portuguese designers
The fast pace that defines the dynamics of fashion weeks and injects volumes of content into social media needs, at the same time, new sources of inspiration. At a time when sustainability and ‘slow fashion’ move to become the norm for thousands of brands, the industry and its consumers are hungry for new names, those under-the-radar labels that have not been touched by the mainstream yet. So it becomes necessary to look to new horizons, like Portugal, a country with emerging fashion brands that have nothing to lose and the freedom to create their own stories.
With the aim of supporting its development, the country nurtures local talent through ModaLisboa, which held its 53rd edition in October. The event hosted runway shows and presentations at Campo de Santa Clara, in the heart of the Alfama neighbourhood. And the youngest designers took over a building formerly used by the Portuguese army, a move that professed their passion for the future of fashion and the best place to go in search for the next Marques'Almeida.
One of the key names in the new Portuguese wave is Awaytomars, a creative collective founded by Brasilian designer Alfredo Orobio in 2014. The experimental project started with a debut collection designed by a total of 46 designers. “Our generation invented the notion of mass consumption. Now we have to change that mentality,” says the founder of Awaytomars about the initiative.
The brand aims to change the fashion industry by leveraging the use of technology and promoting an attitude of co-creation. It counts with more than 15,000 participants from around the world, who can submit ideas for designs after registering online. All projects are analysed and voted on by members of the collective before moving on to the co-creation stage. The most voted designs are turned into clothing prototypes that can be exclusively bought by members of the community before their official launch.
In the latest collection, defined by an explosive array of dyes and minimalist pieces made from merino wool, the Portuguese brand introduced a collaboration with The Woolmark Company. Midi dresses were presented alongside wide leg trousers and blazers, the result of about 200 projects submitted by international designers from 43 countries, like Mariana Escobar (Brazil), Jason Gibson (Australia), Felipe Rocha (Brazil), Helder Silva (Germany), David Cabra (Colombia) and Xi Zhu Zhu (China). The collection is available to purchase on Awaytomars’ online site as well as via Harvey Nichols and other London-based stockists.
Irreverent and visually hypnotic are the designs of Constança Entrudo, a Lisbon designer with a degree from the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London. Despite her youth, the designer has plenty of experience under her belt after working with the likes of Peter Pilotto, Marques'Almeida or Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain.
Constança Entrudo launched her brand two years ago as part of the Spring Summer 2018 edition of ModaLisboa. She wanted to explore fashion beyond the notions of age and gender. So her clothes are streamlined and futuristic, as reflected in her latest collection titled ‘All that is solid melts into air’. Neon yellow and green hues were combined with soft lavender and off-white across ethereal dresses, asymmetrical hemlines and unusual shapes. Sheer fabrics and ‘wet’ makeup looks completed the showcase, which was supported by a performance from Californian rapper and LGBTI activist Mykki Blanco. Entrudo’s was probably the most visually sumptuous runway show of the Portuguese season.
At the age of 26, Carolina Machado has achieved more than most: she has already designed seven collections for her own label. Irreverent, but with a softness that makes her stand out from the crowd, the womenswear designer presents sophisticated and minimalist silhouettes in silver shades and pastel tones. Her use of lycra and cotton ensure there’s a commercial side to her, uncovering her national and international aspirations. Her collection is currently available on her site as well as via online platforms like Minty Square and Ivalo. The brand can also be found in the Patriksson Communication showroom in Sweden.
Another standout collection is that of Joao Magalhaes, who launched his namesake brand in March last year after exploring the world of fashion accessories through his Morecco brand since 2014. With an androgynous aesthetic and an ingenious philosophy, the emerging label explores new concepts through innovative materials and artisanal techniques, like hand embroidery. The latest runway show, featuring swimwear pieces from Studio Arena, was inspired by Donna Haraways’ Cyborg Manifesto, bridging the gap between man, nature and machine through sheer fabrics, ruffles and satin.
“We believe that gender is irrelevant when it comes to designing clothes,” says streetwear brand Hibu. Created in 2013, the Portuguese brand’s CRU-L show hosted a cast of male and female models who, after walking down the runway, exchanged their clothes to demonstrate the unisex appeal of the utilitarian collection. Oversized silhouettes, boiler suits and tie-dye t-shirts and sweatshirts dominated in a highly wereable range. The garments are 100% made in Portugal, and retail for 100 euros for a pair of jeans to 170 for a jacket.
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