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Maria do Carmo Studio


The 62nd edition of Lisbon’s fashion week ModaLisboa took place earlier this month in the Portuguese capital. As always, there was a theme and, this time round, it was ‘For Good’, with the message to “emphasise the commitment of fashion and design to doing good for the city, for people, for the planet”.

Of course, sustainability, ethics and inclusivity are topics that have been on the agenda for some time. There were a couple of things that stood out this season though: firstly, how many of the designers were exploring innovative, sometimes experimental, approaches to the fabrics that they use. Secondly, although many of the established names on the schedule were male, we also noticed a particularly strong contingent of female talent in this edition. Without realising, every designer we chose to highlight this season just happened to be female.

As always, there was a commitment to supporting emerging designers, including recent graduates, with the catwalk schedule kicking off each season with the Sangue Novo competition. This time round, Ana Luísa Marinho and her brand Isza walked away with the ModaLisboa x IED Award and a full scholarship for a Master’s degree at IED Florence, while Bárbara Atanásio bagged the ModaLisboa x RDD Textiles Award and a three-month internship at RDD Textiles. Both will receive additional funds towards their studies/collections and PR and showroom support from communications agency Showpress.

Meanwhile, 2021 winner Ana Rita de Sousa showed her brand Arndes as part of the WORKSTATION programme – a platform for young talent in photography, video and illustration, as well as fashion design. Arndes is concerned with the impact of its products throughout their lifecycle, uses deadstock fabric and repurposes existing garments. The new collection Freestyle reinterpreted workwear and ‘daily fabrics’, while the mostly muted colour palette reflected the brand’s commitment to quiet fashion.

LAB is the platform to take emerging designers to the next level and has given exposure to brands such as Marques’ Almeida. This season, we were most impressed by BÉHEN, established four years ago by Joana Duarte. Duarte is on a mission to protect Portuguese heritage. After graduating, she pursued her interests in ethical production and working with artisan communities by interning at a fair-trade brand in India, before returning home to launch her own label, inspired by family stories and embroideries, and particularly the Ribatejo region in central Portugal.

Duarte continues to work with ancestral techniques, craftspeople and communities, whilst exploring technological innovations. The title for the AW24 collection I Don’t Want You comes from an ancient and mysterious ‘talego’ (a bag made from different remnants of fabric sewn together in a patchwork) with these words carefully cross stitched and adorned by hand. This unusual piece aroused Duarte’s curiosity: “So much time, so much care, just to say, ‘I don’t want you.’” She interpreted this using techniques that are already part of the brand’s DNA, such as Madeira and Viana embroideries, but added embroideries from Glória do Ribatejo, woven cotton blankets from Minde and crochet socks from the traditional folklore costumes of São Vicente do Paúl. To add a touch of irreverence, the collection was partly accessorised with mini bags and jewellery made from freshly baked bread. The result was a competent and coherent collection that celebrated ancient crafts in a thoroughly modern context.

Ana Duarte (not to be confused with Joana Duarte) is a designer who has previously participated in both the Sangue Novo and LAB programmes. Her sportswear brand Duartehajime is now an established fixture on the ModaLisboa programme. In 2021, Duarte won the C.L.A.S.S. Icon Award: a prize for visionary creatives who combine design with responsible innovation and communication, thus raising consumer awareness of sustainable fashion. She is also an accomplished illustrator and creates the unique prints featured in her garments, and this season, she was inspired by the creative journey that goes into creating a collection, including sketches, patterns, prototypes and toiles.

It wasn’t only Portuguese designers on the schedule this season. ModaLisboa also took part in the Support Ukrainian Fashion Initiative. Since the Russian invasion, this initiative has taken Ukrainian Fashion Week to international catwalks, showcasing 67 designers at 11 fashion weeks in Europe and the USA. The aim is to attract buyers from these markets to save the business that employ hundreds of workers, from seamstresses to stylists, as well as the designers themselves.

Three Ukrainian brands showed on the ModaLisboa runway. OMELIA aims to celebrate diversity and recycles vintage and stock shirts. Each one is unique and hand decorated, often with crystal embellishments or crystal mesh undersleeves.

Meanwhile, Darja Donezz produces romantic womenswear and cites “sentimentality, airiness and melancholy” as the elements of her signature style. She showed a collection that appeared to be inspired by an underwater world, with whimsical shell embellishments and jellyfish like tendrils of tulle.

Nadya Dzyak launched her label in 2008. Like Donezz, translucent fabrics and ruffles are part of the brand’s DNA, but so are architectural forms and hand laid pleating. The predominantly black and red colour palette and inclusion of tartan also added a harder edge to the frills.

Closing the ModaLisboa catwalk was Bosnian born Lidija Kolovrat, who has long since made Lisbon her home. Launched in 1990, her brand Kolovrat has continued to evolve season by season, but at its core is deconstruction, sustainability and recycling and one-of-a-kind pieces created for a customer who seeks a “differentiated style, in tune with their true, inner self”. With a background in cinema, Kolovrat also draws influences from urban culture and arts, and the latest collection was inspired by the moment “the grey of a foggy day turns into a rosy dusk, as if the city and its everyday phenomena decide to transform into a promise”.

It was a fitting note on which to end: a promise for a possibly better future, the potential for fashion to do good rather than do damage, and the first female designer to close ModaLisboa since 2010.

Read more about ModaLisboa here.

words. Huma Humayun

photography. Ugo Camera


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