Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida met in college, in Portugal, got into Central Saint Martins together and launched their brand… together. For a few years now, Marques ‘ Almeida have made it a point of turning heads, (including LECLAIREUR’s). Recently, their instinctive, committed and radical snip of scissors were honored with the 2015 LVMH prize. A life change.
Marques ‘ Almeida love fabric, denim in particular, in any form whatsoever. From head to toe, raw or unstructured, pleated, shredded, on wide pants, shirts, dresses, in volume… They love bright colors too, borrowed straight from the 90s’ wildness, which their creations exude.
You both met at a pretty young age…
Marta: About fifteen years ago, in our late teens. We met in college when we started studying fashion.
Paulo: We met on our first day, at school. We were about to start our BA in Portugal, and were both excited about the fact we were finally doing what we wanted. We shared that same obsession with fashion, which is why we instantly connected.
An obsession with fashion?
Paulo: I wanted to do something creative, but it actually took me a long time to understand that fashion was actually what drove and fulfilled me. I toyed with the idea of architecture for a while, before realizing that I needed to work on a faster designing process.
Marta: We both grew up in Portugal. It might come off as a total cliché, but I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, who was a seamstress. I would do little things with bits of fabric, so there definitely was something there, though it’s when I joined college that the whole plan came together and the obsession started to grow.
You then moved to London…
Marta: After graduating, we interned in Portugal, but it became quickly obvious that London was the place to be for designers who aspired to bring change to the fashion world. We were so obsessed we pretty much watched every show, and we noticed that there were shows in London, like Fashion East, that were spotlighting new talents, like Christopher Kane, Louise Gray, Richard Nicoll… All young people, all coming out of St Martins. We also saw London as an opportunity to expand our knowledge: what we’d learned in Portugal was very technical and geared towards the industry.
Paulo: We landed internships in London. Preen was a big reference for me so I was happy to stay there for a while, and Marta spent 6 months at Vivienne Westwood. When we tried St Martins School, we had no real expectations. Doing the MA there was such an intense process. Not only did we discover our true identities as designers, we were also approached by Lulu Kennedy from Fashion East through the MA show.
What is the dynamic of your collaboration?
Paulo: Our goal was to develop our individual strengths as much as possible. By the end of the MA, we decided that if we were going to create our own label together, we had to do it with our best potential, which meant separately as well.
What do you mean by differences?
Paulo: I’d say I have a pronounced masculine approach to fashion. I’m very technical in the way I translate a mood into silhouettes. It is totally rational. Marta’s process is more about moods themselves, about the story behind the girl. Usually, Marta will say something like « this season, this girl is like this and going to this place…” I need to translate that into clothes.
Marta: Exactly! Your researches are way more rational than mine. You’re interested in how things are constructed and done. I focus on someone’s face, or on music: less palpable elements. We share a unique way of communicating, so I’m able to translate all of it. We enjoy that process. We start by just going out and looking at different things. I’ll collecting imagery, listening to music and watching documentaries while Paulo will be buying multiple books. Ultimately, everything comes together.
Paulo: Our team, which has expanded a lot in the last five years, also offers great input. It’s a collective work and I try to glue all the ideas. Our process hopefully reflects in the way the final consumer will view the collection.
Since the beginning of Marques ‘ Almeida, the nineties have been hailed as a huge influence in your work. Five years later, is that still the case?
Marta: That’s very interesting. It was very very present, yes, at the beginning. Many aspects of that decade have propelled us to do what we are currently doing.
Paulo: But it wasn’t really about replicating the look of the era. We were more connected with its philosophy.
Marta: It had more to do with ethics than any kind of visual influence. It’s always about the girl, in the end. That’s what the 90s taught us. Sometimes, our research ends up being just a collection of faces and Paulo gets stressed because he has to understand what those faces mean!
So… who’s that girl?
Paulo: The girl might be Kate Moss, one season, or Frankie Rayder, another season. She also might be Sofia, our Portuguese friend…
Marta: Or one of the girls in the studio. We’ve found out that London is full of young girls starting out their careers, trying really hard to do their own things. We are lucky to be surrounded by a lot of them.
Last year brought some significant change, both in your clothes and in your company…
Marta: It’s all gone so fast. The last season is already a year behind us, which doesn’t even sound real to me. We now are a crew of 16 people ; there were four of us not so long ago. The company has expanded. In terms of collections and creative process, we have the money to do way more things. But it’s still very family managed and still feels very personal. That’s something we like.
Paulo: We make a big effort to resist any pressure. As a business, we want to preserve the soul, and what we fought hard to achieve.
Marta: But we’ve allowed the company to grow. The more it grows, the more we can afford to do bigger collections, which means we can do our own shows and, basically, spread out the true essence of Marques ’ Almeida.
What new obsessions do you think will directly influence in your upcoming work?
Marta: Right now, I’m obsessed with maintaining ourselves at relatively the same level and with having our friends walk in our show, rather than use models. There are so many inspiring girls around us, doing their own things. Photographers, journalists, actresses, musicians… Doing things with those people, seeing what they can bring, it just keeps spinning in my head, because it was all about Paulo and me for such a long time.
Paulo: Our greatest luxury, now, is to continue designing in a way that will absorb as much as we can from those around us. There’s so much talent right there, it would be a shame not to connect with it.
And then, there’s LECLAIREUR…
Marta: We’ve always loved the stores. Whenever we were in Paris, we’d always go there to have a look.
Paulo: It even goes back to our initial obsession with fashion itself, to when we were doing our BA. We’d put together a list of places we absolutely had to visit, LECLAIREUR was one of them.
Marta: It’s a family oriented business, and the store carries a strong sense of identity. These are things to which we can both relate.
it’s about taking risks, experimenting, and allowing ourselves to sometimes even fail. We have to preserve the initial spirit of the company, and make sure this spirit reflects in everything we produce. It’s important we keep approaching things in an intuitive way. That’s our philosophy.
Paulo: It’s good to be vulnerable.