In Lisbon’s searing heat, as the cobbles of the city’s winding avenues and boulevards radiate warmth beneath your feet, stepping inside Fátima Lopes’s store is as fresh and thoroughly welcome as a breeze. This ice-white boutique can be found on the vibrant Rua da Atalaia, but inside, a monastic calm pervades as sales assistants flit between mannequins draped in Lopes’s designs, a blank-faced army in magenta gowns, vermilion party dresses and pin-sharp saffron jackets. Many a Portuguese style hunter has beaten a path to this fashion haven.
Lopes is one Portugal’s most renowned fashion exports, with a 20-year career showing collections in Lisbon as well as Paris under her (suitably chic) belt. Despite the constant travel between the two cities (she refers to Paris as ‘my window on the world’) it’s unsurprising that her home city holds a special place in her heart. ‘I have chosen to live in Lisbon because it’s where I feel I belong. I have almost all the same team now that I had 20 years ago, and it’s a good place to live. The people are warm, the weather is fantastic.’ The city’s weather and the ‘special light’, she says, help her start each working day with a smile.
Although her career in the fashion industry already spans two decades, Lopes feels the best is yet to come. ‘Twenty years doing this is the only the beginning of the Fátima Lopes label. I want to continue doing what I love – creating collections season after season.’ To Lopes, the design process is entirely intuitive and innate. ‘It’s my way of expressing myself, so it’s something very personal. My inspiration comes from my surroundings, whether it’s something I see and admire, or something that catches me for a moment. It’s different from one season to the next.’
Previous collections have veered from searing tangerine cocktail dresses and cream lace gowns as fine as angels’ wings to dresses dappled in painterly splashes and high-octane, heels-by-the-poolside bikinis. Lopes caused headlines and controversy in 2000 when, at the height of the trend for bling, she showed a bikini made of gold and diamonds, at a cost of $1 million. This autumn she looks to severe silhouettes, body-conscious cutting and a devilish palette of black and red to pack a vampish, powerful punch. ‘I always try to create beauty, I want to honour and value the female body above all else,’ says Lopes. Her designs have a particular, Mediterranean sensuality and colour, with hourglass shapes, plunging necklines and a return to a citrus and raspberry palette that would look as much at home on a Rio roof terrace as on the panoramic Lisbon seafront.
Although fashion is her main focus, Lopes has gradually evolved into an all-round tastemaker and lifestyle doyenne, expanding her business to encompass interiors pieces. The range now encompasses graphic, block-patterned rugs in Mediterranean sea blues and fiery Latino reds, elegant, fluid crystalware, sterling silver cutlery and fine porcelain. ‘I like to create everything that I have around me, create a world of my designs,’ she explains. ‘It felt natural that one thing should progress into another. I started with fashion accessories and then moved into jewellery, then china, then cutlery, crystal and tapestries.’
Lopes joins the growing league of fearless female designers who are taking over fashion – some of the most sought-after collections this year are from houses helmed by women – which makes her part of a growing contingent that designs clothes to fit into real women’s lives and wardrobes. ‘I design for myself. I have my own style and I know what I want. It’s about bringing something valuable to the female body, enhancing it.’ And when the demands of the day are done and the cutting scissors are hung up? Lopes recommends that the intrepid style explorer slip through the enchanting back streets of Chiado and Bairro Alto to see the clash of ‘young and old Lisbon’ and also suggests escaping the city to the picturesque town of Sintra. Doing so in one of her glorious goddess gowns will just make the experience that little bit sweeter.
For more information, visit: http://www.fatima-lopes.com