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Portugal's best home-grown brands

Traditional Portuguese brands are keeping pace with the demands of the 21st century, as Sally McIlhone discovers

Sally Mcllhone,

Heritage brands the world over are experiencing a revival. The backlash against disposable fast fashion is seeing customers seek out classic labels with longstanding manufacturing traditions so they can be sure they are investing in timeless quality.

The Portuguese style landscape is no different. From suiting to jewellery and accessories, time-honoured Portuguese brands are tempting international clients to invest in their designs, which blend classic quality and comfort with trend-inspired touches to ensure they remain current.

Old and new
In an harmonious unification of the contemporary and the traditional, one of the oldest Portuguese brands is now owned by one of the country’s largest catwalk-inspired retail groups. Casa Batalha began as a bead manufacturer, founded by João Cipriano Rodrigues Batalha in 1635, and became famous for its embroidery and exquisite necklaces.

When a devastating fire broke out in the Chiado area of Lisbon in 1988, destroying Casa Batalha as well as 17 other heritage stores, the brand’s dedicated following remained loyal. After extensive renovation of the area the jeweller began to flourish once more and now has nine stores in Lisbon and Porto.

Modern interpretation
Recently reinvented for a modern audience, Casa Batalha was acquired by the Lanidor group in 2009 and has since been blending antique elements with catwalk-influenced motifs to create popular costume jewellery. The brand’s boutique design concept echoes Casa Batalha’s vintage-inspired history, with gleaming art deco chandeliers, the latest designs housed in bell jars or artistically draped across miniature hatboxes with lace edging.

Yet the products on offer are strikingly contemporary. Festival-chic drop earrings studded with candy-coloured gemstones, statement beaded collars and cool clutches were highlights of the spring/summer collection, proving that Casa Batalha is more than capable of blending its traditional beadwork skills with seasonal trends to create products which carry the brand’s legacy into the future.

Avenue of style
Lisbon’s Avenida da Liberdade has always been known for its elegant tailoring boutiques. It’s no wonder, then, that heritage tailor Rosa & Teixeira’s roots are firmly entrenched here. The brand honours the high-quality production methods established by master tailor Manuel Almieiro and popularised by the brand’s namesakes – Almieiro’s protégé Francisco Rosa and Rosa’s son-in-law António Teixeira. ‘Our DNA is not negotiable.

We were born from a family of craftsman tailors and we continue to honour their traditional methods of working,’ explains Pedro Castro, spokesman for the brand. ‘We still preserve the same working methods of tailoring production that tailors used in the past because we continue to see this part of the business as something unique and different to normal factory production. Each piece is unique.’

In such a vast menswear market, Rosa & Teixeira continues to charm lovers of bespoke tailoring by balancing classic silhouettes with cutting-edge design. As Pedro Castro notes, there is still a strong demand for traditional, high-quality designs, which the company responds to while keeping abreast of modern trends and remaining sensitive to market demands.

Socks appeal
It’s easy to understand how an opulent jewellery company or an elite tailor can earn a following across many generations, but can the same be said for a brand that makes something as simple as socks? In the case of AJ Gonçalves, the answer is certainly in the affirmative.

The family-run company, which dates back to the turn of the 20th century, initially specialised in textiles and owned several fabric and yarn factories before turning its focus to hosiery in 1966. Since then, says Manuel Gonçalves, the firm’s general manager, AJ Gonçalves has updated its equipment and techniques many times, to remain up to date, while always improving the quality of the company’s socks for men, women and children.

Hosiery is an essential garment that has benefited from mass production methods – expanding simple designs into a wealth of diversity. Now shoppers can invest in colourful, patterned, striped and spotty designs – often favoured by businessmen who consider the humble sock one of the few ways to express individual style in the world’s stuffy boardrooms.

AJ Gonçalves now has 27 stores across Portugal and neighbouring Spain, under the name Pedemeia. Manuel Gonçalves believes that keeping the business family-run was the key to remaining a high-street staple in its native country. ‘Although supported by partners and external advisors, we keep leadership and decisionmaking within the family,’ he says. ‘This allows us to keep our heritage while never feeling rushed. That’s the secret of the brand’s success.’



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