While Paris, Milan, London and New York garner the lion’s share of international attention, pockets of innovative fashion talent can also be found off the well-trodden fashion map. Portugal has quietly been building up a solid roster of innovative fashion talent, particularly since the founding of Lisbon Fashion Week in 1999. The capital city’s shopping destinations span a wide style spectrum, from couture to more alternative street and urban wear options, and Portuguese names are increasingly involved in all sections of the industry. It’s a situation that looks set to improve further, thanks to established names such as Felipe Oliveira Baptista, Isilda Pelicano and Fátima Lopes providing inspiration for a new generation of up-and-coming talents.
Felipe Oliveira Baptista hails from the Azores, a cluster of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic about 1,500 km from the mainland, and his fashion credentials couldn’t be more impressive. A former creative director for Cerruti and Max Mara, in 2003 he founded his own label and let his bold, directional and precisely cut womenswear take centre stage. Such is his standing that the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture invited him, in 2005, to take his place alongside Christian Dior, Chanel and Christian Lacroix on the Paris couture stage.
Currently the creative head of Lacoste (just one of his savvy moves was inviting Karl Lagerfeld to photograph the brand’s ad campaigns), this season he offers restrained black dresses drizzled in glowing amber and crimson shades, swamping layering and austere, pin-sharp silhouettes.
Fashion designer Isilda Pelicano may not have a name that rolls of the international fashion tongue, but she has been quietly nipping, tucking and cutting behind the scenes of the country’s retail and clothing arena for 20 years. She began her career in 1991, and since then it is her focus on the feminine and womanly that has made her stand out in decade of grunge and minimalism: beadwork, furs, feathers, pleating and floral-printed baby-doll dresses all form the Pelicano DNA.
Her career has been versatile and far reaching, from creating the uniforms for staff in various public buildings in the capital to receiving mass exposure by making the shrewd decision to dress Eurovision entrants, and from creating bespoke, red-carpet gowns for French actress Laetitia Casta to dressing Barbie. This season, textures are used provide punch to the silhouette: there are ruffled silks and nubbly knits, all in a non-palette of stark black, which marks a departure into sophisticated new territories.
Fátima Lopes has gone from Madeiran teenager making clothing for herself out of frustration at the lack of choice on offer to label with an essential slot on the Lisbon Fashion Week calendar and stores from Paris to Japan. Lopes kicked off her career in fashion in 1990 by opening a store selling international brands, one of the first in the country to do so, marking her out as a visionary. Within two years, Lopes’s own label had begun to creep on to the rails, nestling between the Versaces and Ferragamos.
Hers is a resolute, take-no-prisoners approach to women’s fashion, offering a vampish silhouette, saturated colours and signature cut-out details. Her pieces are staples on the country’s red carpets and she’s no stranger to celebrity, having dressed the Portuguese football team including Cristiano Ronaldo. In 2000, just as the trend for glitter ushered fashion into the new millennium, Lopes responded by creating the world’s most expensive bikini out of gold and diamonds, worth more than a million dollars. It marked her out as on the money, in so many ways.